A screen printing machine is a way to print original designs on to different fabrics. These can be for personal use or for a small business as the machine is very versatile in terms of what it can help you to create. It can be tricky to get the hang of it, but once you do, you can create some wonderful designs.
The machine uses a mesh which is painted over and then blocked out. The blocked out design acts as a form of stencil which is cut using a strong light. Once the outline is cut, the image can be applied to the fabric of your choice and the screen can be used as many times as you want to reprint that same design.
With screen printing you can only apply one colour at a time, so you may need to create several screens for one design. The design does not seep in to the fabric, but sits on top creating a more lifelike and vibrant pattern.
The process works best with natural materials such as silks, wool, acrylics, polyesters and jersey fabrics. The screen printing process is used for creating t-shirts and bedding, but can also be used by artists to print their work as well as signs, leather designs, ceramics, glasswork and so much more.
What You Will Need
In order to use the best screen printing machine for beginners, you will need certain equipment and a number of accessories.
- The screen and a frame. These can be purchased as a set or separately from most art or craft stores.
- Photo emulsion and sensitizer to cover the screen.
- A 250 watt bulb and a desk lamp.
- Latex gloves, as it can be quite messy.
- Transparency paper for printing your image.
- A t-shirt or other materials to work with.
- A squeegee to transfer your design.
- Silk screen fabric ink to create the design.
- A small piece of cardboard to fit inside the t-shirt.
- You will also need a pitch black room. As most houses don’t have one then you can use a large closet if you have one. The screen has to sit in the dark for part of the process.
First Create Your Image
When you first use the best screen printing machine for beginners, it can look rather daunting and time consuming, but it allows you to use the same pattern for as many t-shirts as you want, so if you’re using it for business you can create your designs easily once the screen is set up.
The screen printing process works similar to a stencil, in that you block out the areas you don’t want to print. To start off with, try a very simple design – maybe just a few lines so you can familiarize yourself with the screen printing process. You can use graphics software such as Photoshop or CorelDraw to create your design. Photoshop has the option to create a silhouette which is exactly what you need for the screen printing process. At first it can be a little confusing when you create your screen printing designs, but the more you use it, the easier it becomes.
Unlike some designs, you simply need a black image. This will block the light so that you can create your ‘stencil’ and the colour will be added during the transfer process. Once you have your image, print it out using transparency paper. There are different options for transparency paper, and the best way to find the right one for your purposes is simply to test them out. Don’t worry if your image doesn’t look clear when it’s printed – you may be pleasantly surprised when you’ve finished exposing it to the light.
Coat The Screen
Once you have your image printed, you need to coat the screen. The emulsion and sensitizer should be mixed together, and there will be instructions on the bottle of how to do this. Before you lay the screen down, cover the floor with something which will block the paint and not damage the floor, such as a garbage bag. You can use an old towel or board, but make sure it is dark.
With the screen flat on the floor, pour some of your emulsion on to the screen. You need to end up with a thin, evenly coated layer. You don’t need to cover the whole screen, just an area which is slightly larger than the design you are planning to print.
To do this, take your squeegee and spread the emulsion. You may have to apply more than one layer to get the coating that you want.
When you are happy that the area is fully coated, leave it in a dark room or closet until it is totally dry. This can take up to two hours.
Expose The Image
When the screen is dry, leave it in the dark room, and don’t turn on any light. This next step may need some practice, but you will get the hang of it.
Place something dark on the floor such as a black cloth, and place the screen and frame on top of this with the screen facing down. The area you have coated with emulsion is where you should place your image. Using masking tape, tape the transparency down around the edges so it holds in place. Don’t use anything too sticky, as it will leave a sticky residue on your screen.
Put the 250 watt bulb in a lamp then angle the lamp so that it is shining directly on to your transparency. The bulb should be between 1-2 feet away from the screen. Leave the room for 10-15 minutes with just the lamp shining on the image. If there is any other light it can spoil your image.
After 10-15 turn off the light and remove the transparency. As you do this you should notice blue lines which indicate that the lamp has burned the image on to the screen.
If you do not see these lines, or they have gaps in, turn the lamp back on for a few more minutes. As you start screen printing you may be uncertain whether or not your image has properly transferred, but as you get more practice, you will be able to see this straight away. Holding the screen up to the light is a good way to see if it has worked.
Once you are happy that the image has transferred, you can then clean it off. To do this you can simply use a hosepipe or take it to the bathroom and swill it using the shower. As you clean it you will notice that the burned image begins to flake off and this is what you want.
When the image is fully removed it should leave a transparent area on the screen which matches your image.
Dry and Print
When you are happy that your image is correct, leave the screen to dry properly. Once it has, if there are any areas which are not covered with emulsion, cover these with masking tape.
Before you try to print anything, first have a test run. You can use a simple piece of paper or old t-shirt to print on.
Now it’s time to prepare your shirt. Lay this out on to a flat surface, such as a board, then cut a piece of card and slide it inside the shirt. This stops the print from going through to the back and also provides a good way of getting the front of the shirt flat to print on. Take the screen and line up the image where you want it to appear on the shirt.
With the screen lying on the shirt, you can now start to create the image. Using your inks, pour some horizontally across the top of the screen and spread it down the screen with your squeegee. Try to do this with one, smooth movement rather than smaller ones as it will create a cleaner image. You may find this takes a little practice, especially as you will need to press down quite hard to get all the ink on to the shirt. Then move the squeegee around in all directions to make sure all the ink has been pressed through.
Once you are satisfied, you can remove the screen and carefully remove the card from inside the shirt. If any ink has leaked through to the card, remember to replace it for next time, or you may get ink on the inside of your next t-shirt.
To dry the ink, simply hang the t-shirt with plenty of room around it, or place it in a hot oven for around 30 seconds.
Prepare The Screen For Next Time
You can now use this screen to print as many shirts as you want. When you have finished, you will need to clean off the screen so you can use it again. Wash off the ink and if you want you can also remove the emulsion with special emulsion remover to create a blank screen for future use. This is particularly important if you want to print a different image the next time.
If you are new to screen printing and looking for the best screen printing machine for beginners, then we have one we think you may like.
The Happybuy Screen Printing Machine can really help a beginner to get the hang of the screen printing process.
It is a solid metal construction which makes it nice and sturdy and is has 2 boards, one on either side, for you to pay out your shirts so you don’t have to buy or make your own boards. The machine has 4 arms to hold up to 4 screens and these arms are adjustable for screens of different widths up to 3cm. Having 4 screens easily available in this way makes it easy to print multiple colors.
All of the arms have a double spring so they can also handle different weights of screen and they can be moved on a turntable so that each screen can be easily placed over the shirt to be printed on.
This is a good starter screen printer for beginners and for smaller print shops as it works with many materials including t-shirts, metal, paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, glass, ceramic tiles, leather and many other substrates. All you need is space to put it and you can get straight to work – see the latest price here (amazon link).
- Platen size: 21.7″ x 17.7″ / 55cm x 45cm
- Max screen thickness: 2″ / 5.08cm
- Holds 4 screens at one time
- Has two working areas with boards
- Strong, metal design
Screen printing has been used for creating designs for a long time, and it gives your images a colourful and vibrant look. While the initial set up of the screen can be time consuming, once you have it prepared, it is very easy to print off a large number of shirts quickly and easily. Unlike some other presses you can also use the same screen with different colors so you can mix up your designs.
Screen printing is a wonderful way to set up a business if you are creative or artistic, and while it does take up a little more room than some other machines, you can still operate it from home.
Check out this awesome video below before you get into our screen printing FAQ’s..
Frequently Asked Questions
What sort of fabrics can you screen print on to?
Screen printing works best with natural fibres such as silk and wool, but is also excellent with jersey and polyesters. It can also print on to wood, paper, ceramics, glass, metal, plastic, leather, electronic circuit boards, balloons and many other surfaces as well.
What can you make with a screen printing machine?
The list is virtually endless! They are mostly used for t-shirts and other clothing, but you can add graphics to party balloons, ceramic tiles, circuit boards, house and business signs, household linen, children’s clothes, snow boards and skate boards, helmets, vinyls, greetings cards and you can even crate your own artwork to sell or display.
What sort of lamp do you need?
You can use any kind of lamp which holds a 250 watt bulb, but you must be able to angle the bulb so it points over the transparency. Any desk lamp or angle poise lamp works well.
What is the best screen mesh count?
This will depend mainly on what you are working with. A higher mesh count of 230-355 is used for fine detail printing. Lower mesh counts such as 180 are used for thicker lines and graphics and bolder images.
What’s the best way to clean a screen?
Most residue can be removed with simple water using a hose or showerhead. If you are planning to create the same design again, you can leave the image but to clean the screen for a new image you will need specialist remover.
What sort of printer do I need?
A laser printer is the best to print your designs as they are carbon based and this works better with your screen printer.
Why do I need to print in black?
The transparency is used to block out everything except the part of the image you want to print. Using black will block all light from getting through so that you get a cleaner image on to your screen.