18 December 2009

snail print.

I've been wanting to try out some DIY screenprinting for a long time, and this weekend, Craig and I finally got around to some serious experimentation.

A few months ago, Craig built a lightbox; four 18 watt, 4000K, 1350 lumen fluorescent tubes, aluminum foil, some power cable and glass.

I had a Speedball Screenprinting kit that was a present from SolDesign when I left the job and moved here. That's right-- this kit is over a year old...

A month or two ago, our wonderful friends Jeremy and Katie bought their first home. And we screwed up. We didn't get them a housewarming card for months. Seriously, we were really late. To make up for it, I thought we should design our own card; my idea was a snail carrying a house on its back. Craig drew the card, and we sent it off.

But then I thought it would make a good print, too. Craig recreated the drawing, and we overlapped 3 transparencies to get the lines really opaque.

I got the materials together-- the ink scraper, emulsion, sensitizer, ink and screen.

I mixed the emulsion with sensitizer and prepped the screen.

We experimented with the exposure times on our lightbox-- about 8 minutes looked pretty good.

This is what our exposed screen looked like-- the red dots are screen filler. As you can see, the screen isn't perfect; it's not as crisp as Craig's drawing.

We made a few prints, using just copy paper and some fairly ugly shiny blue ink (it came in the kit...)

Our first print was very patchy.

Things got better as we kept printing, but our fourth, and last, print still wasn't that good.

Any of you screenprinting masters out there have any advice for us? Is it possible that I waited too long to use the emulsion? We washed the screen out in our sink, which doesn't have very high pressure-- should I have washed the screen out with a higher-pressure hose? Should we give up on using the lightbox and just try using the sun instead?

I'm looking forward to printing more and getting better at it, so any tips would be greatly appreciated!


  1. The sun is by far the most efficient lighting source in the universe so you will get the best result using it on a clear sunny day. From the amount of screen filler and blobyness your screens have it looks to me like they are underexposed so your prob. not waiting long enough. I use two 500w construction halogens and time it around 8 mins for my screeens which are like around 20 x 24. You should go online and get something called a "step wedge" i believe. I'll try to email you one. Also i've had loads of problems using sharpies in the past. Not saying that it can't be done but you should print out whatever you have designed with ink, it works better. This gets expensive so i've found design vellum (yup, that stuff we trace with) works just as well as transperency. The emulsion really doesn't have a life span until mixed with the sensitizer so after you mix it you should keep it in the fridge. As far as washing it in the sink, remember that the water pressure gets greater as you put the gun closer to the screen so it's plenty sufficient. Hope this helps. Basically it looks like you have a lot of blow out so i suggest printing it on a computer and waiting longer. Ok maybe in the last couple of prints now that i look at it again it looks like you over exposed the screen so you need to lessen the time spent in the lite. You should place the items in this order when burning a screen: light on top or bottom pane of glass over image (holding it snug to the screen) on the other end of the screen should be a piece of foam or pillow or anything to push the screen on the pain of glass cause if you don't have that the screen will come up from the paper slightly and light will get through the gaps and bam you have overexposure. the foam or pillow is VITAL so don't forget it. I think that should cover it well. Love you guys.

  2. Ok, it looks like all your screens are overexposed, which means that you need less time under light. again, it may be the sharpie. love

  3. Hey Chris-- thanks for the comments! As far as the Sharpie goes-- the original drawing was done with Sharpie, but the transparencies were printed on a Xerox machine, and triple-layed, so they would be pretty opaque. I read online that Xerox prints on transparency would work... Do you think doing the original in Sharpie would still be a problem?

    And what is a "step wedge"?

    Ok-- will try with less time next time--

  4. when you get it perfected I would LOVE a copy.

  5. I'll take a 'bad' copy! And look how long your hair is!

  6. haha! I guess I should have mentioned I'm growing my hair out. After seven years of short, short, short, I'm excited to see what it looks like-- though it is driving me crazy! Hair keeps, like, falling into my eyes, man. Will keep you updated with pictures--