Is it feasible to build your own silk-screening / screen-printing press?
September 2, 2004 1:50 AM   Subscribe

Screen-printing/Silk-screening: I'm looking to get into it to produce some t-shirt ideas I've had floating around. But I don't want to buy all the expensive equipment. Is it feasible to build your own press, provided with good instructions?
posted by Espoo2 to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
Yes. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are willing to be, building your own silkscreens is even easier than stretching your own canvasses. It's also even easier to find a frame lying around [say, from an old canvas...] and put new silk on it. If you're in an urban area it's not too tough to get old trashed silk on good frames and then re-silk them. If you want to go totally DIY, you can use other sorts of fabrics, with funkier results but much cheaper to make. Here's a little Silkscreening 101 page I found, that gives you a good shopping list and explains the basics.
posted by jessamyn at 7:43 AM on September 2, 2004

Jessamyn is right although I would add one small caveat -- if you want to do prints with more than one screen you have to be pretty talented at getting your screens lined up. It might be cheaper to buy a well-engineered piece of equipment than to experiment many, many times or waste many finished shirts in the process of trying to Get Things Lined Up Right.
posted by bcwinters at 7:55 AM on September 2, 2004

If registration is going to be an issue (more than one color designs) then buy a press. They run around $350+ for a 4 arm press (you can set four screens on it) and i think, around $100 or so for a single press. Check ebay, or try to look around locally -- lots of screenprinters are switching to more modern equipment/techniques and are getting rid of their equipment cheap.

Also, I actually *wouldn't* recommend stretching your own screen -- you can buy one pre-stretched (waaaay better than you could do without the proper tools, and you don't have to worry about the mesh) with good mesh for about $15-20 + shipping (which really isn't that terrible) . Pocono screen has a variety of frames (if you're going with a really cheap DIY press, get a wood one, because you're probably gonna be putting screws in it).

In this thread, I asked for help in building an exposure unit, which, if you get into screenprinting, you're eventually going to want to do, so take a look. There's some good resources there to do research from on emulsion, inks, etc etc (the screenweb forums).

Here's the deal -- if you're doing shirts for yourself, or a couple friends, yeah, do silk-screening -- it's fun and arty, and you won't really get frustrated if the shirts don't come out like you want (silkscreening, in my experience, is a very technically involving art. You can get decent results by winging it, but by no means will you be getting professionally screened shirts).

If you're considering this as a professional or money-making venture, i'd recommend you look into outsourcing the work -- the sweat equity that you put into making a screen would price each shirt at a hefty price (ok i guess if you're going for arty shirts/recycled type fashions, but probably not going to work for your average logo tee or "got root" thing or whatever). There are several pro options that a friend and I have researched that look appealing -- think cafepress but with a reasonable quality.

i don't want to discourage you from doing screenprinting -- it's fun and you can make some cool stuff -- just realize that it's a fairly expensive venture to do on a professional level and it's going to take you some experience to get the results you want.
posted by fishfucker at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2004

wow. ok. so there's not a lot of screenprinters here (I didn't get too much response to my question either). If you want someone to yay or nay your ideas or talk about making screens or whatever, you can email me. I think I'm getting email at, but it'd be better for you to post an email here and I'll mail you from an account i have that is non-spaminated. I'm not a pro, but I've been working with screens for three or four years off and on (read: on an extremely amateur basis) and I've got a four press and a heater out in my garage, so I can offer you some semi-knowledgable opinions. But seriously. Try that screenweb thingy.
posted by fishfucker at 6:46 PM on September 2, 2004

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