My latest passion; I had access to more time in the last year than usual but with an uncertain future, it took some imagination to complete the process from ‘enthusiast’ to intermediate printer without breaking the bank – screen printing can be wildly expensive if you’re not careful. My initial DIY screen printing setup proves that anyone can get started on a budget, with a little room and a lot of practice, trial and errors. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way….
I used the Print Life video channel as my base for learning about ink and various supplies, then started testing my own. Wypall towels are the current VIP of my own screen printing supplies experience, without a doubt. I got the little stand and a recurring subscription to have the towels delivered and without those, I’d be going to the store every other day for more Bounty.
These little multicolored silicone plastic spatulas are also cheap and great for mixing ink. I bought the packet of five, but should have bought at least two more packets because they get messy quick and then it’s too much of a hassle to clean in the moment. For metal spatulas, any brand will do – you don’t need the expensive ones. The size you buy is more important (too small is worthless).
For screen tape, don’t skimp out and buy the 1″ painters tape rolls; you’ll just end up having to double-tape everything to reach the edges. Yes, I make this mistake – get at least 2″ and some clean-up cards, as well. You’ll save a lot of ink!
Speaking of ink, I’ve been buying from a few different stores and Advanced Screen Technologies is my favorite – good selection, great customer service, fast shipping.
Last tip: when working in your own garage, a dehumidifier is a worthy investment in order to keep excess moisture from the air.
After watching a few videos online to get some ideas, I built my exposure unit out of cheap pvc pipe from Home Depot. Paired with a 50W UV LED light and a Canon ix6820, along with a few yellow bug lights, you can build a whole system to burn screens for less than $300. Getting the foam was the most difficult task to complete, believe it or not. You’d think that foam would be easier to obtain. Maybe there’s a foam shortage that I don’t know about.
I built my own washout booth from a laundry tub, purchased at Home Depot. Inspiration came from watching videos by TshirtChick and Start Screen Printing Now and I was really pleased with the end result. I used corrugated plastic for the sides and a Lexan clear polycarbonate window for the middle. To seal the sides, I tried both bathtub sealant and Flex Seal. Both work well for awhile but eventually crack and need to be redone. If I had to do this over, I’d probably just save my money and invest in a proper washout booth.
My next purchase will be a dip tank because as your screen collection grows, your time spent washing out emulsion increases. And this is no fun. I initially thought a dip tank was a foolish luxury…ha! Don’t be so naïve.
After trying out various standard plastisol inks, I jumped into color-mixing. With a Pantone formula guide, a scale and color-matching inks, you can mix and make hundreds of shades and tints to match your clients’ requests. I’m currently using the Union Mixopake brand and the colors I’ve gotten so far have been perfect.
My only advice here would be to get a scale that will show grams to multiple decimal points.