DIY Screenprinting - Part 1

Every year, I screen print one-color t-shirts for our home haunt and give them out as a thank you to everyone who comes over and helps put up, tear down or just gets dressed up and scares on Halloween night. I have always created the artwork and then passed it off to a friend (who has his own screen printing studio) to create a screen for me.

Last year I finally decided to bring the whole process in-house and was surprised at how easy and inexpensive it was to do. By following this quick two-step process, you can create simple shirts, posters, patches and more for your home haunt or Halloween project.

Here is part one of setting up your own in-house screen printing studio...

Part 1: Building Your Light Exposure Unit

In screen printing, you are dealing with positive and negative space in your art. In simple terms, the positive (black) area of your art will be the areas that will have ink and the negative (white) areas will block out. 

To get a print-ready screen, you must first have a silk screen covered with a light-sensitive emulsion coating and a positive/negative transparency (which I will cover in Step 2). This screen must be exposed to an intense light source so that the screen will be activated and ready for printing.

The first step in this process is building your light exposure unit. Here is the simple materials list needed to build the unit pictured below.

Note that the unit isn't perfectly square or made with the highest quality materials. Our goal is to simply make a unit that will support the light at the top. I gathered scrap 2x4s from the garage to make the framework and picked up the light from Lowe's.

Here's the breakdown of materials used:

- 2x feet @24" each (The feet will need to be long enough so that your silkscreen can lay flat across them when it is being exposed. Be sure to attach these board flat - this way the screen will have a solid base to rest on)

- 1x base @20" (the feet will screw into either end of the base)

- 1x support post @18" (this is the vertical piece that supports the arm)

- 1x arm @ 10" (this piece will support the light)

- 3" screws to put it all together

- 1x 500 watt utility work light. I used this one at Lowes.

Once you have all of the pieces of wood screwed together to look like the framework above, tighten the clamp on the light and firmly attach it to the end of the arm. You want to make sure the light is tight because you don't want it moving around when exposing your screen. You'll also want to make sure the light is positioned directly above the center of the feet. When exposing the screen, you'll want the light to shine directly down onto your screen so that there are no shadows from angled lighting.

And just like that, you have finished the hardest part of the screen printing process! Tomorrow I'll show you how to create final artwork and expose your screen in preparation for printing.



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