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DIY Screen Printing Instructions

DIY Screen Printing Technique

Before starting to screen print, master your squeegee technique. Even if you have done silk-screen printing before, the squeegee technique for our custom mesh screens is different to silk-screen printing.

1. The angle of the squeegee is held upright at about 60-70 degrees
This provides a clear, sharp print - angles too low force too much ink through the screen and bleeding may occur
2. Less pressure is used with the squeegee when printing
The blade on the squeegee should NOT flex or bend whilst printing
You don’t need to push the squeegee through the screen - the ink will naturally be drawn through onto the material below - you just need to guide the squeegee

 It’s NOT the pressure applied to the squeegee that pushes the ink through the screen and onto the item below . . . it’s actually the sharp edge of the squeegee blade that pulls a fine layer of ink through the screen mesh, which is designed to regulate the amount of ink that passes. So excess pressure just blurs your design and reduces quality.

If you have never screen printed before then you will normally receive a better print than a person who has using old techniques, as they must remove old habits of excessive pressure which was required using the outdated equipment and inks.

You must use pressure on the squeegee to keep even pressure along that blade so one side does not print more than the other, however you can screen print with 2 fingers holding the squeegee blade - let the squeegee & ink do the work for you.

 


Basic Screen Printing Technique

1. With your screen imaged and mounted to a frame, place the screen over some paper ready for a test print
Always perform a test print before using each screen - this will reveal any pinholes or problems with artwork/ imaging which can be corrected before printing commences

Ink the squeegee
2. Dip an ink knife [wooden or plastic] into the ink and laden the squeegee blade with the ink ready to commence printing
Laden by placing the ink knife against the blade and holding the squeegee still, pull the ink knife downwards - the blade of the squeegee will ‘scrape’ the ink off the ink knife
You can also put the ink directly onto the screen


 

Lower the squeegee to the screen

3. With sufficient ink on the blade, about 7-10mm thick, place the squeegee onto the edge of the screen, then lower the blade and rock forward & back 3 times to transfer this ink onto the screen and then bring the angle back up ready to print
Rocking to transfer the ink is ONLY required on the 1st print - this is NOT required for every print.

 

 

Correct printing actionRaise the Squeegee

4. Pull the squeegee across the screen at an angle of approx. 70 degrees from one side to the other, when complete raise the squeegee angle back to vertical to ‘pick up’ the ink and remove from the squeegee from the screen

 

 

Raise the frame
5. Rest the squeegee on some paper beside the screen and lift the frame in a hinge motion to reveal the print
A hinge motion is used to avoid smudging/ blurring the print [hold the frame on one side]
If the print is too light you can lower the frame and print again as the hinge effect holds it in place

 

 


Points to Note

Your squeegee should be at approx. 70 degrees and move freely across the screen

If too much ink is flowing off the outside edges and the print is blurred or heavy, then you are pressing too hard

Once you commence printing you will quickly determine the correct level of pressure and squeegee angle that suits - the prints will tell you what you are doing wrong

  Prints too dark, blurred, smudged or not a clear image = pressure too great and squeegee angle too low

Prints too light, not a clear image = pressure too light, squeegee angle too high or not enough ink on the squeegee


Heat Setting Fabric Inks

Fabric screen printing ink requires heat setting in order to cure/set the ink to the fabric. The following is a guide to the heat setting process and explains why prints should be heat set for 2 minutes to ensure permanent bonding.
150F [66°C] Water begins to leave the ink
200F [94°C] Binder reaches lowest viscosity and maximum surface contact is made with the fabric
220F [105°C] Water begins to leave the ink rapidly
270F [133°C] Fifty percent of the water is gone and the binder and pigment start to cure
300F [150°C] Most of the water is gone and the binder-pigment combination is partially cured
300F [150°C] [for 30 seconds to a minute] Binder and pigment is cured
[The above should be used as a guide only, and may vary slightly between ink types. Times printed on sides of containers are for wet prints. Curing of dry prints still takes at least 2 minutes as ink has to get to temperature first.]


Cleaning & Storing Screens

Always use water soluble inks. This makes cleaning easy as you can clean under cold running water. The ink will quickly break down leaving you with a perfectly clean screen.

Always store screens away from any heat source [heaters, lights, etc.], in a cool/ dry place.