Screen Printing Intro Class



I took a screen printing class at Gowanus Print Lab in Brooklyn. Why I didn’t take this 20 years ago is the biggest mystery, because this is too great to miss. Leslie, the teacher, is lovely and was a little nervous at speaking at first, however we could see right away that she is a professional printer and knows a lot about the process. She encouraged us to take notes and pictures. So here it goes:


The clear acetates films of our designs were printed out. 17″ is the widest their regular printer does, and it’s 75c per square inch, making a t-shirt size about $10 per sheet/color.
Halftones have to be dithered with a halftone filter, so it’s best to stay away from blends, or plan them like pop-art cartoon dots.


Then we learned about mesh count for the screens. A 110 for fabric like t-shirts, and higher for finer prints on paper. The frames are either aluminum or wood frames. The wood frames won’t be as easily re-usable since the water will bend the frames. All their frames were aluminum. Aluminum frames don’t seem to be too expensive online either.


We went ahead and tried to apply emulsion with the scoop coater, easy. Coated two sides if it meant to be printed more often. This should be done in a room with special light, otherwise the emulsion will harden. However it seemed to be less critical then i thought. not as unforgiving as a photo lab.
Then it dries for 20 mins – 1 hr.
They had already prepared screens for us, so we didn’t have to wait. Leslie called it the “Martha Steward” course set-up.


We scotch-taped the acetates to the screens and exposed them 20 secs in ultraviolet light in a vacuum table. This hardens the emulsion completely and now the un-exposed parts could easily be washed off with a pressure water hose.


The edges of the screen and any holes on the sides of the screen need to be taped off. For textiles we used Plastisol ink, it’s like PVC and pretty toxic.
After choosing a squeegee and color we were ready to print.

It was actually pretty easy and my results were better then I could hope for the first time. but one has to be extra careful not to get messy and having a clean work space. The biggest fails were shirts with paint splotches from dirty hands or tables.


Cleaning the screens is the worst, most dreaded part. The chemicals are a  bit vicious. It’s definitely a good idea to use their professional facility, otherwise it’s really easy to make a complete mess.

I’ll be back soon, so ready!



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