Step 2: Setting up the frame to coat your screen

Once you have your perfect image digitally printed, you need to find a frame. There are all kinds of sizes so get one that fits your needs. There are also different mesh types. If this sounds alien to you, don’t worry, I’ll go into it later. For now, let’s assume you’re working on a standard mesh type. Wooden frames are cheaper than metal/aluminum frames. My firsts were wooden frames that eventually warped out of shape, so for durability, get a metal frame from a silk screen supplier, Amazon or eBay.

What you need:

  • Wooden or Aluminum frame
  • Degreaser
  • Emulsion
  • Screen coater a.k.a scoop
  • Gloves

Before you start this process, make sure you degrease your screen to eliminate possible blockages, gunk, and impurities on the mesh. I use a foam scrub, the kind you wash your dishes with.

wash the screen thoroughly

Degrease, rinse, wash, rinse, and air dry, or with a tabletop fan.

TIP = I suggest cleaning your fan at the same time too. Any dirt, grime, or dust from the fan while drying could pose a problem later on.
Fan dry your screens

Once your frame is dry, bring it into your “darkroom”. Any confined area with no UV (ultraviolet) rays is good. My first darkroom was my bedroom which windows I had taped up with black craft paper to keep the sun out.

make shift darkroom

Fluorescent or yellow study light bulbs are no threats. If you really wanna be safe, do this at night.

use yellow light bulbs as a light source in the darkroom

Next is the fun part. Take out your emulsion, scoop, and gloves.

tools needed for coating
tools needed for coating

Pour a generous amount of emulsion to fill up the scoop, you don’t want to run out of emulsion while coating the screen.

pour emulsion into scoop coater

I would say your experimentation stage begins here with the variables being the mesh and emulsion type. Coat too much and you may not be able to get a good stencil, coat too little and the emulsion might run after the first print. For me, what works best is 2x coats on the squeegee side, and 1x on the print side. Slowly start from the bottom and work your way up.

start from the bottom to the top

Remember to take your time, be patient, and use your head.

Technique: When I coat a 15 inch screen, it takes me 7 seconds from bottom to top. You don’t have to rush.
firmly coat each screen slowly

Try not to follow exactly what other blogs, friends, neighbors, or other printers say. Remember, write EVERYTHING down.

TIP: Keep in mind that the amount of emulsion you use determines your exposure time, so the more emulsion, the longer it takes during the burning period. To figure out exposure time, use my spot on Exposure Calculator
Once you’re done coating, lay it 180degrees print side down for drying.
prop something under, bottom side down

On a hot summer day, my screens take 2 hours to dry. But to be safe, leave it overnight with the fan on.

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