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Darkroom: Coating, Drying, Exposing, Reclaiming

33 articles


What’s the difference between over and under exposure and why is that important?

Over exposure results in loss of detail in your print (not revealing image). You're rinsing out the image, and parts of it won't rinse out. Under exposure results in loss of stencil or emulsion can chemically lock to the screen. When you're rinsing o

What do I look for when getting an exposure unit?

Choosing an exposure unit will depend on your budget and what kind of prints you plan to do. You definitely should get an exposure unit that at least has LED bulbs (check out this article to learn why LED is the new standard). Another factor you’ll r

I'm a startup, DIY printer, what do you recommend for a light source?

Check out this blog to educate yourself on the kinds of bulbs out there to determine what bulbs you WANT to use to expose a screen with. For new screen printers, we suggest the Baselayr X1620 Exposure Unit. It's the most cost-effective unit for print

Which emulsion should I use?

Your darkroom, inks, level of experience, and exposure unit will determine which emulsion is best for your shop. What exposure unit and bulb type do you have? No vacuum? Using multiple fluorescent tubes or blacklights? Use an emulsion made for your i

What's the difference between Baselayr Complete and Cryocoat emulsion?

Baselayr Complete and Cryocoat. They sound similar. They look alike. They seem to match in performance. Are they the same? Are they different?. The two are similar, but they have their differences. Think of Baselayr Complete as Cryocoat 2.0. Complete

Why can't I burn my screens correctly?

A number of factors may determine why screens aren’t burning correctly. Let's look at the most common issues. I can't get the emulsion to stick. Did you degrease your screen? Degreaser will remove oils and other contaminants that hinder emulsion from

How do I figure out exposure times?

Figuring out exposure times is one of the most difficult tasks in screen printing. The best thing you can do is invest in a 21-Step Exposure Calculator. How does it work? It's pretty simple. Place the calculator on the screen, away from the design. E

How dry does a darkroom need to be?

You want your darkroom to be as dry as humanly possible. You want to at least be below 40% humidity. Unless you are running an inkjet direct to screen, there is zero drawback to being at 20% humidity or lower.

How do I make my darkroom dry?

Easiest way to maintain a dry darkroom is to use a dehumidifier. If you live in a very humid area, like the southern part of the U.S., you may need to leave the dehumidifier on ALL THE TIME. You will need to connect a drainage hose to the dehumidifie

Why do I need a dehumidifier?

If your darkroom, the space where you dry and store coated screens, is too humid, the screens will not be dry enough to properly expose. Screens that are not correctly exposed with experience on-press breakdown of the emulsion and difficulty in recla

What's a hygrometer?

A hygrometer is a tool for checking relative humidity and temperature. It's an essential tool for every dark room. You can pick one up from hardware stores or online marketplaces like Amazon.

How long do screens need to dry?

A newly coated screen needs to be bone dry before you expose it. You do not want any moisture left in the emulsion before exposing. How long it takes to completely dry a screen is 100% dependent on the dryness of your room/space the screens are dryin

How do I dry a newly coated screen?

You want fans blowing directly over the emulsion/coated screen. You want to make the space AS DRY as possible — below 40% humidity. You need a dehumidifier. You want the space to be warm, around 80°F is good, but can be done at 70°F or 90°F. The heat

What's the best way to rinse out a screen?

After exposing and removing the film, place the screen in the washout area. Wet the screen on both sides with a hose. Using a shower spray type attachment is best. Let the screen soak for a little bit, about 10-30 seconds (maybe longer depending on e

Do I need to have a pressure washer?

When you’re just starting out in screen printing, people tend to get the necessary equipment and supplies to make it work. There’s always more equipment to try, more upgrades to make. But do you really need it all? Like a pressure washer; is that an

How long does it take for a screen to dry in the Screen Room Drying Cabinet?

While the Screen Room Drying Cabinet is an amazing tool for quickly drying screens, it is bringing in air from outside the box. If the air outside the box is humid or full of moisture, it will be difficult for the coated screen to evaporate. It may t

Is a dunk tank worth it?

What if I told you that there's a way to make reclaiming undemanding? A method that could remove the dread when it's time to reclaim screens, the hours spent in the washout booth, and the ache of sore muscles from all the scrubbing? The Dunk Tank (al

How do you use a dunk tank?

It's simple. Fill the tank with 27 gallons of water and three gallons of Emulsion Stripper. Place up to six screens in the tank and let them soak for a few minutes. Remove the screens from the tank and use a power washer to remove the emulsion. That'

How do you reclaim screens?

You can reclaim screens in four easy steps. Supreme Wash is a great on-press cleaner. If you are doing a color change or if you’re going to be using that screen again and don’t need to reclaim it, using Supreme Wash is generally good enough on its ow

How can I prevent pinholes and fisheyes?

You can do four things to prevent getting pesky pinholes or fisheyes. 1. Clean your darkroom. Keep floors, surfaces, and fans dust-free. If it's difficult to keep dust and debris off screens, buy or build a screen drying cabinet so screens don't get

What are fisheyes and pinholes?

Fisheyes occur when oils and chemicals are left on your screen after the reclaim process. They appear when oil becomes trapped under the emulsion, separating it from the mesh and leaving small holes on the covered screen. Often, these are the culprit

How can I prevent pinholes and fisheyes?

You can do four things to prevent getting pesky pinholes or fisheyes. 1. Clean your darkroom. Keep floors, surfaces, and fans dust-free. If it's difficult to keep dust and debris off screens, buy or build a screen drying cabinet so screens don't get

How do you fix a pinhole?

Even in the best of shops, you'll eventually get a pinhole or a fisheye. The best way to fix pinholes is to use screen tape or a blockout pen. If you are using water-based inks, try clear nail polish. Backlight all newly created screens so you can fi

How do you align films on a screen without a template?

You can align film transparencies on a screen with just a T-square and a Sharpie. Depending on the screen you’re using, measure the width of the frame on the T-shirt side and mark where the center is. If you’re doing a left chest print, make a mark 3

How do you coat a screen with emulsion?

When you're coating screens, make sure you're in a light-safe area. Here's a basic overview to coating screens:. 1. Degrease the screen. 2. Dry the screen. 3. Select an emulsion and prep if needed. 4. Select a scoop coater. It's recommended to use a

What does the round and sharp edges on a scoop coater do?

Most scoop coaters have two edges. One is more rounded, and can be used to create a slightly thicker layer of emulsion for more ink deposit onto your garment when printing. Thicker emulsion layers are useful when printing on sweatshirts and for other

What's the best way to make a screen for water-based printing?

Prepping a screen for water-based inks can be a little more tricky than plastisol. The print deposit is thinner, the ink dries on the screen over time, and the ink can potentially break down emulsion faster than plastisol ink would. Because of this,

What's the difference between Supreme Wash and Ink Degrader?

The difference between Supreme Wash and Ink Degrader is how quickly the chemical evaporates. Supreme Wash is meant to be an on-press cleaner because it evaporates quickly whereas Ink Degrader takes longer to evaporate, so it’s better to use once you’

How do you clean water-based ink off screens?

Water-based inks can be cleaned up with water. However, the water in water-based ink evaporates as soon as it is exposed to air. The more it evaporates, the more difficult it will be to clean. Using a product like Sgreen® Aquawash will greatly reduce

How do you clean plastisol ink off screens?

Since plastisol ink doesn’t dry out, it’s easy to clean, even if you’ve let the screen sit for a while. Once you’ve carded off all the excess ink, lay your screen flat and spray it with either Sgreen® Ink Degrader or Sgreen® Supreme Wash and wipe wit

Is there a proper way to dispose of screen printing waste?

To properly dispose waste may involve using a commercial industry waste disposal service and/or its proprietary products, your own in-house recycling system or, mostly likely, a combination of the two. Either way, a sound waste disposal strategy begi

How does Sgreen® Stuff work?

Sgreen® Stuff, a two-for-one dehazer and degreaser chemical, removes ink haze, oils, and containments so the emulsion will better adhere to the screen. After you've used the Sgreen® Emulsion Stripper on the screen, apply a thin line of Sgreen® Stuff

My print shop is in my home. How do I make an optimal darkroom in the space I have?

When you're working from home, you could make a darkroom in your closet, bathroom, or garage. No matter how much space you have, you’ll need to plan for the same basic parameters. The darkroom needs air circulation, humidity control, a place to store