How to Screen Print!
Silkscreening at Home.

Wayyyy back around Christmas I took some time off to partake in my latest adventure.


As many of you may remember, relaxing consisted of knitting a sweater, perfecting homemade pizzas, reading and … teaching myself to screen print these tea towels.  I also spent a little time looking up the *exact* definition of relaxing.  I’ve always been a bit iffy on it.

At the time, I promised I would, when the time was right, teach you how to screen print at home.

That time is now.

If you’re anything like me, and I know you are, you thought screen printing (otherwise known as silkscreening even though they’re kindda different) was really hard.  Something only magical hippies could do with the help of marijuana and an unemployment cheque.  Not true!  Turns out it’s actually pretty easy.

When I first started this little nod to the 60’s adventure, I was going to get all set up professional style.  Build a light box, use all professional materials, maybe even get stoned and sell my wares out of the back of a Volkswagon camper van.

Then I didn’t.  I figure I tend to go a bit extreme at times, and chances are ..  you might not be willing to go to the edge with me.  To your credit.

So I figured out a way to screen print (silkscreen) that pretty much anyone can do with mostly stuff from around your house. Providing you  have a 250v generator and 17 taxidermied squirrels in your house.

Just kidding.

So let me explain the type of screen printing I’ll be showing you.  It is screen printing with a photo emulsion.  In general terms, you paint a screen with light sensitive paint, let it cure, put your image on top of the paint when it’s dried and cure it under lights.  The area of the screen that is covered up by your image will not get cured because it won’t be exposed to light.  Therefore after your screen is “exposed”, all the area under your image will just wash away under water.  This clean area in the shape of your image or text … is your screen printing pattern, where you will drag ink across to create your screen printed tee shirt, bag, or tea towel.

Understand?  No?  Kay.  Let’s try again with pictures …





The first thing you need to do is decide on an image you want to print.  I drew up this tree as an example for you.  For your first screen printing subject don’t do anything with very fine lines.  Something like this tree or lettering is perfect.

You can either print your picture out on regular paper and cut it out, or print it onto transparency paper.  Staples carries transparency paper for inkjet printers but it’s expensive.  Around $50 for 50 sheets.  If you’re doing just a basic image like the tree below, you can get away with just printing it onto regular paper and cutting it out.  When you get into more detailed images you’ll want to invest in the transparency paper.  Whatever you do the image has to be OPAQUE.  If you’re unsure as to whether it’s dark enough, hold your image up to the light.  If light comes through it isn’t dark enough.  Either print another copy and double them up on top of each other, or colour in your paper with a black marker.





You’ll also need a frame with “silk” on it.  The silk is actually polyester.  You can buy it in craft or art supply stores.  Make sure you’re buying “110” mesh.

You have a couple of options here. You can either buy a frame that already has the silk on it for around $20 or you can buy the frame and a few yards of the silk and staple it on yourself.  If you’re really crafty you can build the frame out of 2×2’s.  I did all of the above.





To apply your own silk just use a regular staple gun.  Pull it tight, but not so tight the silk rips through the staples.  You can also fold the silk under so it isn’t as likely to rip.  Make sure your staples are pressed right in because your screen needs to lay flat when you flip it over.  Staples that aren’t pushed right in will make the screen wobble.





Once your screen is stapled, cut the edges off.





Tape the outside and inside of the silk so paint can’t drip through.  I’m using duct tape because that’s what I had in my workshop.  There’s special papery tape you are supposed to use.  Next time I go to the art store I’ll buy it, but the duct tape works fine for now.  After more than a few washings of the screen it’ll unstick though.

(update: since taking an advanced screen printing course I’ve learned that painters tape works great for this)





Even though I did, you shouldn’t need to tape the inside of your frame.  Because I made the frame on my own and the silk wasn’t as tight as it could have been, I taped the inside to prevent ink from leaking.  Again, if you buy your frame or just do a better job than I did making mine, you won’t need to do this.


6 B



Now that your screen is ready, it’s time to coat it with Photo Emulsion. This is the stuff that reacts to light, so you have to do this part in a dark room, close to where you’ll be storing it to dry.  It must be stored until dry in a COMPLETELY dark room.  Black.  If you put it in a closet to dry, make sure light isn’t getting through the cracks of the door.  Hang a towel, or housecoat or flat monster on the door to block the cracks if you have to.

Your photo emulsion comes in 2 parts.  The container you see here, plus a little bottle of stuff you have to add to it to activate it.  No big deal.  Instructions are on the bottle.  You just shake it up.

The photo emulsion is applied with a squeegee.  You can either use a squeegee you own, or buy one at the craft store.  They’re cheap.  Coincidentally, so am I.





In your dark room, run a bead of emulsion across the top of your screen.  Apply the emulsion to the “bottom” of the screen.  The part of the screen that isn’t recessed in the frame.





With your squeegee, draw the emulsion down over the entire screen.  You want the thinnest coat possible.  I only did one side of the screen, but technically you should do both sides.  Make sure you have a nice even coat, but work quickly.  Immediately put the screen in a dark area to dry.  Set it down horizontally, not vertically.  Depending on how thick you put your emulsion is on, drying will take 1-3 hours.

(update: Since taking an advanced screen printing course I’ve learned you can also turn a fan on low pointed at the screen to speed the drying time.  With a fan it will take around half an hour to dry)




I interrupt this post to remind you my “The Art of Doing MORE Stuff” workshop takes place on March 17th.

Close-up of a pencil on the page of a calendar

Always Pinning, Planning and Pondering but never actually doing anything?  Join me in this fun 4 day live, video workshop. I’ll show you had to make THIS the year you get stuff done!  See the course page for more details.



While your screen is drying, you can set up your exposure area.  Technically you can expose your screen outside in the sun, but it’s risky.  You see, the screen has to be exposed for the exact right amount of minutes.  If you overexpose it, you won’t be able to wash away your photo emulsion.  If you underexpose it your image won’t show up and all of the photo emulsion will wash away.

The best way for you to expose the screen is with a 150 watt lightbulb.  Your photo emulsion kit will tell you how long you should expose your image depending on the size of your screen.  It will also give you the distance your light source should be from your screen.  I’ve rigged up one of my photography lights to use as my light source.  It has a dome thingamabob on it, so this helps focus the light where I want it.  If you do not have a dome thingamabob you can either McGyver one out of a tin pie plate, or expose your image for slightly longer.

You also need something that’s matte black to put your screen on for the exposure.  I’ve used an old chalkboard. A black piece of cardboard or bristol board would work well too.





Once your exposure area is set up you can cut out your image, if you chose to go with that technique as opposed to printing onto transparency.  I cut this image out with a swivel head X-acto knife, but if your design is very simple you could use scissors.





When your screen is dry, cover it with a towel to prevent light from hitting it and carry it to your exposure area.

1. Place the screen on your black matte background.  The “back” of the screen where you applied the emulsion will be facing up.

2.  Place your image onto the screen IN REVERSE.  Hold it in your hand so you’re looking at the image how you want to see it on your tee shirt, then flip it over and place it on the screen.  You’ll notice my image appears white now, because I’ve flipped it over and the dark portion of it is now touching the screen.

3.  Place a clean piece of glass over the image to hold it tight against the screen.

4.  Turn your light on.

Because of the screen size my image required 35 minutes of exposure with a 150 watt lightbulb set to 18″ away from the image.  Yours may be different, but if your screen and image are around the same size as mine this exposure time and distance should work for you too.  From everything I read I figured this would be a disaster the first time.  Most instructions say you’ll fail the first time and not to be discouraged.  It takes a while to figure out the right exposure time for your images.

However, this worked on the first try for me.  Everything did actually.





Set your timer and leave your image alone.  Don’t push, prod or bother it.  Just go away and leave it alone.  Once the time is up, remove your glass and transparency or paper cutout.  You’ll see a faint image right away.





Take your screen to any tap with high pressure.  Your shower head or outdoor garden hose work well.  Spray the image with luke warm water.  Not hot, not cold.  Just keep spraying and eventually you’ll see the image start to appear more and more as the emulsion washes away.  You’ve just made your first silkscreen.  You’re very impressive.  Eat a cookie.





In your work area (which is my workshop) lay  your tee shirt (pre washed) or whatever you’re printing over something you don’t mind wrecking.  I used a piece of masonite.   ‘Cause I wouldn’t want to mar my beautiful workbench that I’m obviously very particular about.





Lay your newly created silk screen over your tee shirt.  You’re now laying your frame the opposite of how you’ve laid it before.  The back of the screen will be touching the tee shirt and the recess will be facing up.





Run a glug of paint across the top of your screen.  My paint/ink is a mix of black and white to make a very, very dark grey.  Your paint will dry MUCH darker than it appears when wet.  Drag the paint over your image with your squeegee without applying pressure to “flood” the image.





Then, going in the same direction, run over the image with the squeegee again with some pressure.





Light pressure will get you a faded looking screen print.





More pressure will get you a more solid image.





Hang your item to dry.





Once it’s dry, you need to set the image by ironing it with a hot iron.  Your bottle of screen printing paint will have instructions on this.

And that’s it.  How to screen print.  In 742 steps or less.  It really isn’t all that difficult and for what it takes in energy it more than gives back in fun.  Much like  Dodgeball.  Or shoving a lima bean up your friend’s nose.

The total investment is as follows:

Squeegee – $9.39

Photo Emulsion  – $10  (good for many, MANY screens)

Ink – $8.00  (good for many, MANY tee shirts)

Frame with screen – $20 – $40 depending on size.  (or make your own screen and buy the polyester)

150 watt lightbulb – $3

Total Initial Investment for start up supplies:  Approximately $50.

If you have any questions feel free to ask me.  I probably won’t answer them but I might chase you down and shove a lima bean up your nose.



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  1. cheri says:

    Yahoo! I’ve been waiting (and waiting) for these instructions. And now that I am pretty much completely confused, yet in awe that this works….I’m trying it. I plan to make this my new career actually.

    Thanks, Karen!

  2. Shannon V. says:

    Great tute. Very easy to follow. Will have to try this this summer….going to pin it now!

  3. Amanda says:

    I used to do screenprinting. Little tip – if your dark room has a RED light you can take your time spreading the emulsion and make sure it is nicely covered without the panic that you are already exposing your activated emulsion. You can also place your design in the red light so when you take your towel or sheet off of the screen it can immediately start to process. Like Photo paper Red Light does not activate the photo processing chemicals in emulsion. also you can “bake” your t-shirts in the oven at 250 for 5 minutes or so. This was useful for me as I burn everything with an iron… all my ironing is done in the dryer with a wet cloth LOL

  4. Pati N says:

    Thank you Karen! I have so wanted to do this.I was just scared thinking I had to invest a lot of money… I have been using freezer paper to stencil designs onto the bags I make.It works fine but I cannot reuse my stencils as much as I could with a screen print.
    Also just wanted to say that I just feel we are always on the same wave length…you and I. So many of your posts directly relate to my life. Seems uncanny sometimes:)

  5. Angela says:

    Thank you for including a picture of the fella, that was a nice reward at the end of the post.

    The tutorial was very helpful, I’ve always wondered how to silkscreen! Sadly, I won’t be adding this to my list of projects, the list is already about 3 miles long and my husband is threatening to have my craft supplies end up ‘misplaced’ during our upcoming move.

  6. Sandy C says:

    Looks like a fun project! Who pee’d in the fella’s Wheaties before the photo shoot?

  7. ladymonana says:

    You know me so well! Detailed description AND pictures to follow! Also, thank you for the great suggestion on what to do with that flat monster I have lying around. I can’t wait to try this.

  8. Michelle says:

    You are one of those annoying people that can’t sit still on their relaxing holidays while I’ll happily sit on the couch at home watching everyone else on the home shows doing the clever things!
    He looks well impressed by his early xmas pressie :)

  9. Leena says:

    Ok, question, even at risk of getting a lima bean up my nose. If you want to make many different images, do you have to have many frames too or can you change the “silk”? Can it be stapled again on the frame?

    • Karen says:

      Leena – It depends. The silks can be washed with a special solution if you know you’re never going to use that pattern again. That way you can just clean the screen as opposed to changing it out. You *can* remove the stapled screen for use later on, but I wouldn’t say it’s recommended. You can reuse frames. ~ karen

  10. Sevi says:

    Wow, this sounds like rocket science to me now. I think I need to drink a few more cups of coffee and wait for the afternoon to read it again. Thinking again… No, no clue…

  11. I’ve been reading this blog for what feels like forever, and I think that’s the first picture I’ve ever seen of the fella! Now I know how hot he is I’ll definitely keep reading.

    • Shauna says:

      my honest answer – if that is the first picture you’ve seen of the Fella, then you’ve missed some really great posts! I know there’s at least one with his shirt off – it’s not to be missed;)

  12. Tara says:

    Sorry if you covered this already, just wondering how often you can reuse the screen. Can you wash the paint off and use it again, with different colours etc?

    We did silk screening in high school just with a paper stencil sealed with shellac. This probably has a totally different name and is nothing like actual screen printing!

    • Karen says:

      Tara – You can wash the screens with Photo Emulsion Remover as long as the screens aren’t years old. Then it’s harder to remove. ~ karen

  13. jenny says:

    Could you tell us what you for a darkroom, and how you make it “light tight”?

    • Karen says:

      Jenny – I use my closet or my laundry room. Neither one has windows. Any room w/out windows will be fine. I closed myself into each room and took a look at the door to see where any light was coming through. Then I just taped up some tea towels on the outside of the door to make sure no light got through. ~ karen!

  14. Jen says:

    Wow…this makes me appreciate those tea towels…in a whole new light! Great tutorial….great shirt for the Fella.

  15. love it. I took printing class in high school. That was enough for me.

  16. sarah says:

    is your fella henry rollins baby brother?

  17. Leslie Zuroski says:

    He looks quite fine and so does the shirt. Thanks so much for this Karen! I’ve been wanting to make some stuff.

  18. Deborah says:

    Impressive to say the least! but as another worshiper said, if I try to add any more craft things on my To Do list, hubs will have my a$$ in a sling 😀 THANKS for taking the time to show us how it’s done. I will bookmark this for later though, perhaps when hubs goes golfing I can set up a silkscreen sweatshop… (evil grin) 😛 Oh, and the Dude most definitely looks fetching 😀

  19. Mary Werner says:

    I don’t understand how you work in the dark – then leave it to dry for hours. How did you get out of the closet without light getting in? Or did you stay in the closet and have a little nap? Or did you do all this at night – so confused.

  20. steph says:

    My favorite posts typically feature the fella looking like you dragged him outside with begging and promises of whatever he gets excited about. That face says, this is the 20th time you’ve taken this picture, and you promised a quick shot. Are we done yet?

    • Karen says:

      Steph – That’s funny. That’s *exactly* what that face is. If I remember correctly we were just about to eat dinner, but I was losing light outside so we needed to do it right there and then. :) ~ karen

  21. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Karen,

    Did this in art class in high school – but we used a different product and had to cut the image out of this green stuff. But that was MANY moons ago – I saw on the internet where someone had used an embrodiery hoop, pantyhose and modge podge to create a silk screen. I think I pinned it on Pinterest. If I do this right here is the link to check it out.

    BTW – love ur blog ur my new hero!

  22. Langela says:

    I love the faded look. I may have to try this someday. Maybe next winter when all the outdoor work is done on the farm. Thanks for the inspiration, Karen!

  23. Rose says:

    The fella is sporting the universal expression for hurry-up-and-take-the-picture-so-I-can-get-on-with-whatever-I-was-doing-when-you-stopped-me-and-asked/made-me-take-a-picture. My husband always looks like that in ALL of our impromptu photos. It goes well with the other set of photos with the fake smile he does when I ask/tell him to NOT be like that.

  24. Melissa says:

    This is so cool! I kinda sorta think I could actually pull this off, based on your directions.

    I love the fella being your model for this too.

  25. Brenda says:

    Whoa Karen..thanks for this..have to try it!! oh and I think the fella deserves the purple cross for allowing you to exploit him…..

  26. Kim says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this detailed tutorial with photos. My favourite picture is the one showing the jar of photo emulsion. kidding!
    Not sure if I’ll give this a try but as always, Karen, great read!

  27. Kelly M says:

    I’ve got some photo emulsion, I’ve got some screens that I’ve used with those sheets of pre-made photo emulsion… I’ve also got the paranoia that I’ll never get the liquid photo emulsion out of my precious screens. Any problem cleaning the tree screen?
    Signed Screeny in AK

    • Karen says:

      Kelly M – Nope. No problems at all. The screens cleaned up just fine. I was a bit worried too but it worked great. Just follow the instructions on the photo emulsion remover bottle. Brush it on, scrub, rest, rinse. Something like that. ~ karen

  28. The fella looks great in his T. Was it difficult to get him to wear it for the photo? Great tutorial and I enjoyed reading it but will I ever attempt it … no, I will just live vicariously through you instead …

    • Karen says:

      Melody – I’ve made him a few tee shirts … he wears them all the time. He just wanted to hurry up and get in for dinner. ~ karen

  29. Tess says:

    You continue to amaze me, but seriously, instead of attempt this, I think I would rather set my hair on fire.

    • Karen says:

      Tess – LOL. It really isn’t hard at all. I’ve just done a through enough job with the tutorial to make it seem that way. ~ karen :)

  30. Kaitlen says:

    You’ve done it again, Karen. Awesome post! I’ve allllllways wanted to know how to screen print at home.

    And I quite like the fella’s expression–it says “yeah, I have a wee pine tree on my shirt, you gotta problem?”

  31. You are my new best friend. Iron on is so tired and crafty where as this is fine art (well….) I just spent hours photoshopping a bunch of owl photos I took at our Raptor Center and they are begging to be put on t-shirts and tote bags. Thank you. Thank you.

  32. J9 says:

    Whoa. Nope, never gonna happen. I would get frustrated way too early. I’ll just stick to being jealous of your craftiness.

  33. Barbie says:

    Karen, you always inspire me! I LOVE the wee tree! I love even more that photo of the Fella wearing it! He is a looker for sure! Forget that he was hungry! W/out that “look” on his face…the pic just would NOT be the same…’s really sorta bad A, ya know? As always your work has paid off!

    PS: how is the front yard garden going? I know I asked before….and can’t remember “which” post I asked on ….so I do apologize if you already answered….please don’t shove a lima bean up my nose or slug me in the va ja ja!

  34. WOW thats very involved and professional. I was expecting something less involved like this one which has been floating around pinterest.
    I have also been contemplating silk screening and watched some youtube videos on it but decided it was too much of an investment given you need a new screen for every design. And a lot of space. Good job though and very informative post!

  35. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    The Fella does look quite fetching in the tree shirt..but then he looks good in most anything..I think you should screen print a nice pair of undies for him to model for us..Hey just an idea..You said you wanted to attract more readers..Please don’t shove a lima bean up my nose Karen..I shoved a peanut up my nose when I was a little girl..It got stuck up there..It was quite embarrassing and I never lived that one down..

  36. Beth says:

    A very informative post. Thanks for the insight. Interesting how your fella looks just like Mr. H Rollins!! Nice :)

  37. Shauna says:

    Do you have to put anything between the shirt so it doesn’t bleed through to the back?

    When you put the photo emulsion on the screen, does it drip through onto your counter?

    And, like someone else asked, how do you get out of your closet without letting the light in? I think the dark room part would worry me the most – I’d be sure to somehow ruin the whole thing by getting some light on it.

  38. Beth says:

    Truly wonderful tut!! I did a screen project in High School and back then it was all about rainbows – had like 4 screens to go thru – but it was cool!!!! For the folks asking about re-using screens – I would suggest separate screens for different colors – it’s a pain (drying time and all) but the end product is so worth it!!!) Thanks so much for taking the time to put all the pictures in – they answered the questions as I was asking them!!! Sadly my to do list is too long as well, and might not get to this now — but in the future…. Love the Lima bean – and have a few friends that might actually let me try it if I can run fast enough!! ha ha Thanks for making me LOL again!!!!

  39. Amy in StL says:

    OMG, I used to date an engineer who had that look in every photo I have of him. Now I’m dating a guy who not only smiles, he poses for most pictures. It’s not as annoying as it sounds, except when he decides to pose like a girl…. then it’s annoying.

  40. lori says:

    Hey Karen how do you get out of the “dark room” with out letting in the light?? do you cover the project? or do you turn yourself into a ghost??

  41. Candace says:

    Great tutorial! It’s funny you say it’s pretty easy…I’ve always found it to be a royal pain in the ass because I NEVER get the initial exposure time right. You’re lucky you did! My screen-print teacher told me to always do a test screen to get the right exposure (uncovering sections in minute increments), but I’ve always been too stubborn to devote an entire screen to that!

    Another cool technique is to get the screen filler (or you can just use house paint) and drawing liquid and just draw or trace your image right onto the screen. Then you spray the drawing fluid off like you would the emulsion.

  42. Laura Bee says:

    Wow, very cool. I think this will be a project to do with my sister. We have made candles, soap, wreaths…for gift at Christmas. For the last 10 years or so, we have been stuck on fudge & cookies (well, friends & family have been) Maybe time to try something new.

    • Karen says:

      Laura Bee – It’s *a lot* of fun. Even the fella said it looked interesting and he’d like to try it. ~ karen

  43. debra b says:

    I’m going to try this

  44. I would love to try 2 colors. Maybe I’ll try my business logo…or not.

  45. Melissa L. says:

    I think you should invent (make ) a screen frame that opens up (but attaches securely) so you can slip the screens out and save them and put in a new screen. Then you’ll make zillions (or hundreds) of dollars and send me a tea towel as a thank you. (Man, do we make an awesome team or what?!)

  46. Amanda says:

    @ Karen yes you can bake them in the oven… I will have to double check the temperature… and if you can buy a clean cookie sheet (dollar store one will work… you just don’t want to bake old food on your new shirt) it’s better to put it on a cookie sheet so you don’t get grill marks on your shirt… I did that once LOL It is alot more carefree and like you are baking SUPER FAST cookies that you can wear LOL

  47. Oooh, yay!! So excited to try this! HA, you made me laugh out loud envisioning you chasing someone down to shove a lima bean up a nose.

  48. Katrina says:

    The fella always looks royally pissed (“disgruntled” for the non-Americans out there) in your posts. I LOVE IT! Curmudgeons for the win!

  49. Dominique says:

    I really love your sense of humor and that guy was obviously glad to be your model! Thank you for making screen printing seem attainable, you know not like giving up soda or winning the gold!

    • Karen says:

      Dominique – Hah! Good luck with the silkscreening. But be warned! Once people find out you can do it, they’ll all want you to do it for them. You might want to start distancing yourself from family and friends now. ~ karen

  50. Benzietta Senz says:

    Hi Karen,

    I was just doodling online and came across your site. Was browsing through and saw your little tutorial on the Tree stump side table. Loved it.. couple of years back we had these enormous palm trees crash due to torrential rains. The local authorities on their clean up were going to throw it away and I conned one of my friends to get his car n bring it home for me lol. Currently I have it like an Art piece at home especially because Im in love with the textures and design of the bark. The bark of the Palm tree is absolutely gorgeous. I have a design in mind ofr the 2nd Palm tree stump but I want to keep the bark as thats what I find most fascinating about it. I was wondering if there is any way to preserve the stump WITH the bark on it. I’ve asked around a bit but no one could give me any solution for it. I was hoping since you have previously worked in this you might have some idea for it.
    Would very much appreicate your help.


  51. Rebekah says:

    Hi, Karen,

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! After a couple of read-throughs, I think I’m ready to tackle this with a little help from my *actual* artsy friend.

    I had one quick question–what paint did you use? Is it just regular fabric paint? (I’m looking to do a white screenprint on a sky blue shirt and I just want to make sure that the paint will hold up and not feel too plastic or rubbery.) And have you tried this with a transparency?

    Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rebekah – You need actual screen printing paint which you can get from an art supply/craft store. Good luck! ~ karen

  52. Who would have thought to screen print at home?!?! Could cause for some creative wardrobes in my house!

  53. senorita says:

    Screen Printing

  54. Cheryl says:

    This tutorial is so helpful and possibly the best I have found thus far! I have been wanting to attempt silkscreening at home for a while now and have failed to find clear instructions. I am definitely going to the craft store his weekend to get my materials and attempt my first ever silkscreen. I’m so excited!!! THANK YOU! 😀

  55. Wow, what a great tutorial – thanks! I have this linked to my screen printing DIY post too today, for inspiration!

  56. hemandh.g says:

    i am wiling to do the screen printing,please help me

  57. Marti says:

    So really, this IS the best way to do the printing that I want. And I think now that I have read it sixteen (17?) times since you first posted this (because I am slow), I think I get it.

    I need a light bulb.
    Some frames.
    Some emulsion.
    And a squeegie thingie.

    And a bunch of crap to trash until I get it right. Yes?

    • Karen says:

      This is correct. (sorry … haven’t had time to answer email) The other thing you could consider (if the person isn’t going to be washing the tea towel a ton) is just doing iron on transfers. Get the paper at Staples, or whereever and print your Zombie onto it, then iron onto the tea towel. Done! ~ k

  58. Marti says:

    Yeah, I considered the transfers, but it didn’t seem like it was going to be AT ALL the same effect. Next question: can I get it done at Kinko’s, you think? Just 3-4 of these items, quickly, because otherwise, with next weekend being a major holiday and this weekend FULL, I don’t have time to do this for two weeks.

    I hate to keep anyone waiting like that.

    • Karen says:

      No to Kinkos doing actual screen printing, yes to them printing onto transfer paper (but I think you’d have to bring the paper with you … I don’t think they have it/do it there … but don’t quote me on that)

  59. Dylan says:

    where i work we make custom draperies. do you think that i can use the same fabric that we use for sheers? We often throw out flawed pieces that cannot be used for an order and i have always wanted to rescue it and this would give me a good way to use it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dylan. If you check to make sure it’s the same gauge, it should be fine. 110 I believe it is. (check my post to make sure). – karen!

  60. Luka says:

    How did you make sure the screen didn’t move about when you use the squeegee, or when you lifted it up for the faded print?

    • Karen says:

      Luka – The screen is in the frame tight, tight, tight. It doesn’t move. And when you’re squeegeeing just hold down the frame with your free hand. As far as lifting the screen off goes, just lift it slowly keeping one hand on the tea towel or t-shirt to make sure it doesn’t lift up with the screen. ~ karen!

  61. allison says:

    You’re a genius!! Or just a very creative person “relaxing” cause thats really the definition of “genius”!

    I screenprinted in high school and college (I was an art major) and I have been wanting to add screenprinted invites to my stationary shop!

  62. Bri says:

    Karen, I was just curious about your list of things to have. You put Ink…but no where in your tutorial did you say anything about ink. Is that the paint your using?? What type of paint are you using?

    Love the tutorial!

  63. Karen says:

    Hi Bri – Yes! The ink is the paint. Sorry … it was a long tutorial, and I ended up leaving out the most important part! The paint is specific to screen printing. You buy it at a craft or art supply store. Sorry ’bout that! ~ karen!

  64. Holly Shotto says:

    Very cool you taught yourself this not so easy process. Although I must say I am very offened by the “only hippies stoned with unemployment checks” do this sort of thing comment. My husband is a phenomenal artist with his own screenprinting business which he is very sucessful at. He doesnt need the government’s dirty money to get his work done nor does he need any sort of drug to be creative or to be capable of screenprinting. Think next time before you make a stereotypical comment.

    • Karen says:

      Holly – Thanks. But … if you took offence at that comment you definitely either a) read it the wrong way or b) have a chip on your shoulder. #1 it was a joke. #2 it wasn’t directed to your husband or saying that ALL people who screen print her pot smoking hippies on welfare. Also .. if you continue to read my posts you’ll find I say wayyyy more offensive things than that. ~ karen

  65. Marti says:

    Ok, I am definitely going to try this tomorrow, Karen. I’ve read through your (very clear) instructions about fifty times. I think I’ve finally gotten it all crammed into my (very muddled) brain.

    I read somewhere else that window sheers (which I happen to have a couple spare) are perfect as the “silk.” Would you agree with that, or do you think I need to go buy 110 mesh poly for this?

    • Karen says:

      I’ve heard that sheers (providing they’re the right gauge) are good to use. You can always try it and if it doesn’t work out, just go buy the proper mesh. The sheers just have to be very, very fine in terms of the holes in them. I was going to try the sheers myself, but the Art supply store was closer than the fabric store. ~ karen!

  66. Marti says:

    Yeah, these are the sheer-sheers… no pattern or anything like that.

    Next question. What kind of paint is that because I see small bottles of highly over-priced fabric paint for sale. I assume we aren’t talking about that stuff? It’s $4.49 for 4 ounces. But you’re using something that appears to come in pints?

    Regular craft store or what are we talking about?

    • Karen says:

      You need to use paint that’s specific for silk screening. Any art supply store should carry it and some craft stores. The brand I use is Speedball. You’ll be able to buy it wherever you buy your photo emulsion. Mine is in a mason jar because I mixed together black and white to get the colour I used for my tea towels. ~ k!

  67. Marti says:

    Karen, it’s so amazing that you can do this, and made the instructions so simple, but I am deeply offended by your putting this “in a mason jar because I mixed together black and white to get the colour.” You don’t need to be religious to mix black and white. Masons are more than just people with big jewelry and secret handshakes. And suggesting that all Mason jars are the proper place to mix black and white is really wrong, when black and white should be mixed any time, any where by anyone who chooses… not just in Mason jars. Think next time before you make a stereotypical comment. And besides, “Mason” should always be capitalized in this usage, right? 😉

  68. Alisha says:

    My boyfriend laughed at me when I told him I was going to be a bazillion-aire and invited him along for the ride. Some people just don’t see the big picture …

  69. Amy Tilson says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for and excellent instructions! Can’t wait to give it a try.

  70. Jaida says:

    Me and myclass were thinking of doing tshirts for our tournament.. Could th ‘silk’ be the material from curtains? could it be $2 shop paint? and instead of using the squeezee substance could i just use pva glue? Were trying to do ths on a budget and need to do it in two weeks or less. Please reply 😀 Thanks.

  71. rhett says:

    My daughter and her friends all want to have matching shirts for their dance this weekend and were talking about going and getting screen printing in Portland Oregon done, but I think it would be fun if they all just got together and did it themselves. Thanks for the how to.

    • Karen says:

      Rhett – If you’re doing it that quickly and just a few shirts, you can also do an iron on with “iron on transfer paper”. You can get it at Staples or more paper supply companies. ~ karen!

  72. Patti says:


    Great tutorial. What kind of paint did you use for the t-shirt? Also, I am not equipped with a blackroom–how would you recommend I go about protecting the emulsion from exposure? Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Patti – You have to use paint made specifically for screen printing. Craft stores, hobby shops and Art supply stores are the first places to look for it. I don’t have a blackroom either. Just use any dark room but it has to be COMPLETELY DARK. I use my bedroom close and tape paper to all of the cracks around the door to make sure no light can get in. Good luck! ~ karen

      • Patti says:

        Thanks Karen! Another question, what happens to the emulsifier when you open the door to the ‘dark’ room. I guess my question is how do you get out of the room once you’ve spread the emulsion with out exposing it? Love the site btw just came across today for the first time. I’m a new follower.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Patti – Glad you found my site! I either put the screen in a box or just drape a towel over it until I get it in the room I’m doing my exposing in. (which is the basement) ~ karen!

  73. Brad says:

    Hey, I started doing a little bit of screen printing myself and have found this super helpful. I’m working on a D.I.Y. screen printing website for school and was wondering if I could use a few photos and some content from this tutorial? As it’s a school project, it won’t see the light of day, and I would of course credit you.

    It would help out a lot as I don’t have time to do a lot of photography. I’ll wait on your response before using any content.

    Thanks so much!


  74. Brad says:

    Great, thanks so much. I’ll send it to you when I finish up in a couple weeks for you to have a gander. Really appreciate it.


  75. Alice says:

    Hey, you’re a funny guy :) but question – I am about to do my first screen print and know really not much – can you reuse that screen for another design? How long does the “tree” stay burned in the screen? is there an actual hole in the screen shaped like the tree? how is it that no paint goes thru the rest of the screen after you burn the tree in – what is happening there?
    Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated as I really want my first Tshirt to be awesome – its a gift for a guitar player – Many thanks for your reply!

  76. Joe says:

    Very informative piece. I am a high school coach and knew I could cut out the middle man by doing our own screen printing. I appreciated your writing style and the instructions really take the pressure off. I think we will be giving this a go. Thanks for the tips!

  77. Shane says:

    Hi Karen,
    Is the screen reusable? Like, can I use the same screen to make multiple prints over and over again? If so, do I have to wash the paint/ink off of the screen in between each use?

    • Karen says:

      Shane – The screen will last for years if you’re only using it occassionally. You can use it to make the same print over and over and over again. You only have to wash it when you’re done printing for the day. Then you have to wash it out well. Otherwise you’ll ruin the screen.

      If you want to do an entirely different print with the screen you can use Photo Emulsion Remover to remove the Photo Emulsion. You’ll then have a blank screen to do another print with. ~ karen!

  78. Jordan Galiano says:

    say for instance i were to print an image with very fine lines, empty space, and they are not connecting to one another, do you have any suggestions on what to do?

  79. Jordan Galiano says:

    i have a few more questions after reading this post for the second time. 1) how long will it take for the screen to dry once the emulsion is applied to the image in the dark room? 2) if i were to print 5 shirts with the screen, would i have to clean the screen after every single shirt or just after every session? and how so? 3) when applying the paint to the shirt on the screen, you would apply it gently the first time, say up to down, then the second time up to down again?

  80. Karla says:

    Or you could just go to a local screenprinting shop and get it printed for less than you paid for the supplies. They will do it right and your image wont wash out of your garment when washing. Plus you are supporting a local business, which helps the economy…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karia – That’s not the point of this website actually. What with it being called The art of Doing Stuff and not The Art of Other People Doing Stuff. Plus, it really wouldn’t be cheaper. ~ karen!

  81. hammoudi says:


  82. Jeanette says:

    Thank you for a REALLY GREAT tutorial!

    I only have one question; I plan to use the same print over and over again, and read in one of your answers that have to wash it when I’m done printing for the day.

    Do I wash it in just water?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jeanette – Yes, you just need to rinse it with cool water. You may need to rub it a bit with your hands. Don’t use hot water. the most important part to get clean is the centre portion where your screen is actually clear (where the silkscreen paint goes through) Good luck! ~ karen

  83. naomi says:

    So, when u take ur screen to spray it down, which side of the image
    do u spray down? N is there any way you can reuse the same screen?

  84. Kelli Nicole says:

    I just want you to know that you have saved my screen print kit! I got a really expensive one for my birthday about two years ago and haven’t figured out how to set it up in my studio at home. Thank you thank you thank you!

  85. Tristan says:

    Approximately how many prints can you get out of one screen? Also, how long does the total process take?

    • Karen says:

      Hundreds and hundreds from one screen if you do do a good job of it and I’m not sure what to tell you about the total process. Once your screen is made the actual screen printing only takes seconds. Then 1/2 hour or so to dry, then run over it with a hot, HOT iron to set the ink. That’s it! ~ karen!

  86. mia says:

    hello Karen! Thanks for your time in sharing this tutorial! I’m a TOTAL newby at screen printing….and like many….have been checking out MANY different DIY tutorials on-line. I see that you mention only coating the emulsion on the back side. i’ve seen a few tutorials that say to coat both. Is one suffice? Have you ever tried coating both? I REALLY don’t want to mess things up! thanks so much Karen =)

  87. rusty says:

    too much trouble….i do my using an embroidery hoop, sheer curtain fabric, mod podge, tulip fabric paint and a credit card… cheaper, faster and easier…. i was an art major in college, have done the full on silk screen process using film, multiple printings, etc. my easy method is much easier…

    • Karen says:

      Rusty – Yours may be easier but it isn’t really screen printing. Also it’d be difficult to do anything larger than well … a embroidery hoop, LOL. I was an art major in real life. 😉 ~ karen

  88. Denise says:

    Wow! I spend $1k each year for printed T’s for an event that I organize! I am going to invest the measly $50 to start making them myself!! Thanks for the wonder tute!!

  89. george says:

    The many do it yourself silk screening kits on the market
    today were just blown away.

    Thanks for breaking through the barrier and shedding some
    light on the subject.

  90. Sadie says:

    So you say the emulsion is good for many, MANY screens. . . how long did yours last after you initially mixed it up? I bought a Speedball kit and the instructions say it’ll last about a month afterwards. Did you try yours again later to see if it still worked?

    • Karen says:

      Sadie – I was referring to once the emulsion is on the screen. The container of emulsion itself will last for months if you keep it in the fridge. I used mine 3 months after mixing and it was fine, I’ve heard other people using theirs 6 months after and it being fine. ~ karen!

      • Sadie says:

        Great, thanks! I honestly bought this huge jar of the stuff, read the directions, and was like, “I have to come up with enough projects to use ALL of this in a MONTH?!?” But I feel better now haha.

  91. Kirk Waidell says:

    Great article. Looking forward to trying this tonight

  92. Melinda says:

    If you are going to shove any bean up my nose, I’d rather it be a bean that will sprout quickly like wax beans.

  93. carolyn says:

    sorry if this has been asked before- how do i know how long and how far from etc. to expose my image?

    • Karen says:

      Carolyn – It’s kind of trial and error, but if you follow the directions I’ve given you about the bulb wattage an the inches the bulb should be from the screen, it should work fine for you. :) ~ karen!

  94. WDS Designs says:

    We’re a school and we’ve just launched a website selling t-shirts our students have designed and screened themselves through a process pretty much just like this. (
    Thanks for the step by step guide, it’s been relly helpful!

  95. ruswendy says:

    that’s screen printing easy, inexpensive and fun, anyone could do it, thanks for sharing

  96. itsallcoo says:


    Great DIY tutorial! I’ve got most of the materials already but was wondering if you could help.. I have a light but I don’t know what to do to ensure it remains at the proper height—the lady at the store suggested I just hold it (for that long?? crazy!). It has a little screw with a hole contraption like yours does in the picture, but I don’t know what I can attach it to. What did you use?

    • Karen says:

      My light is a photography light that’s on a very small tripod. I just raised it up and tilted it forward. From what I remember I may have run some cords to hold it steady. The light has to be facing straight down with no shadows, but don’t forget you can also raise up (or down) your silkscreen as opposed to moving the light. ~ karen!

  97. Tony M says:

    So first THANK YOU! I am going on tour and we want to make promo tees, and this post kinda was our confirmation that we should just do it our self! now for the question, (hopefully you answer even if it means i get a lima bean in my nose) i am looking for a reasonable priced emulsion, but no luck where did you get yours also what kind of ink did you use and how well did it work for you? links would be nice!

    • Karen says:

      Tony M – I used the cheapest stuff I could find. “Speedball” Both the ink and the emulsion. Emulsion isn’t cheap but you only use it one time to make your screen so don’t worry about it. You may use it a few times if you screw up your first tries. And a bottle of ink goes a long way. Here’s a tip. Make sure your tour tee shirts have the least amount of ink on them as possible! Just your logo or band name in a great font. That’s all I have for you. If you challenge me I have a LOT of lima beans on hand. Good luck with the tour. ~ karen!

  98. chris says:

    Do you happen to know if this process will work w/a faceplate of a McIntosh mr71 tuner-very small black letters have worn off on one of the controls. It is aluminum. I appreciate your response!!

    • Karen says:

      Well Chris, I’m gonna be honest with you. I have no idea. But I can tell you that smaller letters/detail are harder to do in terms of getting the proper exposure etc. I’m also not positive whether screenprinting paint will adhere to aluminum. I think you’re probably better with another method. ~ karen!

  99. Marcelo says:

    incredibly beautiful post! I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years and have been checking out blogs/ writing my own for about half that time now. I know a great post when I see one and this is definitely one of them!! Loved the pictures and this is the go-to guide for anybody looking to screen print at home. Honestly wonderful, keep up the great work!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Marcelo! It’s definitely not the most professional set up but it gets the job done. (usually, LOL) ~ karen!

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