Thursday, May 17, 2012

Silkscreening On-the-Fly, MacGyver Style!

Me...well I needed to print 60 bases to use for the Knock-Down Dolls I create. But maybe you took a silkscreen class and you have this great screen but no support. Or maybe you bought a screen at a craft store but can't afford a $250 silkscreen machine to go with it. And maybe you want to print like a gazillion same-size something-or-others in a neat and consistent manner but you don't have access to silkscreen equipment. Well fear not! Lady MacGyver is here to show you how to silkscreen on-the-fly!

First you'll need a shallow box like a shoebox top. Mine's attached, so I'm going to cut it off. Cereal and snack boxes also make a great surface for a one-time silkscrening session! Just cut off the largest panel (you don't even need the sides). If you have a bigger screen, get a bigger box, just make sure it's kinda flat and not so corrugated.

You want to mark off the area of your box that you're going to cut out, based on the size of your screen.

Make sure to make the hole large enough so that you have room on each side of your screen for ink and taping (see a few steps below).

Secure the screen to the bottom of your box first. You want it to be flush with the bottom of your substrate for ideal printing. Tape all sides with packing tape and cover up any open areas (like the one I have here in the bottom left corner).

Tape the screen to the inside of the box on all sides...

...making sure that your "squeegee" (I'm using an old hotel key card), has a clear, flat path inside the taped areas, or your screen may not print evenly.

Because I'm screening a dimensional item, I'm going to actually use a couple of the items as "risers" for my screen setup.

Secure your makeshift screen assembly in place by making a hinge with packing tape. If what you are printing is flat, you can just tape your assembly directly to the table.

Next you're going to line up the actual object to be printed with the image on the screen.

Tape around it to mark your area. My object is round, so I used smaller pieces of tape to define the oval shape.

Once your object placement is marked off, use a popsicle stick to place ink onto your screen on one edge of the image.

Draw ink smoothly and evenly across the screen with a slight downward pressure...

...and Violà! A perfect silkscreened image! Repeat a gazillion times.

My bases are now ready for their many, many, many Knock Down Dolls! And it took me less than an hour to make 60 of them.

A here's a few final tips from Lady MacGyver...
  • If you have a larger screen, use a squeegee that is as wide as your whole image. I use a window squeegee. They come in various sizes and can be found at your local auto or home store.
  • Be sure and use only silkscreen ink which is a slow drying ink. Using other inks or paints may permanently clog up your screen!
  • Make sure and wash your screen off as soon as you are done so the silkscreen ink does not dry on your screen forever.
Good luck to you in your silkscreening endeavors!

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michelle renee bernard