The Best Emulsion for Screen Printing
For the best prints, you need quality to careen printing supplies. Emulsions, for instance, determine the quality of your designs and prints. These emulsions are available from different manufacturers and in different forms with each brand and type having several advantages and disadvantages. Artists can choose between liquid emulsion and emulsion sheets.
Each of these types will have varying exposure times, amount of design details, and light source required. If you have never bought a screen printing emulsion, we will help you get the best option for quality prints.
Screen Printing Emulsion Types – Reviews
- Speedball Art – Best Selling Emulsion For Screen Printing
- Jacquard – Best Emulsion For All Around Screen Printing
- Ecotex AP – Best Screen Emulsion For Water Based Ink
- Speedball Diazo – Best Brand of Emulsion for Screen Printing
- Ecotex PWR – Best Photo Emulsion For Screen Printing
The Best Selling Emulsion For Screen Printing
Speedball Diazo emulsion kit Review
Speedball Diazo is an emulsion kit for highly detailed stencils. With it, you can create photographic screen printing stencils. The main advantage of this emulsion kit is that you do not need a dark room. You can prepare it in normal light conditions and still get great quality results.
The Speedball Art Products 4559 Diazo works in two steps. Add a sensitizer to activate your emulsion. The sensitizer comes in the form of a thick paste that you have to dilute with water to create the right consistency before adding the emulsion. Because this product comes as a kit, you will have a bottle of sensitizer with the package, which might feel unfilled, but it has content.
The emulsion works with almost all inks, including water-based and solvent-based inks. The emulsion works with a polyester screen fabric, and it is easy to remove with the Speedball emulsion remover. During mixing, the emulsion turns green to show that it is ready for use.
What is in the Package?
The package features a bottle of 6.6 ounces of diazo photo emulsion, 8-ounce of the diazo photo emulsion remover, and 2.12 grams of sensitizer paste. These three items make a full emulsion kit.
If you need a complete emulsion kit, Speedball offers you that to kickstart your screen printing. The kit helps you make the most detailed stencils.
- Comes as a complete kit.
- You can get up to three screen coverages per bottle.
- Doesn’t require a dark room to prepare.
- Allows you to create detailed stencils.
- Relatively pricey.
The Best Emulsion For All Around Screen Printing
Jacquard kit with an emulsion and a sensitizer Review
Jacquard provides this product as a kit with an emulsion and a sensitizer. You can use it with silk printing, and it works with several screen printing inks. It is available in a convenient bottle that allows you to mix with ease.
The photo emulsion allows you to create highly detailed stencils. Jacquard offers easy-to-follow instructions on how to prep the black emulsion.
Each shrink-wrapped package carries a jar with eight ounces of emulsion accompanied by a bottle of sensitizer. To start using, dilute the sensitizer with water and mix it with the emulsion. You need to work in a well-ventilated room and ensure the emulsion doesn’t touch your eyes or your skin. Have protective gloves on. You need to place the stencil in a dark room until you are ready to expose it to the light. It works well with a 150-watt light bulb with a reflector with an exposure time of between 45 and 90 minutes.
This is another affordable emulsion. It is easy to mix to create the right consistency for the best prints. We recommend it to someone who needs to create detailed stencils.
- Easy to work with.
- Works with several screen printing inks.
- You may get the solution pre-mixed for you.
- You have to buy an emulsion remover separately.
The Best Screen Emulsion For Water Based Ink
Ecotex AP Blue emulsion Review
Ecotex AP Blue is an all-purpose emulsion that works with several ink systems, including plastisol, solvent-based, and UV inks. It is ideal for highly detailed prints and for long-run prints. Unlike other emulsion kits, this comes as a ready-to-use one-part emulsion for textile and graphic uses. The dual-cure formula allows it to create sharper edges with enhanced resolution.
You need to expose the AP blue to a UV LED light bulb for the best results. Anyone who doesn’t have such a light bulb can use TEX-Red, which also works great for beginners. If you work with water-based inks, you should add diazo to make the image last long. The manufacturer recommends that you use their Ecotex emulsion remover to clean the screen and make it ready for print. If you have a red or black LED light, the emulsion will not work. You need a better exposure unit.
The Ecotex AP Blue is ideal when you need a ready-to-use emulsion. There is no time wasted mixing, and you do not have to worry about the ratios – just start making your stencils.
- Comes ready-to-use out of the box
- Easy to use
- One pint coats up to 60 screens
- It takes time to come out
The Best Brand of Emulsion for Screen Printing
Speedball Diazo emulsion Review
The Speedball Diazo allows you to create highly detailed stencils. If you have a photographic design, this emulsion allows you to bring it outright. Like other diazo emulsion options, you do not need a dark room to create the best results. You can apply it under normal light conditions in your workshop. However, you should keep it in a dark place until you are ready to expose it to light.
Speedball Diazo works with all water-based and solvent-based inks. However, the emulsion only works best with a polyester screen fabric. After creating your design, the emulsion is easy to remove and get your screen ready to use. Although Speedball only offers a bottle of emulsion, the solution is not ready to use.
You have to buy a sensitizer separately. Mix the sensitizer with water and then mix it with the emulsion until the emulsion turns green. You also have to buy an emulsion remover separately.
If you have a sensitizer and emulsion remover, and you only need an emulsion, this product is an affordable option for artists.
We recommend it for artists working with different types of ink for their stencils.
- Easy to mix in two steps
- Works with different types of inks
- Easily removes from the screen
- You have to buy the sensitizer and remover separately
The Best Photo Emulsion For Screen Printing
Ecotex PWR pre-sensitized emulsion Review
The Ecotex PWR comes as a 128-ounce pre-sensitized emulsion, so you can use it out of the box. It is a photopolymer emulsion that works well with water-based and plastisol inks. You can use it if you need the best print definition on different mesh screens. The emulsion is also durable when you need to print long runs. It is also pinhole-free.
Because the emulsion comes pre-sensitized, you do not need to spend so much time worrying about mixing ratios. For the best prints, the manufacturer recommends that you hold the stencils under yellow safe light. You can also use low-wattage tungsten bulbs, but avoid quartz or halogen lights, daylight lamps, cool fluorescent lamps, and discharge lamps. Before applying the emulsion, you need to degrease and dry your screen. The manufacturer offers you a table showing the exposure time for different mesh screens and colors to help you get the best prints. You can also use the Excotex exposure calculator to understand how long your screen needs to be under light.
Ecotex PWR comes pre-sensitized and ready to use. It is water-resistant, making it long-lasting, and we recommend it for artists who want details on their prints.
- Comes ready to use.
- Durable for printing long runs.
- Works with different screen meshes.
- Takes time to come out.
- You have to buy an emulsion remover separately.
Photosensitive Emulsion – Buyer’s Guide
When buying emulsion for screen printing, you need to ask yourself some questions such as:
- What is my skill level? Are you a beginner, or an intermediate, or a pro?
- What kind of ink do you use during screen printing?
- Is the environment you plan to wash your mesh screen in light safe?
- Which exposure unit do you have?
Best Selling Emulsion For Screen Printing
|Speedball Diazo Photo Emulsion Kit|
Best Emulsion For All Around Screen Printing>
|Jacquard Emulsion & Diazo|
Best Screen Emulsion For Water Based Ink
|Ecotex AP Blue All Purpose Emulsion|
With the answers to the above questions, you will find the right emulsion for your screen printing. For instance, emulsions only work with specific ink systems. Some may work with all ink systems, but most only work with two ink systems. Some need a dark room during preparation and others mix well even in normal light conditions. Choose wisely.
Beginners, use diazo. Since it takes longer to expose, it’s more forgiving to errors whether it’s from exposing issues or light leakage. Remember the 10% rule, if it takes 10 minutes to expose a screen, you could expose a minute over or a minute under before you start running into issues.
To make a Diazo (mixed) emulsion, you need to add a diazo powder. Mix it with water that has a neutral pH balance like distilled water. You cannot use tap water because the minerals in the tap water will affect the diazo.
After you mix it, keep it in your fridge for two months if you can. It will not last forever even if left at room temperature but can last for two months if kept cold enough.
This kind of emulsion is sensitive. It shows details and it is very quick to expose. But, it is also sensitive to the sun. So you have to be careful not to make it too close in the daytime, or too far from the sun at night when you wash out your screen. You can have up to a 10% window of error when exposing a screen using 60 seconds as an example where 6 seconds are over or six seconds under before seeing any issues with your exposure time.
Emulsion – FAQs
- How do you prepare an emulsion
- How do you mix emulsion and sensitizer
- What is the best emulsion for screen printing
- How do you clean emulsion sheet
- How do you dry emulsion screens
- What are the exposure times for anthem photo emulsion
- How do you paint emulsion for screen printing
- How do you use red photo emulsion sheets
- How do you pick the right emulsion
- What light is safe for emulsion
- Can you make your own emulsion
- What watt bulb for photo emulsion screen printing
How do you prepare emulsion for screen printing?
If you are using pre-sensitized emulsion, you do not need any prior preparation as the emulsion comes ready to use. You only need to degrease your screen and dry it ready for use. However, if you are using diazo or dual cure emulsion, you will need to mix it with a photosensitizer. You can mix the emulsion with a mixer or with your hands.
How do you mix emulsion and sensitizer for screen printing?
Most emulsions come as a complete kit with an emulsion, a sensitizer, and an emulsion remover. To start using the emulsion, you need to mix it with a sensitizer. Most manufacturers offer the sensitizer in a different color so that you will know once you mix the two agents completely – there will be no streaks. The sensitizer comes as a thick paste that you have to dilute with water in the ratio recommended by the manufacturer. You can use distilled water or tap water and the results will be great.
Once you dilute the sensitizer, mix it with the emulsion until there are no streaks. It is advisable that you mix the emulsion first before you start creating your design. Mixing can create air bubbles in the mixture, which creates pinholes and affects the quality of your work. Leaving the mixture to sit for a few hours allows it to settle and the bubbles to disappear. After mixing the sensitizer and the emulsion, you need to keep the mixture away from light. Some emulsions require that you prepare them in the dark while some work perfectly when prepared in normal light conditions.
What is the best emulsion for screen printing?
You can use diazo, photopolymer, or dual cure emulsion for your screen printing project. You have to vary the exposure times and drying times for the best results. Each will give good results if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The Speedball Art 4559 Diazo Emulsion Kit is an ideal kit and one of the best for beginners and pros alike. It comes with all the three solutions you need to create excellent prints, and it is also easy to mix.
How do you clean emulsion sheet off of a screen for screen printing?
If your screen has dust or a small piece of screen, or even grease, the quality of your prints will suffer. To ensure your screen is ready to use, clean it with a degreaser before applying an emulsion. The same companies that sell emulsions have degreasers to match. After cleaning, leave the screen in a clean dry place for it to dry without any contaminants. You can have a dedicated drying cabinet specially designed for screen.
Read more: How to Clean Screen Printing Screens
How do you dry emulsion screens for screen printing?
After applying your emulsion, you need to dry the screen before you can expose the screen to light. The screen should dry in a warm, but dark room. You can use fans to ensure there is sufficient flow of air in the drying cabinet or dark room. However, when using fans, ensure you do not introduce dust that can affect the quality of your prints. Further, you need a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in the room low. During the drying phase, you should place the screen with the outer part of the screen facing down to allow gravity time to push the emulsion to the outside where you need the stencil. You might need a screen rack for the best screen placement.
What are the exposure times for anthem screen printing photo emulsion?
Exposure times differ based on the emulsion you use and the source of light. If you have the anthem pre-sensitized emulsion, and you expose it to a 500-watt halogen bulb, the exposure time should be eight minutes. The same emulsion needs three minutes with a UV fluorescent bulb, and about one minute with a 100-watt metal halide light.
A two-part diazo needs 15 minutes exposure with a 500-watt halogen bulb. The same emulsion need about six minutes with a UV fluorescent bulb and about two minutes with a 1000-watt metal halide bulb. Anthem Screen Printing offers you an online calculator you can use to calculate the right exposure time for different emulsions.
You can also manually calculate the time as they recommend. Start by estimating the time you think it will take for the emulsion to cure, say 120 seconds multiply that number by 1.5 and divide the product by 10 (120 x 1.5 = 180, 180/10 = 18). You need to divide your screen in four rows and expose each row to light separately while covering all the other rows. Check out the row that came out the best. Subtract the number of the best row from 11 and that will be the most appropriate exposure time. If row four was the best, then the best exposure time is 11 – 4, which is seven minutes.
You can check out more from Anthem Screen Printing here.
How do you paint emulsion for screen printing?
To paint your emulsion, you need to mix it and allow it to settle. Your screen needs to be clean; free of dust and grease. The stencil needs to be on the screen’s print side. You should apply a solid and even coat on the outer part of the screen. You should apply the emulsion to the outside of your mesh screen first and then apply it to the inner side. When you apply pressure to the inside of the screen, you push the emulsion outward and that is how you achieve an even application.
You should apply emulsion with a scoop coater. Fill the scoop coater with your emulsion of choice and place the screen upright, but tilting away from you. Ensure you have a screen holder to keep the screen steady while you apply the emulsion. Pull the scoop up the screen as you apply the emulsion. You only need one coat of emulsion if you do it right. You can, however, apply two coats of emulsion if you need a thick stencil. Apply this second coat to the outside of the mesh screen.
How do you use red photo emulsion sheets for screen printing?
Sheets come in handy when you do not want to deal with mixing the liquid emulsion. Photo emulsion sheets are reusable, and they offer a quick alternative. The trick is to get just the right amount of water on the sheet for it to adhere to your screen.
To use the screen, wet it evenly with water. Remove the excess water with a squeegee. The emulsion might dissolve in water, so you do not need to over-wet it during preparation. Place the dull side of the sheet on the non-well side of the screen and pass a squeegee over it severally so that it adheres to the screen. If there are dry spots on the sheet, wet it again for great adherence. Remove excess water with the squeegee.
Allow the emulsion to dry in a dark room or cabinet. When the setup is completely dry, remove the plastic sheet at the top from the emulsion. Expose the image. The exposure time will vary based on the brand of emulsion sheet and the light source used – always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Wash the emulsion sheet. Note that if all emulsion washes off, the exposure time was not enough, and if it is not easy to wash off the emulsion, then you over-exposed the emulsion. Ensure all the emulsion washes out so that it doesn’t black any holes on your screen. Allow the screen to dry completely before you start screen printing.
How do you pick the right emulsion for screen printing?
The quality of your results will depend on your experience level and the exposure unit you use. For beginners and people using a light other than LED light, you should go with a dual cure emulsion. The dual cure emulsion offers a wide exposure latitude so that you can develop it with ease and washing out is also easy.
If you are using LED light, you will need quick fast exposure times. In such a case, a photopolymer emulsion will meet your needs. Photopolymers are the most sensitive to LED and UV light. You can use the light when you need to create fine details and half tones. A diazo emulsion is ideal when you want to create detailed designs. Diazo is the most forgiving for over or under exposure.
If you do not want to deal with mixing of the emulsion and want an easy way to do screen printing, you can go with an emulsion screen. These sheets are easy to apply, and they give consistency when you need it.
What light is safe for emulsion screen printing?
The best light for the screen printing is one that produces ultra violet light. Fluorescent and halogen lamps offer a low amount of the UV light, but they are inexpensive. This is why they are ideal for small businesses and hobbyists working from home. Metal halides and mercury vapor bulbs are high in UV light, but these options are expensive and not commonly used by many small businesses and hobbyists. LED exposure units are also common as with small businesses and hobbyists.
If an exposure unit is rich in UV light, it requires a shorter exposure time that is low in UV light. The type of emulsion and the type of art you want to create also determine the duration of exposure of the lights.
Can you make your own emulsion for screen printing?
You can make your own emulsion at home using a few materials. You will need the following:
- A bowl rubber glover
- A whisk
- PVA glue
- Ammonium dichromate crystalline powder
- Dark container with a lid
- A respiratory mask
The process is simple. First, mix a tablespoonful of Ammonium Dichromate with two ounces of water and stir until all the powder dissolves. Add about six ounces of PVA glue into the solution and stir for about two minutes or until everything mixes evenly.
Whisk the solution and add equal amount of PVA glue and Ammonium Dichromate until the solution turns slate blue and thickens. Pour the solution in a dark container and place the lid tightly. Store it in a dark place. You can use potassium dichromate instead of ammonium dichromate, but the former requires a very short exposure time, thus giving it a brittle texture. You need to work in a well ventilated room as ammonium dichromate is toxic and can affect your skin and your eyes. Exposure to the chemical for a long time can cause cancer.
Instead of all the hassle, you can pick one of the ready emulsions above. Check out the formulation process on this article.
What watt bulb for photo emulsion screen printing?
You can use a 150-watt or a 250-watt bulb or a 300-watt bulb. The wattage of the bulb and the size of the screen will determine the distance of the bulb from the screen and the exposure time. For instance, a 150-watt incandescent bulb should be about 12 inches from an 8×10-inch screen and the exposure time should be about 45 minutes.
There are so many types and brands of emulsion to choose from. These include photopolymers, diazo, dual cure, and emulsion sheets. The brands are also many with Speedball being one of the top brands. When shopping, you need an emulsion that is easy to mix, easy to apply, and easy to remove. You also need one that matches your skill levels. For instance, we find dual cure emulsion and emulsion sheets easy to use. The others are great when you need to create detailed art, but they need a skilled artist to create.
If you do not want to deal with mixing the emulsion, you can buy a pre-sensitized emulsion. A pre-sensitized emulsion comes with the photosensitizer already mixed into the emulsion. This way, you do not have to spend your time mixing.