Eliminating the space between your exposure unit glass, your film, and your emulsion is key to capture the most details on a burned screen. If you have an exposure unit without a lid, knowing how to apply compression correctly is especially important. Let’s go over the proper technique to get a good screen with a compression exposure unit every time.
HOW TO CREATE COMPRESSION
If you’re using a compression unit with a lid, creating compression is as easy as closing the lid, latching it, and pressing a button. With a lidless unit, recreating compression isn’t as difficult as you might think. With a few simple steps, you’ll be able to get the right compression every time.
- Place your film on your screen.
- Place your screen on your exposure unit.
- Smooth out any air pockets between your film and emulsion. Since a lidless exposure unit does not have a vacuum to help remove the air, you need to remove any air pockets by hand.
- Place your foam pad on top of the screen.
- Place a piece of wood like an old platen or plywood on top of the foam. The wood helps to evenly distribute the weight that will be placed on top. Distributing the weight evenly will help maintain a consistent burn across the entire screen.
- Place weight on top of the wood. You can use gallons of ink or emulsion, dumbbells, or whatever else you can find in your shop. Get creative, but do not exceed 15 lbs. Some exposure units may not have tempered glass. These can’t take the same amount of downforce like a unit with tempered glass could.
- Once everything is in place, push the button and expose your screen.
It’s important to note that with a lidless exposure unit, you’ll want to use a dual-cure emulsion. This type of emulsion is more forgiving in less-than-ideal darkrooms and equipment, and gives the screen a longer optimal curing window.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
With the right technique, you can burn perfect screens on a compression exposure unit every time. Without the proper amount of compression, your designs will turn out fuzzy and lose fine detail. Image details are lost when there’s space between the film and emulsion, so light was able to wrap around the image and expose the emulsion unevenly. Practicing and honing in your darkroom processes will help you out in the long run.
Creating solid compression is necessary in creating a great stencil. Follow these steps with your unit to get a great screen every time.