September 28, 2004 1:54 PM   Subscribe

What is the least expensive way to get into silkscreening? I want to start producing some silkscreened shirts, but I am unsure about how to proceed. (MI)

Is it possible (feasible?) to build my own printer? Are there any good books and/or links on the subject? If not, does anyone have any suggestions as to whom to purchase a 'kit' from?
posted by Espoo2 to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
More information here, a little bit here, and even way back here.
posted by majick at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2004

do you mean by hand or with one of those four color process machines?
people sell old set ups all the time when they upgrade (ebay, auctions, etc.)
actually, because i'm still trying to get the best way to do these shirts fast (aforementioned) i have a bunch of info (and friends who do it pro i haven't been able to catch yet, may be able to hook you up with a deal)

--filed research up the zoozaa--
posted by ethylene at 2:06 PM on September 28, 2004

as long as you don't mind doing it by hand - it's easy enough to buy a pre-stretched screen, tape, light bulbes, a scoop coater for emulsion, hinges, squeege, and fabric screenprinting ink from the int0rnet or your local art or art school store. granted, it'll take a little longer to do it by hand, but unless you're planning on doing large runs [dozens and dozens of shirts], it ought to be fine. hand-printing allows for more experimentation, too...

a few notes:
- might be nice to have a pressure washer to help clean the photoemulsion off your screen after you add the screen-cleaner. otherwise, get used to putting new silk on your screens relatively frequently, or spending a fair amount of time scrubbing old screans with emulsion remover. that stuff gets harder to remove the longer it's on the screen, in my experience.
- when printing on dark shirts, you're going to need to print a layer of white ink underneath the design. unless you like a faded look...
- when doing designs with multiple colors/screens, i suggest taping a piece of acetate [transparency material] beneath the screen and printing onto it. you can then line up the shirt or paper directly beneath the printed design on the acetate. makes registration _much_ easier.
- get a truly dark room in which to let the photo-emulsion dry, and make sure you have enough/bright enough lights when you develop it. exposure tables are even nicer, but tend to be really expensive to buy. probably possible to build them, though... large plate of glass, black tarp over the top, hellishly brigh tlight underneath.
- buy hinged frame clamps if you'll be doing a fair amount of printing. attach them to a table somewhere.

i mean, sure, you could probably try to build a machine... but as far as i can tell the companies that make them aren't falling over each other to release their designs, and even taking apart/rebuilding a machine off of ebay is probably prohibitively expensive, at least if you're on a studentish sort of income. unless you're planning on making it a business, stick with hand-screening shirts.
posted by ubersturm at 2:34 PM on September 28, 2004

Wish I had mentioned this in a previous thread.. my city has AS220 which has community silk screening facilities. It's possible your city has a similar organization, or a private studio you can pay to use, or even university classes in silk screening on fabric.

If you do go the home setup route, definitely get a pressure washer. You'll feel like Rambo!
posted by Hypharse at 3:13 PM on September 28, 2004

I spent a few bucks on a silkscreening kit. It came out pretty well.
posted by FreezBoy at 3:34 PM on September 28, 2004

I'm finishing building my screenprinting setup, but for prints, not T-shirts. That means I can use delicate rice-starch-based inks under the assumption that my prints won't be hung out in the rain or run through a washing machine. It also means the vacuum table I built, though it works well, probably won't be of interest to you.

All that said, you may have a certain amount to get out of Nik Semenoff's pages. (I know -- that last name! But leave it.) He has a lot to say about using common and non-toxic materials in the printing process and has guided me well.
posted by argybarg at 12:02 AM on September 29, 2004

for what it's worth, on exposure -- i used a single 500 watt halogen bulb on my last screen (remove the glass -- apparently this screens out UV rays -- I don't necessarily know what this means for safety, so beware!), and it came out pretty well, althought i let it burn *far* longer than I thought I would be necessary just to make sure of the fact (I also used a sharpie to fill in the positive that I made from copying the design onto transparency/acetate paper). From that, I'd say: if you don't have an exposure unit, or a lot of time to make sure everything's perfect, a good rule of thumb is to try avoiding any designs that include lines less thick than you might be able to achieve with your average sharpie (although it's possible, friends and I have had plenty of trouble with these in the past).
posted by fishfucker at 12:24 AM on September 29, 2004

yikes - i feel like a caveman with my setup... i use a cheapo 150 watt bulb, just stuck in an old swivelling desk lamp. i know the emulsion instrux call for more power, but i've never had a problem, and i also get great detail in my designs. BUT, i do very limited runs - 10-20 shirts from any screen at max, usually less. (i just do shirts for myself, a few friends at times, and for gifts.) and i just lay the shirt flat, kneel on the frame, and sqeegee the ink. if you are expecting to do more shirts from a screen, my method may collapse.

i used to be able to wash out my screens with bleach (10-15 yrs ago) but nowadays all the emulsions that i have tried have changed their formula or something - they are really hard to remove, so i just put in new mesh, usually. note: pearl paint in NYC (the cheapest source of prestretched screens i have ever found) recently changed over to gluing the mesh to the frame on their pre-stretched screens. i think the groove is still there so you can replace the mesh if you need to, but i'm not sure.
posted by chr1sb0y at 5:51 AM on September 29, 2004

all screens i've ran into have been glued. to remove emulsion there is a special emulsion remover, which, if you've bought an "emulsion kit" typically comes included. Works pretty well, but you really have to scrub. Get all the ink out first.
posted by fishfucker at 5:12 PM on September 29, 2004

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