Monday, November 3, 2008

How to build a custom screen for screenprinting - tshirts, fabric, designs

If you have ever been interested in printing your own shirt or a design, logo, or funny saying onto a shirt - either for profit or just to do it - then you probably have heard that screenprinting is the best way to do it. Well I have to admit that screenprinting is probably the best way to print any design on fabric, although it is a tedious task to learn. I am writing a series of articles to help teach how to screenprint designs onto a t-shirt, and this first one will simply tell you how to make your own cheap screens at home to get started - after all, you need to make a screen, before you can print!

Before reading each step below, please download my PDF tutorial I created to help aid you in the building of this screen my clicking on the link in the resources section or going to the URL below (copy and paste into browser) Screenprinting_tutorial_buildscreen.pdf.html

The first thing we need to do is cut the wood for the frame. Take your six foot section of 2"x2" lumber and cut it into four equal pieces measuring 18" in length.

Now take two of the 18" pieces and cut them into 16 1/4" lengths. And take the other two pieces and cut them into 12 1/4" lengths. See photo below for reference.

Now we need to cut the ends of each piece of wood into a 45 degree angle so that we can but them up together to form a frame. Use a mitre saw to achieve this.

Get your four corner brackets and your pieces of frame that you cut out, and lay them out on the table as you would assemble them. So basically, dry-fit the frame together, and then put the four corner brackets on top of your mitered angles. We will screw these brackets into the wood to hold it together permanently.

Now screw down the corner brackets into each of the mitred pieces of your frame so that you have a permanently locked together solid wood box frame.

Now turn over your frame, and take 4 electrical staples or "U" nails, and hammer them into the back side opposite of the corner brackets you screwed on in Step 7. The "U" nail should nail into one piece of wood forming the corner on one side, and nail into another piece of wood forming the corner on the other side. This adds extra protection that your frame will not come apart. So now your frame is bracketed and screwed together on the top, and nailed together form the bottom. The reason for the heavy hardware is that you will hopefully use these screens a lot, and this will help them take the abuse.

Now that we have completed our frame, we want to staple on our screen fabric. Lay the screen on the table with the Corner Brackets side facing downward. We will connect the screen to the smooth side of the screen. Lay the screen material over the frame. Be sure to leave at least two inches overhang on each side. Select a side that you want to start stapling down, and secure the corner first. Then staple down the entire side. Be sure to keep the fabric even around all edges. NOTE: You may want to get a hammer to flatten out some of the staples.

Once you have completed one side, you want to staple down the adjoining side. Be sure to stretch the fabric tightly first, and then secure the corner with a staple. Pull the fabric tightly along the edge as you staple down the side. Be sure to check all the edges and make sure that you have extra fabric hanging over every edge evenly. Also be sure to pull the fabric tightly.

Finish stapling the remaining two sides as shown. Be sure to always pull the fabric tightly in the direction you are stapling. Look for any loose areas in the fabric, and try to tighten up areas as much as possible by stretching the fabric on a diagonal, and then in the direction you are stapling. Add extra staples to areas that will help you tighten the fabric. Use a hammer to flatten all staples.

These next set of pictures show you the direction to staple the fabric to the frame. It is very important that you stretch the fabric tight on each side as you staple. You want to have an end result where your screen is as tight as a drum - so pretend like you are making a drum. See the photo below for the staple directions - follow the arrows. (DOWNLOAD THE PLAN FOR REFERENCE)

Good Work! Make sure that your screen is super tight on the frame and that there are not wrinkles or loose areas in the printing area. If there are, stretch them out and staple the fabric down to the frame to make the canvas as tight as a drum - Your Screen is now finished and ready to take a graphic for printing.

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