DIY Screen Printing

So as my colouring book for the Phuket News went off to print last week I decided to have a little break from the computer screen this week to experiment with an idea I've been mulling over for a while, DIY Screen Printing!

Having recently researched online the costs of having things printed I was keen to see if there was any possibility I might be able to do it myself at a perhaps more economical rate! My vision is that once I have a basic set up and some practice in I might be able to create my own products to sell in my very own online shop!

Setting up and exposing my image
I dabbled at Uni some 6 years ago but working now in solitude, free from any on- hand technicians it was a little daunting! I sought help from my trusty friend - google and used my basics of the Thai language to purchase some equipment! Firstly if you're thinking of trying this out I strongly recommend the below link I found. It's a very clear tutorial and I was able to replicate a similar set up quite easily within my own bathroom for exposing my design onto screens.

How to Silkscreen posters and Shirts by Shannon Gerard

My experience this week and further tips:

Take 1 - DOG
First 2 days, utter mess!
 wrong mesh, dried ink, bleeding prints*

*Mesh Counts Count! 
Get the right mesh. The first one I tried was way too loose. It drank the emulsion making it very hard to get an even thin coat and same applies to printing - the ink bled on prints which was a nightmare. Second time around I used a tighter mesh and my results were instantly better. I didn't think it would make that much of a difference but it really does. It's a confusing world (do some research)

Applying emulsion to the screen 
Once coated, I dried the screen flat resting on something either side to lift it off the ground slightly that way if there are drips they won't run down your screen.
-I left it to dry in the dark overnight (you don't want it to be tacky at all)
-You don't have to use Diazo kits. I used Scala emulsion and sensitiser (mixed it 9:1)
-Never let natural light come into your room throughout this process. I covered the window with black paper and used a sheet of red acetate to cover the spotlight.

1st screen -Emulsion not hard enough, screen started to peel
after a few washes*

*Exposing and washing
I used a 150 watt normal bulb suspended above my screen. I exposed the screen for 45 minutes before washing out. Exposing times vary depending on what bulb you have.  I also found you do need a bit more pressure than you think to reveal the line once exposed. Get the shower head right up against the screen and I even use a nail brush lightly to reveal the line but be careful not to scrub to hard or you'll break the emulsion.

For the DOG print I found the emulsion peeled off after a few washes ( see above pic) so I found the post exposing technique really helped on the FLOWER print. To do this - After washing I  further exposed the screen out in the sun for a while. This helps harden the emulsion a little more. Obviously if you have no sun then you can put it under the exposing lamp again.

Practice loads. You won't produce perfect crisp prints instantly unless you're an expert or very flukey! Experiment with ink thickness, squeegie size, angle and pressure. I find  light-medium pressure on the squeegee  is more effective than a hard one! Also pre prepare lots of newspaper sheets to print onto in between final prints (this helps clean things up a bit if your ink bleeds or the line isn't clear) If you've never done screen printing in your life I suggest looking on You Tube, there's some great videos showing technique! Also a forum I used a lot http://www.screenprintingforum.com/

Take 2 -FLOWER

This time -Smaller squeegie, tighter mesh, more practice and...

better prints all round! Here's a fabric repeat.
Notice work-space is a lot cleaner too!*

*Keep a bucket with soapy water nearby to wash your hands if they get messy between prints. It's a nightmare if you make a mess and as you have to work quickly you don't have time to nip to the sink or your ink will dry into the screen.
If this ever starts to happen get a wet sponge and immediately wash the screen and do test prints until clear.

Another tip - Cover any parts of your  image you're not using (say another colour for example) with newspaper and sticky tape to avoid damage between runs.


I think probably a good inkjet transparency works best or even cheaper draw directly onto normal acetate with an opaque paint pen (don't know if you can get these in the uk but I found one in Thailand from Japan which is great.) Acrylic ink is supposed to be good too. Basically get the line as opaque as poss! I tried the paper and veg oil method which worked surprisingly well however still not quite as crisp and needs a longer exposure time.

And remember
It can be rather frustrating at first but you do get there! 
I proved it- Only took me a few afternoons! Woo!

P.S. I'm so far off from being an expert on this but any further questions you may have about this blog post don't hesitate to ask!


  1. How wonderful Sophie! You are a screen printing inspiration! :)x

    1. Yey! Lets do it together when I'm back. I have a mini business plan! ;) Also gonna stock up on some bits here to take back as so much cheaper! X

  2. I love screen printing and love your DIY take on it!! Great stuff!

    1. Ahh thanks for the comments Holly! Glad you like the post. It's quite different to a uni print room I have to say but amazingly achievable! Need to figure out a home made drying rack next me thinks!

  3. I used to love screen printing at Uni, it was the best, so many prints in such little time! I loved the process as well but I used to make a right mess haha! I'd love to get back into at some point, but my flat is way too small already to have any space to work. Great pics and explanation x

    1. Ahh thanks Dina, yeah living in Thailand these last 9 months has given us the chance of a lot more room! Back to the Uk in a month though so imagine i'll be back to working in my living room. We shall see!...

  4. The information which you have posted about the printer is very true. I am using same printer from last 20 months and still I don't have any complaint or problem regarding printer.

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