Beginner’s Guide to Screen Printing

Just getting started in screen printing? Our experts at MacDermidConnect are standing by to walk you through the professional stencil-making process, from preparing a new screen, to creating your stencil, through cleaning your screen for your next project.

 

Visit our YouTube channel for our collection of “How-To” Videos

 

Stencil Making Process 

Step 1: Prepare & Degrease Mesh

Proper mesh preparation is an easy way to save screen printers money, and reduce the number of screens that need to be remade. Degreasing mesh and ensuring limited contaminants is a staple of best practices in screen printing.

  1. Autoprep Gel
    Autoprep Gel
    As low as $72.80

    Autoprep Gel is a ready-to-use micro-abrading/degreasing liquid for new mesh. Autoprep Gel is ideal treatment for all monofilament synthetic meshes, without causing the damage associated with harsh abrasive and scouring powders.

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  2. Degreaser Concentrate 1:15
    Degreaser Concentrate 1:15
    As low as $21.17

    Degreaser Concentrate 1:55 is a premium degreaser concentrate, water-based and dilutable preparation for the removal of grease and general contaminants from screen printing mesh prior to applying the PLUS emulsions. Excellent anti-static properties and biodegradable - helps to reduce fish eyes.

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  3. Degreaser Concentrate 1:55
    Degreaser Concentrate 1:55
    As low as $157.56

    Degreaser Concentrate 1:55 is a premium degreaser concentrate, water-based and dilutable preparation for the removal of grease and general contaminants from screen printing mesh prior to applying the PLUS emulsions. Excellent anti-static properties and biodegradable - helps to reduce fish eyes.

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Visit our How-To video for more information on this step.


Step 2: Prepare PLUS Emulsion or Capillex Film & Coat 

Starting with a degreased screen, prepare PLUS emulsion according to the instructions for the particular emulsion chosen, be it a dual-cure, SBQ, or SBQ hybrid.

DUAL CURE EMULSIONS

Dual cure emulsions require adding diazo sensitizer to the emulsion. After carefully cutting the top off the diazo packet, pour all of diazo sensitizer to the emulsion, and mix until the emulsion is a uniform color, making sure to get the sides of the pail. Leave the emulsion for 2+ hours to de-gas, the process by which the air bubbles introduced during mixing stage rise to the surface and separate from the emulsion. This is done in the pail before pouring the emulsion into your coating trough. Pour the mixture slowly to prevent bubbles and spills, then coat the mesh, being sure to apply the final coat to the squeegie side to ensure the emulsion gasket is created on the print side of the screen.

  1. Plus XL
    Plus XL
    As low as $201.18

    PLUS XL is a high performance dual-cure emulsion with outstanding image reproduction qualities with an affordable price tag. Ideal for large format in-line printing and 4 color process.

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  2. Plus 8000
    Plus 8000
    As low as $79.26

    PLUS 8000 is a Premium quality dual-cure emulsion with superior razor-sharp edge image reproduction. For all Graphic/Industrial/Textile applications.

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  3. Plus 7000
    Plus 7000
    As low as $73.01

    PLUS 7000 is a high quality multi-purpose dual-cure emulsion with excellent image reproduction. For all Graphic/Textile applications.

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SBQ/PHOTOPOLYMER EMULSIONS

SBQ emulsions, like the Plus 9000 HB, Plus CTS L, and Plus 1 SR, come as a 1-pot solution and do not require diazo sensitizer. Out of the pail, slowly pour these emulsions into your coating trough and apply to your mesh prior to rapid exposure under your exposure unit.

  1. PLUS LAVA
    PLUS LAVA
    As low as $63.14

    PLUS LAVA is a high quality, red fast exposing photo-polymer hybrid textile emulsion with hi-solids 45%, very durable, outstanding results with plastisol, water-based and discharge inks.

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  2. Plus Aqua
    Plus Aqua
    As low as $271.67

    PLUS AQUA is a ultra-fast exposing, high quality, photo-polymer hybrid textile emulsion, very durable, outstanding results with plastisol, water-based and discharge inks.

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  3. Plus 9000 HB
    Plus 9000 HB
    As low as $71.96

    PLUS 9000-HB is a fast exposing red photo-polymer emulsion with very high solids to produce high built thick stencils, ideal for garment and textile printing. Very durable, an excellent choice for hi-density printing and plastisol inks.

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SBQ HYBRID/TRIPLE CURE EMULSIONS

SBQ hybrids can be used like SBQs, but have the option to add diazo to improve water resistance. Apply diazo to the Plus LAVA or Plus AQUA like you would for a dual cure emulsion, and the diazo will increase the existing water resistance of the emulsion to provide longer runs and better reliability with water based ink.

CAPILLEX FILM

Capillex film is easy to use and requires minimal training to create reliable results that provide the highest performing stencils in the marketplace. It comes in custom cut sheets or rolls. If needed cut your Capillex film to size using scissors on a clean surface (static will attract dust from surface if unclean). If its a large sheet, roll it up around a PVC tube to make it easier to apply evenly to your screen. If its small use a sheet of glass to help apply over the edge of a table. Start out with a degreased screen and apply the Capillex film to it using the method that makes the most sense for your sheet size. Squeegee off excess water and move to drying area.

  1. Capillex CX
    Capillex CX
    As low as $203.32

    Capillex CX is a grayish-green Capillary Film specifically formulated for very precise fine line printing in demanding industrial applications. Capillex CX will give a thin, flat, but tough stencil on all coarse to medium mesh counts. It is this thin, flat stencil that minimizes the ink build at the track edges to produce a cleaner more reliable print

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  2. Capillex CP
    Capillex CP
    As low as $179.25

    Capillex CP is a green Capillary Film specifically for ultra-fine halftone and fine line precision printing. The low stencil profile and optimized Rz of Capillex CP gives superb dot reproduction and minimizes ‘skipping’ effects often seen when printing fine halftones with UV inks.

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  3. Capillex 50
    Capillex 50
    As low as $422.57

    Capillex 50 is a blue/green, thick Capillex Film for demanding industrial screen printing applications. This film is the quickest way to produce high quality stencils on coarse mesh counts.

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View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 3: Drying Stencil 

Dry stencil before exposure to remove water from the emulsion mixture. Drying stencils is critical to exposure performance because in a wet stencil, the diazo will choose to cross link with the water instead of the emulsion, and the result will be an insufficient stencil hardness. Ideal conditions are a dust free, light safe room with warm air flow and 35%-45% humidity for a minimum of 1-2hrs (double if printing with water-based inks).

View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 4: Exposing Stencil 

Calculating exposure timing is more important that the type of exposure unit you use. Vacuum pressure/seal, exposure distance from the lamp, and type of exposure lamp are all factors to take into account. In addition each emulsion has a different ideal exposure time, just because one exposure time worked on your last emulsion does not mean it will work for another emulsion.

For instance, the Plus AQUA emulsion exposes 8 times faster than it’s dual cure emulsion counterparts. Alkemi recommends using Alkemi exposure calculator, not something downloadable from the internet, to calculate the exposure needs of your emulsion.

  1. Exposure Calculator
    Exposure Calculator
    As low as $45.96

    Alkemi exposure calculator is a 4-in-1 tool, which allows you to calculate the correct exposure time, check vacuum pressure, wet stencil hardness, and resolution.

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View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 5: Washout and Drying the Stencil 

Washout your freshly exposed emulsion or Capillex film to remove unexposed emulsion from your screen in your washout booth. Focus most of your washout on the print side of the screen to get the cleanest lines, then spray the squeegee side as a final washout. Following washout, be sure to dry the stencil thoroughly before moving to press.

  1. Screen Wash T
    Screen Wash T
    As low as $39.98

    Screen Wash T is low odor and VOC, hazard-label free, textile ink cleaner. For manual or automatic cleaning.

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  2. Screen Wash A7
    Screen Wash A7
    As low as $46.50

    Screen Wash A7 is a premium label free, low odor, aromatic free, emulsifiable ink cleaner. Suitable for automatic and manual cleaning. Lowest evaporating with a high flashpoint (EN12921-3:2005 compliant).

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  3. Screen Wash A6
    Screen Wash A6
    As low as $46.14

    Screen Wash A6 is a premium label free emulsifiable Screen Wash suitable for automatic and manual cleaning. Screen Wash A6 is part of the Green Screen range. Low evaporating and low odor and (EN12921-3:2005 compliant).

    Learn More

View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 6: Block Out (Finishing) 

Block out is an optional step in the screen printing process, and is used to fill any pinholes caused by contaminants or improper degreasing, mesh space not covered by emulsion, or any other imperfections or gaps that need to be filled.

  1. Ruby Block
    Ruby Block
    As low as $42.41

    Ruby Block is a red, fast drying and water soluble general purpose blockout suitable across a wide range of mesh counts.

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View our How-To video on YouTube


On Press Ink Cleaning

On Press Ink Cleaning 

On press ink cleaning is usually desired when ink begins to harden within the stencil, or after a screen printer takes a break and comes back to the press to finish a job. On press cleaners, or press washes, come in a variety of options based on application. Faster evaporating press washes typically work faster, but because of the chemicals released into the air are typically less health-conscious. A slower acting press wash will be a safer alternative, but won’t work quite as quickly. If your application uses vinyl ink and or need additional muscle, the Press Wash HF will be a huge asset to you.

  1. Press Wash UV
    Press Wash UV
    As low as $36.55

    Press Wash UV provides screen printers with a low evaporation and low odor, on-press ink cleaner, part of the Green Screen range of products. Excellent choice for UV curable, solvent-based and plastisol inks, works well on silver-conductive inks.

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  2. Press Wash P140
    Press Wash P140
    As low as $177.14

    Press Wash P140 is a low evaporating on-press ink cleaner. Press Wash P140 is part of the Green Screen range as an ink cleaner. Ideal for plastisol inks.

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  3. Press Wash HF
    Press Wash HF
    As low as $47.13

    Press Wash HF is a HAPs free on press Ink Cleaner - part of the Green Screen range as a HAPs (Hazardous Air Pollutants) free ink cleaner. Provides screen printers with a sustainable press wash for manual on-press cleaning.

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View our How-To video on YouTube

Post Print Cleaning 

Step 1: Ink Removal

Removing ink is the first step in cleaning screens following a screen printing job. Ink acts as a natural barrier between stencil removers and the stencil itself, so failure to remove the ink first will result in poor reclaim from stencil removal cleaning chemicals. Remove ink using one of the below Alkemi Green Screen cleaning chemicals prior to stencil removal for best results.

For use in a dip tank, options like Aquastrip 21 act as a two-in-one ink and stencil remover because both chemicals act on the screen to remove the ink, then stencil in one step.

  1. Screen Wash T
    Screen Wash T
    As low as $39.98

    Screen Wash T is low odor and VOC, hazard-label free, textile ink cleaner. For manual or automatic cleaning.

    Learn More
  2. Screen Wash A7
    Screen Wash A7
    As low as $46.50

    Screen Wash A7 is a premium label free, low odor, aromatic free, emulsifiable ink cleaner. Suitable for automatic and manual cleaning. Lowest evaporating with a high flashpoint (EN12921-3:2005 compliant).

    Learn More
  3. Screen Wash A6
    Screen Wash A6
    As low as $46.14

    Screen Wash A6 is a premium label free emulsifiable Screen Wash suitable for automatic and manual cleaning. Screen Wash A6 is part of the Green Screen range. Low evaporating and low odor and (EN12921-3:2005 compliant).

    Learn More

View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 2: Stencil Removal / Reclaim

Mesh is expensive, so reuse of mesh is critical to screen printer profitability. Removing stencils safely and quickly is paramount, so after removing the ink it is important to apply a good stencil remover during the final washout process. Alkemi offers screen printers a dip tank solution with the Aquastrip 21, or a concentrated stencil remover that is diluted with water and applied with a chemically resistant brush to quickly get the job done. Benefits of the concentrated stencil remover are that it saves screen printers money on shipping by reducing weight, and benefits the environment by eliminating the need for excess packaging that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

  1. Stencil Remover Concentrate 1:55
    Stencil Remover Concentrate 1:55
    As low as $184.17

    Stencil Remover Concentrate is a concentrated product that is diluted with water and used to reclaim stencil making systems, such as direct emulsions and Capillary films.

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  2. Stencil Remover Concentrate 1:30
    Stencil Remover Concentrate 1:30
    As low as $38.45

    Stencil Remover Concentrate is a concentrated product that is diluted with water and used to reclaim stencil making systems, such as direct emulsions and Capillary films.

    Learn More
  3. Aquastrip 21
    Aquastrip 21
    As low as $29.86

    Aquastrip 21 is a one step ink cleaner and stencil remover concentrate for dip tanks, designed to effectively remove textile inks and decoat stencils. VOC free, water based and water dilutable ink cleaner and stencil remover that can also be used manually.

    Learn More

View our How-To video on YouTube


Step 3: Haze Removal 

POP!! Oh no, another popped screen due to a harsh haze remover.

Alkemi solved this common screen printer problem with the Haze Remover HV and the Haze Remover Liquid, so no more screens get damaged during haze removal. After emulsion stains, diazo stains, and ink stains leave their fingerprints on the mesh, screen printers need to remove it to return the mesh to like-new condition.

Traditional haze removers, like the Alkemi Haze Hunter, are fast acting haze removers that eliminate these tough stains, but need to be monitored closely to avoid damage tot he mesh. Haze Remover HV is a new breed of haze remover in that you can leave it on overnight, not just 5-10 minutes, and it will crystalize on the mesh to remove stains without risk of damaging screens. Apply Haze Remover HV at the end of the day, then rinse off in the morning, and say goodbye to damaging screens during haze removal.

  1. Haze Remover Liquid
    Haze Remover Liquid
    As low as $55.32

    Haze Remover Liquid for ink and diazo stains. Used in conjunction with Activator G, A6 to improve ink stain cleaning performance.

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  2. Haze Remover HV
    Haze Remover HV
    As low as $47.27

    Haze Remover HV is a premium Haze Remover, a safer alternative to ‘traditional’ high-caustic hazer removers. Low caustic gel - VOC free, safer for operators and ensures that mesh is not damaged during use.

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  3. Haze Hunter
    Haze Hunter
    As low as $60.53

    Haze Hunter is a high caustic and gelled ink stain and haze remover for quick cleaning of hazed screen printing mesh. The gelled structure is applied using a Alkemi Red Brush or coating trough and ensures that the product stays on the mesh and is not lost down the drain during application.

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View our How-To video on YouTube