(Topic ID: 221884)

Flynn's Screen Printing Adventure - Make your own screen!

By flynnibus

10 months ago

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  • 6 posts
  • 3 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 10 months ago by Strohz
  • Topic is favorited by 8 Pinsiders


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    #1 10 months ago

    So I'm in the middle of a full cabinet restoration of a HS2... so this means the graphics on the back of the head and cabinet needed to be redone. Through the awesomeness of great peeps like knockerlover I had a screen to work with.. so I avoided that huge expense. But I had to work on my own from there. The great news is... Screen Printing is pretty common, so there is tons of youtube help out there. Plus, bryan_kelly did a great video when merfeldma made screens.

    Bryan's video -

    Plus, it seems like Matt will still make screens if the need is there, so those in need.. consider reaching out to merfeldma and see if he can help. The large screen for the backbox is quite large, and I imagine would be a lot harder to do DIY. Maybe a local shop would make the screen for you... dunno.

    In my case, the screen I had was not from Matt. My screen had both the Warning text and smaller patent text on the screen. Great! Problem was... they were bot on the same screen! And I already had the stringers on the bottom of my cabinet.. so no way to fit the big screen on the lower cabinet.

    Here's the big screen, staged on the backbox.
    IMG_4695 2 (resized).JPG

    So what did I need to do the backbox?
    1 - Painters tape
    2 - The screen w/text
    3 - Clamps to hold the screen in place
    4 - An 18" screen printing squeegee
    5 - Paint
    6 - Mineral Spirits
    7 - Gloves and tons of paper towels
    8 - Bin or box for all those paint covered towels you will have

    So Bryan helps you by pointing you to the paint to use. I used the same he did... The NazDar Nazdar 59000 series Gloss Enamels in Medium Yellow. Mfg# 59-134 - Problem is you only need a few tablespoons worth.. but you gotta buy it in a kilo can for $40+! Best deal I found was at Dickblick https://www.dickblick.com/products/nazdar-59000-series-enamel-plus-gloss-screen-ink/ - With coupon at the time it was $38.xx

    You need a squeegee that is ideally larger than your area to print, but still fits in your frame. For this frame, an 18" wide fits the bill. I used the 18" 70/75 durometer squeegees from DickBlick - https://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-70-75-durometer-squeegee/ - about $33

    See the blue tape?
    IMG_4695 2 (resized).JPG
    The purpose there is to keep paint from getting to the edge of the screen where the emulsion block may not be complete to the edge... but also, to keep paint out of that corner! Simplifies cleanup. Just keep the tape out of your area where you are going to pull your squeegee.

    You want your screen off your surface to be painted.. so as Bryan does in his video... tape a nickel under each corner of the frame. This gives the screen space to spring back off the surface.

    I recommend PRACTICING on another surface before printing on your prep'd cabinet... why? You don't want this outcome...
    Image uploaded from iOS (1) (resized).jpg
    And then have to sand and repaint your cabinet (again) like I did.

    Some tips I would pass on..
    1 - Prep!! This job can be messy... make sure you have everything you need staged and handy before cracking the paint open.
    2 - Measure, measure, and re-measure. Do not assume anything. In my case, the screen imagine was slightly non-square inside the frame. So squaring the frame on the backbox was not enough! I had to adjust for where the text REALLY was. I used white marking pens to make easy marks on the painted cabinet and frame to help me line things up. I measured everything FIRST, and made alignment marks so when it was time to line up with paint out... it was smooth and fast.
    3 - More paint = more cleanup... but less risk of not filling out the print fully.
    4 - this paint seems to drop, drop, everywhere... keep towels handy to clean up the inevitable spots you will get on your gloves as you work. Make sure you aren't blindly touching things! Keep checking those hands for paint and wipe clean... else.. yellow everywhere.

    What I did...

    1) Clean your printing surface of an dust/debris
    2) Grabbed some disposable plastic spoons from the kitchen and a small disposable cup. Don't forget your gloves Pulled about 4-5 spoon-fulls of paint from into the cup. This stuff is SUPER thick. The paint can be thinned to help with the small detail. Refer to the visuals in Bryan's video... but it doesn't take much at all!! Just a splash really. Mix with spoon.
    3) Setup my test print surface.. I printed on masking paper laid out on a flat surface. Secure the screen so it doesn't move with clamps
    4) Using the spoon, make a nice fat line of paint along one side of the graphics on the screen. Keep it out of the graphics, but you want a decent line.. maybe 1/2 to 3/4" wide line of paint the full length of your graphics
    5) Flood the screen. For this, using your squeegee pull the line of paint all the way across your graphic with the squeegee at about a 45deg angle and WITHOUT pushing the screen down. The goal here is to spread the paint across the graphics to 'fill' the screen.

    In my first print.. I had some challenges getting all the characters filled in.. my failure was forgetting to flood the screen inbetween prints.. so I basically ran out of paint. After a print, flood the graphic area again by pulling the puddle of excess ink back across the screen. I also make sure the area was basically covered with the thin layer of ink uniformly.. and not just the letters. You can pull again if you don't get the full thing covered. As long as you don't press the screen down firmly.. you can work without getting ink on the printed surface.

    6) Now, make your print pull. You want the squeegee to push the screen down, and scrape the ink. You can push or pull.. but pulling seems more straight forward to do. Hold the squeegee at a sharp angle.. about 70deg.. you use the EDGE of the squeegee. Press down firmly and make a steady pull across the full graphic in one pass. When you get pass the graphic area, you can stop. You'll have a puddle of paint at the end.. that's fine. Some try to scoop it up with the squeegee to move back to the other side. The end of their stroke, they make a scoop motion. Don't sweat it.. you can just use the puddle to flood the screen back in the other direction.
    7) If your screen is secured fully... you can even make a second flood and pull pass in place. In theory, you shouldn't need to... but you may find it helps.

    There are lots of screen printing videos online you can watch. Just remember a few things... we are using a very high count mesh in these detailed prints (probably 230 mesh) - so we aren't putting a ton of ink through. Most stuff online is about shirts.. and they have some specific needs regarding soaking through, etc. Second, we are using a solvent based ink, not a plastic or water based ink like they usually do in shirts. Again this differs in the topics of how much paint, etc. Because of this, we shy towards the 'less ink' and stiffer squeegee vs the basic shirt prints.

    I liked the ryonet videos as they seem very detailed - This video shows him flooding and his technique on print passes -

    The speedball videos I found helpful too.

    You can pull the screen immediately and check your work. If it looks good, move the screen to the real cabinet... setup with your alignment markets and secure the screen in place. I liked using clamps in each corner around the edge of the head. My screen is wood, and was warped a bit, so this helped hold it flat.

    Don't forget to make another flood pass.. and make sure the graphics area has that thin cover of paint
    9) Make your print pull... remember.. press down good.. you need the screen making uniform smooth contact. I made two pull passes. Then remove the clamps and hope for the best!

    IMG_4696 2 (resized).JPG


    You can't leave this stuff sit... so as soon as you finish your pass... move aside and start cleanup. Wipe or scrape out as much excess paint as you can. Using paper towels and mineral spirits.. wipe the screen until your towel is full, then get a new one... and keep repeating until you only get thin amounts of paint in the towel. Then clean the text area of the other side of the screen the same way. Then come back, remove the tape barriers you made... and continue cleaning until you get no paint in your towels. Then keep cleaning both sides This will take awhile Keep going.... do not leave any paint in the screen else you could ruin it. Who wants to ruin a $200 borrowed screen? Clean... clean.. and clean. I probably used half a roll of paper towels cleaning.

    Don't forget to clean your squeegee! The edge of the squeegee is the working surface.. so don't set it on things to nick it or dent it.

    Up next... don't have the screen you need... let's make one!

    #2 10 months ago

    Ok, so I mentioned before... the patent text was on my large screen, which means it couldn't be laid against the back of my cabinet with the stringers already attached. So, I needed a new, smaller screen. If you just want a quality one, consider contacting merfeldma and see if he has any or will make you one. At last contact, the small one would run $80

    One thing my borrowed set did have that was wonderful was... the art used to make the screen! So, why not make my own screen?? Let's do it!

    So, a big part of the challenge is having the art. I know there are some files online, but I can't speak to their accuracy - I'm just using what I have. You can print the art on transparency paper. The key is TOTAL opague blacks. Laser printers do this best. You can also stack two copies for better blocking.

    There are tons and tons of videos online for making your own screens. I'm going to tell you what I did and point you to the sources used.

    First, we need a high mesh screen because of the fine small text we are doing. Matt said he used 230 mesh in his.. so that's what we are doing. We also need a screen that is big enough for the graphics, but fits on the cabinet. You want a screen that is at least 1" wider on all sides than your art.. and the more the better. The patent text is roughly 3x4". So we need a screen at least 6" wide. We also have to fit our squeegee. All things considered... I ended up with this combination:

    6" 70/75 durometer squeegee - https://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-70-75-durometer-squeegee/ $11
    9x14" 230 mesh screen in metal frame - amazon.com link » $22

    Now, we need the stuff to coat and expose the screen. We need the photo based emulsion, a method to apply it, and a method to expose it. Speedball is a popular brand that makes a kit that supposedly can even be mixed in a lit area... but it's complete, and commonly used. So I picked that. I found a cheap spreader that is sized for my screen, and even tho I set out to expose using just a halogen work lamp... I caved to my fears, and bought a proper photoflood bulb to get predictable exposure. Normally figuring out the exposure time for your setup is a big variable where people may have to retry a few times. I spent some more money hoping to get it right on the first try.

    Speedball emulsion kit - amazon.com link » $24
    Emulsion spreader - amazon.com link » $11
    BBA-1 Photo bulk - amazon.com link » $12!!!

    The process is... we mix the emulsion which is light sensitive.. then coat the screen with it and let it dry. All those steps must be done in a "light safe" room.. aka no UV light (the dark). Once dry, we put our photo positive on it and expose it under our light for a fixed amount of time. This cures the emulsion where the light gets through. Then we wash out the unexposed areas.. and we're done!

    So for a light safe area... I just used my dark garage and a red light headlamp to see.

    The emulsion is a two part, you mix together.. then let it settle to get all bubbles out of it.

    Coating the screen with the spreader is not hard. Lots of videos out there.. I found this one particularly helpful -

    But I used the one handed method. Starting with the flat side of the screen, made two passes to cover the full area of the screen, then flipped and did the inside. I scraped the screen with the spreader after my fill pass to get a uniform... THIN coating.

    What I didn't do... that i should have is.. clean your screen first. They sell degreasers/etc... I've also seen pros recommend you just use simple green and rinse. The key is to get all oils and any dust out. Failure to do so can lead to pinholes in the finished coat.

    Once coated, let the screen sit horizontal with flat side down with nothing touching the coated area. You can use a fan to help dry it... I just let it sit overnight. The screen must stay in a dark area! In fact, I kept mine in a open cardboard box... shielded from any possible light.

    Once dry.. it's onto exposing.

    Exposing has lots of variables... the emulsion used, the light source, the screen mesh, size, and distance. Getting the correct detail requires three important points

    1 - fully opaque art positive image
    2 - fully FLAT positive on screen
    3 - blacked out backing behind screen - keeps light from bouncing up and exposing behind your art

    The solutions are pretty simple
    For #1 - Use a laser printer or layer your art to make sure it's 100% black
    For #2 - Put a piece of significantly heavy glass over your art when exposing. I simply borrowed a glass shelf out of a coffee table
    For #3 - I cut a piece of cardboard to slightly smaller than the size of the screen, and put it inside a black t-shirt.. making a black fabric 'brick' to back the screen when exposing.

    When using the BBA-1 bulb and this speedball kit... for this size screen they call for a 8 minute exposure. Here is my simple rig... just the bulb in a clamp on light reflector, clamped to my saw horse... over my t-shirt 'brick'

    IMG_4721 (resized).JPG

    You want to keep your screen in the blacked out area until you are completely ready. So stage all this while its still safely stored... and make sure you have everything handy. The lamp setup, your timer, etc. I also test fit the fabric brick BEFORE I coated the screen. You will also need a spray bottle with warm water.. and possibly something to shield your screen if your washout will be somewhere else. I simply used a thick black trash bag.

    To expose the screen... you start by positioning your art positive. You simply tape your art to the flat (bottom) part of the screen using transparent tape. Make sure you orient it correctly so it prints the correct way. You will also want to measure and position it within the frame to ease actual printing. In my case, I wanted the patent text to be 4" from the bottom of the cabinet, and close to the right side of the screen frame so it's close to the stringer. But remember, you really want 1-1.5" at least between the art, and the edge of your screen. Use a ruler and position it carefully.

    With the art attached, put the screen flat side UP (art is on this side) on top of your fabric brick/bottom. Remember, the goal is to prevent any light getting around your art.. so the backing, screen mesh, and art should all be as flat sandwiched together as possible. Put the piece of glass over the art to hold it down. The entire thing should be nice and flat. Position the light above at the set distance for your exposure. For this kit, it was 16". Turn on the bulb for the required time (use a timer!!).

    One the timer is done, turn off the exposure bulb (and this should be a dark room again..) you spray the bottom, and then inside of screen with the warm water and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. This helps the emulsion set. Then, the screen must be washed out in a dark area. I put the screen in the trash bag, and went out to the garden hose (at night... supposedly you can do this in the shade too... just avoid light). Then starting from the flat side, wash the screen out (youtube videos show this well -

    After wash-out.. the screen is now light safe. Hey, look at what we have here!!

    IMG_4712 (resized).JPG

    #3 10 months ago

    It looks amazing! Thank you for sharing with the rest of us. Will “favorite” thread for the future!

    #4 10 months ago

    The washout step can be a little intimidating... as this is when you learn if you screwed up your exposure at all

    I was using a garden hose with a adjustable nozzle. Other sites have warned against the staining potential of the emulsion, so I didn't want to risk making a mess in the kitchen sink and having the wife go ape. I did my exposure and washout at night, so I didn't have to worry about light exposure issues.

    I did all the dark room elements in the garage with the lights out just wearing a headlamp using red light. Then bagged the screen in my thick trash back to take it outside.. and washed there.

    For these high mesh counts, the mesh is actually yellow.. so in the dark it can be difficult to see if the screen is really washing out or not. Have a good light source, or duck inside to check it as you go. You no longer have to worry about light exposure once you've gotten the bulk of the screen washed out.

    The ryonet videos on youtube cover washout a ton.. and tips about problems, under exposure, etc. Basically you can use good water pressure from the flat side.. but be more gentle when washing from the inside the frame side. When you are done.. you should have nice sharp letters.

    Let the screen dry lying flat. After it's dry.. you want to check for any pinholes. Pinholes are where the emulsion did not stick to the screen, and you have a tiny prick/hole where the screen is supposed to be blocked. It can be caused by dust/debris in your art positive, glass, or by defects in your emulsion coating. It's largely caused by improper screen prep... but you can fix it! In my case, my art positive was kind of messy.. so I think I got some extra dots from that too.

    You can buy a blackout pen.. which is basically quick drying material you can make spot fixes by just depositing some material on the spot. But you aren't going to find this at your local hobby store, etc.. so you can also just use your emulsion! In a dark room, I just poured a small puddle of emulsion into a paper bowl, and using a tooth pick as my 'brush', I just dabbed small amounts of the emulsion over my problem pinholes (do this on the flat screen side). The holes can be very hard to see... so make sure you hold the screen with a bright light behind it.. and move back and forth at various angles. Just dab over any spots... let it dry. I then let it sit under the exposure bulb for a few minutes to make sure it was baked too.

    Here is my screen (including the pinhole fixes)

    IMG_4719 (resized).JPG

    It didn't have to be beautiful... if I really cared, I would have cleaned the screen and started over ensuring I cleaned the screen well before coating. But function over beauty

    Now onto printing...

    before busting out the inks... make sure you know exactly how you will position and secure the frame on the cabinet for the print. In my case, using a single small bar clamp holding the side of the frame to the stringer on the bottom of the cabinet gave the screen a VERY secure hold. I could use one hand to hold the other side of the frame flat against the cabinet.. and one hand to squeegee.

    IMG_0328 (resized).JPG

    Prep the same as the big screen...
    Tape your nickles to the bottom in the corners to give you good spacing for the screen. Tape the corners of the screen.. but leave enough space so your squeegee isn't hitting the tape!
    Pull a small amount of paint into a disposable container with a disposable spoon. VERY lightly thin with a splash of mineral spirits or thinner.
    Spread a line of ink along the edge of the graphic area
    I wanted to do some test prints before doing the cabinet to ensure I had a good printing screen.. so I just had some cardboard panels.. and tested on those.

    Flood the screen pulling the ink across the graphic area with the squeegee at about a 45deg angle with almost no downward pressure. You want a complete wash of ink across your graphic area. Do it again if needed

    Make a print by doing a pull with the squeegee at a steep angle.. about 70deg while pushing firmly down... and get that sweet sweeping swoosh sound. When doing these test prints on the table.. I just held the screen in place with my hand. No clamps.

    Repeat until you get a nice print with all the letters complete and solid. Flood inbetween print swipes! Add some paint if you didn't have enough to start... just try not to make a mess.

    Since my cabinet was already built up and on legs... I had to do my final print vertical. I simply flooded the screen while it was OFF the cabinet and on the table. This way the ink was all ready, and I didn't have a thick line of ink running around as I tried to print. With the screen flooded, I moved the screen to the cabinet, attached my clamp on the side of the frame to the stringer on the bottom of the cabinet... while held the frame snug. With my left hand, held the other side of the frame against the cabinet... and made my squeegee pull with my free hand. I made two pull passes to be nice and sure.

    Popped the frame off.. and... boom shaka laka!!
    IMG_4714 (resized).JPG

    #5 10 months ago

    So what did we learn?

    1) Totally do-able. But kind of expensive to do for just one cabinet. If you can share with friends, makes it much more worth it.
    2) I spent $85 in paint+squeegees... and about $70 to make my patent screen. Matt will sell you a finely made one for $80.. you be the judge You could get that down a bit by not buying the photobulb, etc.. but for maybe a $20-25 different.. I'd tell you to order from Matt if he's making screens.
    3) Practice! Once you have the ink out and the screen loaded.. you can keep going, so don't try to 'do it on one try'.. feel free to practice and move to the cabinet when ready
    4) Prep! Have all your elements at ready before you bust out the paint or exposure bulb! Trust me.. this paint seemed to get everywhere super sneaky! Handling the squeegee with paint on the edge, etc.. it just loves to drip. Double check all your alignments and positioning BEFORE busting out the ink

    Hope you find this useful

    #6 10 months ago

    Super cool tutorial, thanks for sharing!

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