Skip to content
white ink across a screen

How to Make a DIY Screen for Screen Printing

Screen printers get creative when it comes to DIY projects. From building their own drying cabinets to using the sun for exposure, printers know how to use the tools they have at hand to get the job done. When Amanda Dunigan of Salt and Pine Co. made the switch from heat transfer vinyl (HTV) to screen printing, she didn’t completely ditch the vinyl. She kept her vinyl cutter to create stencils for screens. It works great, but it has its limitations. Amanda shared with us why this DIY screen process works for her and how she does it.

a screen above a shirt that says best dog mom ever

Photo by Salt & Pine Co.

AMANDA’S PROCESS

Many of Amanda’s clients come from the woodworking industry and other artists in the creative sector. Since these clients have simple, one-color typography or minimalistic designs and smaller orders, she turns to vinyl to make a screen for the job. It’s quicker, cheaper, and easier than hitting up a local print shop to get screens burned. 

CHECK OUT WHAT AMANDA HAS IN HER SCREEN PRINT SHOP

Amanda uses her Cricut, a vinyl cutter, to cut out the stencil, weeds it, then covers the unused portion of the screen in tape. She skips the entire darkroom process that most printers go through. Her DIY screen is done in 15 to 20 minutes. 

When she’s printing with a DIY screen, the vinyl stencil can print up to 100 prints, but Amanda does not print more than 65 (just to stay on the safe side). All she has to worry about is cleaning up afterwards.

For her own clothing brand, Amanda heads to a local shop to get the screens burned since she’ll be using the screens repeatedly. Sending in blank screens and paying a print shop to burn screens saves her a lot of time, mess, and stress. 

stack of screens

Photo by Salt & Pine Co.

TROUBLESHOOTING

One drawback of using vinyl stencils is that Amanda is limited to simpler designs. Vinyl stencils are not as capable of capturing small details since weeding is tough and small details can peel off the screen during a run. If a client sends in a detailed design, she’ll either see if the client is happy to have a less intricate design or she suggests they head to another print shop.

Amanda has also found that printing with plastisol ink gives her better results. Water-based ink is more runny and can wear out the vinyl faster. When she’s printing with water-based ink, she usually makes a backup screen so she doesn’t have to start over if a piece of the design comes off. With plastisol, she doesn’t have to worry about it. 

RELATED: IS WATER-BASED INK RIGHT FOR YOU?

A hand on a vinyl screen

Photo by Salt and Pine Co.

WHY SHE DOES IT

Amanda started Salt and Pine Co. with a hand-made press and works out of her spare bedroom. She wants everyone in the screen printing community to know that it can be just that simple. You don’t have to spend thousands on equipment if a large-scale operation isn’t what you’re looking for. 

She encourages people to explore the world of screen printing before diving in. To help the DIY screen printers even more, Amanda wrote an ebook that details all her processes, insights, and tips and tricks. Vinyl is a big subject in the book. Amanda wants everyone to know that printing with vinyl is not only a less-messy alternative to traditional screen printing, but it can be effective and lucrative, too. It can open a lot of doors for crafters. 

RELATED: SHOULD I SCREEN PRINT OR DECORATE WITH VINYL?

Making a DIY screen out of vinyl is pretty easy to do for the individuals coming from the HTV world into screen printing. Be sure to follow Salt & Pine Co. on Instagram and Facebook to learn more information about her screen printing process.

Previous article The Race Starts Here With an Equipment Only Package
Next article How to Customize A Design From a Vector Pack in Adobe Illustrator