I'm not really sure if I feel comfortable trying to use the ancient photo emulsion stuff I found with my screen... it's all so old, and some of it might have hardened? I guess I really haven't opened one of the containers yet, but I'm a little terrified.

Because of this, and because I didn't really know what I was doing, I just used the drawing and filler fluids to make my screens. I would trace my image onto the screen with a pen, then fill that area with the drawing fluid. After it dried, I would coat the screen in the filler fluid. Once that's dry, the drawing fluid would wash out, clearing that area of the screen. So, this method is similar in a way to photo emulsion, but was less accurate. I had trouble washing out small areas of the drawing fluid and edges were nowhere near crisp. I always ended up having to go back in and touch up holes in the screen filler as well.

So, I've been dragging my feet a little bit on trying to do photo emulsion at home by myself. The most logical thing for me to do would probably just be to go buy some new stuff and some lights and get it done that way, but frankly, I'm kind of lazy, and I don't really want to spend much setting up equipment when I know I'll just have to be moving it soon anyway. So, I got super excited when I saw this article on FPO: For Print Only:

[image from FPO]

Justin Leibow was trying to teach his kids about screen printing and just used newspaper to block the ink from a blank screen. Now, that seems to me to be the ultimate cheap way to make some short-run simple prints. Definitely worth a shot!



[my screen]

The screen I have is just a wood frame, about 12"x19," that hinges onto a little base. It does not have a screen on it, just a groove all the way around so you can stretch your own screen over it. A while back, I bought a few yards of organdy to stretch and use as a screen. It works alright because you can see through the threads, there are holes large enough for ink to go through, but still small enough to get a little bit of detail.


When I stretch the fabric over the wood frame, I get it a little wet first, since it stretches more when it is wet. I'm not really sure if this actually makes a difference and makes the screen tighter when it's dry, but I like to think it does, anyway.

The cord I had for stretching the screen ended up breaking at one of the corners, since I used to have a lot of difficulty pushing it into the groove. I lost the small piece, so had to cut the rest of the cord into a bunch of small pieces in order to hold the screen in well enough... gotta make do with what you have!


I was super excited, though, when I found out there are tools to help you push the cord into the groove! It made stretching a screen so much easier, since before, I used the corner of a scraper to push the cord down little bits at a time. The tool is kind of like a mini, wider pizza cutter, which is way easier to put weight onto...

[stretching the screen]



My first experience with screen printing was in high school, I think. I did some block printing with linoleum in studio arts, and found an old screen and some inks in my parents' closet. I don't remember exactly what was on the screen at that time, but I remember it being some crude drawing of som
e sort, probably my uncle's doing.

So, I dusted the kit off and went to work reading the directions. It was just one of those Speedball starter kits
, and all the ink was really old. Old, yes, but luckily not dry. There was some photo emulsion stuff in the box, but I'm a little afraid to try it.. I think it might be too dried out, but I'm not sure how well the chemicals hold up after so many years...

I did two prints back then:

One was a one-color tshirt of a figure skater, which I then ended up making about 100 tshirts and selling them to members of my figure skating club. The graphic was kind of clunky, and I ended up losing details in my screen when washing out screen drawing fluid.

The other was a three-color self-portrait (although it of course looked nothing like me). This one I did on paper, and I mostly remember having problems with the screen filler coming off the screen.

[screen filler chunk, oh no!]

Also, I didn't think about registration before I started, so I had problems getting a good print with all three colors. I even left some at just two colors because I didn't want to ruin them.

After these preliminary attempts at screen printing, the screen and inks just sat in my basement for another few years... I once again became interested after reading the books Fingerprint, New Vintage Type, and New Master's of Poster Design and decided that I needed to actually learn how to do it this time, or at least spend more time experimenting to get nice, clean prints.