Step 4: Washing out the screen

After exposing your screen, dunk your screen into the tub and let it soak for a minute or two. You can also save water by using a wet cloth to dab directly onto the screen. This isn’t required, but by doing this I think it loosens up the mesh in the unexposed area making it easier to wash out later.

What you need:

  • Shower head or high pressure jet spray
  • Ear plugs (optional)

Use the shower head and spray away. Your image should start to appear once it comes in contact with water.

soak screen or dab with a wet cloth

Rub firmly on both sides and be careful that your fingernails don’t tear or rip the stencil. As your image becomes clearer, check against the light to make sure all the unexposed emulsion is completely gone. Even the smallest blockage could cost you your print.

check against a light source to find pin holes
TIP: If you ever needed to cover up areas that got washed away, you may use a ear tip or toothpick to lightly touch up those areas.

Okay, if everything turns out well, pat yourself on your back. You should be extra proud for producing such work. Prop it up against the fan, and go tell mom about it while you wait for the stencil to dry.

But wait….

…what if things didn’t turn out so well, say…

Problem: Your image appears, but it’s taking forever to wash out the unexposed area.

What may be: You OVEREXPOSED the emulsion. This means it was out in the sun for too long and the emulsion hardened up. Either cut back on exposure time, or on emulsion coats. Also consider, that your blacker than black transparency wasn’t opaque enough, allowing light to penetrate through to harden the emulsion. Pair it up with another print, or darken it with a pen. More tips on getting opaque prints.

Problem: Your image appears but starts to peel off while spraying down.

What may be: You have UNDEREXPOSED the emulsion. Yep, you’re right, either up the exposure time, or put another coat on either the print side or squeegee side. Also consider that your high pressure spray is too high pressured. Yeah, it happens.

Problem: Your image washes out fine, but the lines along your image peel away or gets “fuzzy”.

What may be: Your blacker than black digital print wasn’t opaque enough. Print another and pair it up, or darken it with a pen.


This whole portion of the process may start to annoy you, but if it makes you feel any better, I faced all three problems, went through 3 quartz of emulsion, and got wrinkly fingers before getting it right. Again, record everything you do, this may be the hardest part of the whole screen printing process. Good luck.

Step 5. Setting up your screen for print

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