How to burn a screen for screen printing
How To Burn A Screen For Screen Preening?
Have you been thinking of printing your artwork on t-shirts, tote bags, or posters? Or simply wondered how it’s done?
You are in luck because silk screen printing is at the height of DIY culture-making information and equipment more accessible than ever, flattening the learning curve and making it easy to set up in smaller studios, home studios, or DIY silk screening allowing enthusiasts to bring their silkscreening ideas to life.
To those that are new and need a clear definition, Silkscreening is the method of printing an image or words onto a canvas. The canvas can range from fabric, metal, plastic, or paper. It is the process of allowing ink to seep onto the canvas to create the image, which you have probably seen a thousand times before on t-shirts, tote bags or festival posters.
Silkscreening is a fun and creative way to show your messages and art into the world.
I’ll share some silk screening ideas to get you started. You can use the DIY silk screening skills you’ll learn in this tutorial to print custom t-shirts, shopping totes for farmer’s market stalls and farms, posters for music festivals, or custom rucksacks.
This tutorial will walk you through the process of burning the screen. In a nutshell, burning a screen means coating a photosensitive emulsion on the screen and then placing a transparency sheet that has holes on it where the ink will appear on the final image onto the screen and then exposing it to a light source.
If this is your first time or you are simply coming back for more information, it is always best to pick a simple logo to start. This allows you to focus on the mechanics and steps to successfully silkscreen print at home without stressing about your design. This way you can quickly grasp the process and apply it to all your other projects. It’s a learn once, use many processes.
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Besides your silkscreen ideas, below are a few important things you will need to successfully complete this tutorial. You will be using all the equipment in this list, so it is important to have everything on hand before you begin. Organize your workspace and place your tools where you can easily see them and reach them to make your work easier. If you have a workshop or a studio, work from there because it can get messy, if not well-ventilated room with space and furniture protection will do.
These are the items you’ll need to get started right away.
- A black silkscreen with a pre-stretched 110 mesh frame
- Your Design to be printed
- Transparency paper for the laser printing
- Photo Emulsion
- A 150watt light bulb
- Blank canvas on which you will be printing, this can be any of the following bags, t-shirts, posters, mouse pads
- Rags for cleaning
- Gloves and an Apron to protect your clothes
- Covered Table A table covered with a newspaper or anything to protect the surface
- black fabric or black paper
- 2 Lamps
- Optional : 1x red or yellow light bulb, table clamps or weights to keep everything in place
Burn a screen for screen printing – Step by Step
Once you’ve acquired all these items, ensure they are clean without oil, dust or dirt and place them in your workshop.
Burning a screen at home is a delicate process, there may be some things you’ll modify that are unique to you, so it is important to take these steps as guidelines and modify them if the need arises for you.
This is because there are many factors that affect the quality of your print like humidity, temperature, aging emulsions, exposure units that vary, mesh counts, and designs. So your steps might follow the tutorial but look different. Work until you’ve found a method that works best for you.
The first thing you need to understand is the importance of a high quality screen. These are usually priced at thirty dollars and higher. A high quality screen will give you the best results. It is important to ensure that your screen is of the highest quality because it is the primary tool for the job. Clean your screen often and keep it clean to keep it in the best condition and the best results for your work.
In addition to the tools listed above, below are some optional by useful additional tools to take to raise the quality of your end result.
Degrease Your Screen
This applies to new, newly recycled, or old screens. The degreasing process will remove oil, dust, and any sort of dirt from the mesh of the screen which could affect the emulsion’s adhesion properties. Failure to remove these could result in a pinhole or fish eye effect on your end result. If you do not have a degreaser use warm water until it is clean. There are a number of degreasers on the market made specifically for cleaning a print screen, its a purchase you won’t regret.
When shopping for a degreaser, I opt for an eco-friendly, water-based degreaser. These work best and are formulated to gently remove any build-up from your screen. It is important to use a degreaser designed for this function instead of dish soap or any other cleaning agents. If you do not have a degreaser, run your screen through warm water until it is clean.
Is important to cover unwanted holes called pinholes, which are usually detected at the end of burning the screen. If you detect pinholes, which are unwanted spots on your screen, this means areas where the light was able to pass through but isn’t, you can use a piece of tape or a blackout solution to dab them away. A blackout solution is created for these outcomes, so it’s best to have it on hand at all times. To detect these spots on your screen, raise it to light and observe any places light passes and is not supposed to then apply the tap to the spot or dab the blockout solution.
I fill a spray bottle with the degreaser for easier and faster application. You can use one to ease the process of coating the degreaser to your screen mesh during cleaning. Remember to evenly and abundantly spray the entire surface of the mesh until it’s completely covered with the degreaser, all it to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it and then running it under cool water until all the soap bubbles have dissolved.
You’ll use a clean scrub pad or one specifically designed for degreasing to scrub the sides of your mesh and the inside and outside of the frame ensuring that every part of the screen is properly cleaned. A scrub pad is ideal because it allows you to easily clean the mesh.
Once your screen is cleaned, rinse it off at low water pressure until all the soap bubbles are gone.
Your screen should always be positioned in such a way that air easily flows through the mesh. It is important that none of the sides of your screen touch the ground. You’ll use your screen rack to dry your screen.
Fan or Dehumidifier
You can use a fan to air your screens or a dehumidifier that will remove moisture from the surface of the screens. Wait for the screen to completely dry before you apply any emulsion to it as shown in the steps below.
Pick a simple logo with thicker lines for this project, it will allow you to focus on the concepts. Thicker lines show up better than thin lines. Also, make sure you don’t have any errant markings. This tutorial will require you to print your design in white.
Now that you have got all your gear, we can begin the tutorial.
Prepare Your Design
Pick a simple design to start and you can move on to more complicated ones once you are confident with the process. Make sure your lines are thick and clear, with a clean design.
Coat the silkscreen
Take your photo emulsion and coat your silkscreen using your squeegee or your scoop coater. Place your silkscreen in an upright printable position. Once your emulsion is leveled, place your squeegee or scoop a quarter of an inch from the bottom and push it against the mess and roll it up to dam up the emulsion. Pull it up to the top of the mesh adding pressure that it makes a zipping sound. Do this on both sides of your screen. Once you are done you should have a smooth, evenly distributed film on both sides of your mesh.
Ensure your scoop coater is sized to match your screen to make it easier to work with while creating a large printable area on your screen. Your emulsion is the smaller container with a sensitizer. Make sure to read and follow the directions of the bottle before you combine the ingredients and then pour the mixture over the screen a little at a time. Use your squeegee to evenly spread it out until it coats the entire screen in an even layer. You should adjust the amount of emulsion based on the density of your canvas, for example, due to their higher density, sweatshirts need more emulsion and lower density fabrics work best with thin applications of emulsion.
Move the Screen
Place the screen in a dark room and position it upright or hanging so that none of its sides are on the ground. It’s best to use a drying rack. Make sure the airflow in the room is adequate and flowing through the mesh of the screen. You can use a fan. Leave the screen for a few hours to allow the emulsion to completely dry. Check the instructions on your emulsion bottle for the drying time estimate. Make sure the room is pitch black or the rack is in a dark place.
Take your image or design and print it on your transparency using a laserjet printer. Once complete, place it aside.
Set Up Your Lighting
Place the black sheet over your table with your 150-watt bulb lamp shining directly at the table. Place your lamp head approximately 12 inches from the table, but also check the instructions on your emulsion bottle for the recommended distance. Turn off all the lights in the room leaving only the optional red or yellow bulb if you have it.
Carefully Position Transparency
Once the emulsion has dried, take the screen from step 2 and place it face up and wood down on the black fabric. Carefully place the transparency on the screen and secure its position using clear tape if needed.
Burn the Screen
Read the directions on your emulsion bottle, they might be slightly different and custom to the proprietary formula. To burn the screen, all you need to do in most cases is turn on your 150-watt bulb and leave it on for 30 – 45 minutes, after which you can turn on other lights. At this point, the transparency should have adhered to the screen.
Place the screen over a sink with access to cool water. Use a hose to spray down the screen, removing the emulsion at places where your transparency blocked off the light. This may take some time so be patient and do not use your fingers to rub the screen or chip the emulsion, it may ruin it. Once you are done, all the places where you want the ink to appear will be clear.
Wait for the screen to completely dry off before moving on to print your swag.
Lay your canvas on a flat surface. Place cardboard inside if it is a two-sided canvas like a t-shirt or tote bag to prevent ink bleeding through the fabric.
Place the silkscreen frame over your canvas with the flat side pressed on the face of the canvas you are printing. Use the weights or clamps to hold the frame in place.
Squeeze a line of ink on one end, preferably the top of the screen, and then apply pressure to your squeegee pulling it down with the ink at a forty-five-degree angle. This ensures that the ink is evenly distributed across the entire image, covering it for a great result. Repeat the process of pulling the squeegee across the screen from left to right and top to bottom, always spreading ink evenly over your image.
Finally, carefully lift the screen and hang your canvas for 10 minutes to dry. Make sure none of its sides are touching the ground or any surfaces. Once the image is completely dry, you can iron the image for a final touch-up. If you choose to iron, place a piece of cotton fabric between the iron and dry ink image to protect the new image.
Rinse Your Screen
Always clean up your workspace and rinse your screen and tools. You’ll want to keep all your gear as clean as possible to avoid accidentally mixing ink colors which will affect the final outcome of your image. Leaving ink on your screen can clog it, so make sure you wash it with a degreaser, explained above, rinse it and hang it on a screen rack until it is completely dry to maintain the quality and the quality of your work. Or oil, dust, or dirt build up on your mesh, which will shorten its lifespan or ruin your designs with pinholes or fisheyes.
Silkscreen printing gives me the freedom to create anything I imagine, it’s a useful skill to know especially when helping out with community efforts when shirts or posters are needed or even music festivals. You will find many uses for silk screen printing and may invent some yourself.
Now that you know how to burn your print screen get started creating your own swag or posters. All you need is your imagination.
Did you enjoy this tutorial? I hope you did. Let me know what you think in the comment section and share the article if you found it useful.
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How long does it take to burn a screen for screen printing?
The amount of time it takes to burn a screen for screen printing can be affected by many things, including the type of fabric you are printing on or ink that you are using as well as the temperature and humidity.
Burning screens at higher temperatures speeds up the process somewhat, but if you have a lot of black areas in your design these may take longer to burn than white areas. The larger the area that is being burned, generally speaking, the longer it will take to burn because there is more glass surface area exposed. An umbrella source will also speed screening up considerably when compared with a flat light source such as fluorescent bulbs. Using an 18% grey stencil material will also help speed bumping up because less heat needs to.