Coating a screen is important to create the perfect base layer for a great print. Accomplishing this task can be done in a couple of different ways. You can coat screens by supporting the screen on the floor or creating a coating stand. Want to create a DIY coating stand? Here’s how to get it done.
WHY DO I NEED A COATING STAND?
Coating screens on the floor is a popular method. To do this, printers kneel on the floor, hold the screen upright on the ground and coat the screen with their free hand. While this method is popular for a reason, it can be hard on the knees (and if your shop floor is yucky, you might not want to get too close to it).
Using a coating stand to coat screens helps printers save their knees and save a bit of time. The stand supports the screen and holds it in place so you can focus on getting that perfect coat of emulsion every time. Making your own DIY coating stand out of wood is a great way to save a few bucks and speed up your darkroom process.
HOW TO MAKE A COATING STAND
Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your own DIY coating stand:
- Grab a piece of thick wooden board and either a wooden dowel or a 2x4.
- Cut the wooden board to a 12”x12” square
- The dowel or 2x4 should be about 8-9” long. Cut it in half lengthwise.
- Place the 2x4 on the wooden board, leaving 2” space between the two halves. Make sure a screen will fit in between the two halves before fully securing. The 2x4 or dowels should stand about 2.5” off the wooden board to provide enough leverage for the screen while you’re coating.
- Once the 2x4 halves are properly spaced, secure them to the board. Use wood glue, screws, or whatever works for you. If you use glue, make sure to let it fully dry before coating a screen.
There you have it! Your own coating stand is made from materials you might’ve had laying around already. Now it’s time to coat a screen.
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COATING A SCREEN
Coating a screen is a fairly simple process but can take some time to get just right. If you’re new to coating screens, don’t worry about making mistakes. Failure is a big part of the learning process.
Looking for a walkthrough of coating screens? We’ve got you covered:
- Make sure your scoop coater is clean with no jagged edges. If the scoop coater has jagged edges, you can rip the screen. Sand them down with fine grit sandpaper or steel wool to make sure nothing will tear or rip the screen.
- Set the coater on a flat surface and fill it a third to halfway full of emulsion, depending on how many screens you’re coating. Keep a wet rag handy for cleaning up emulsion spills.
- You can make your own coating stand using 2x4s, or hold the screen in place on the ground and coat it that way. Either way, you don’t want the screen moving around when you’re trying to coat it.
- Hold the scoop coater firmly at the bottom of the screen. Start with the outside, or the T-shirt side, first.
- Place the edge of the coater against the mesh and tilt the coater up so emulsion dams up against the mesh.
- Apply a decent amount of pressure and slowly move the scoop coater against the screen in an upwards motion, stopping at about 1 inch from the frame of the screen.
- Tilt the coater back so the emulsion settles back into the trough. To lift the scoop coater off the screen, sheer the edge of the coater up so it doesn’t leave behind any drips.
- Flip the screen over and upside down, allowing the emulsion to enter the screen from a different angle and create a stronger bond.
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There are a few different methods for coating a screen. The ratio of emulsion on each side of the screen contributes to the thickness of the stencil, which will produce a different final print.
Typically, a 1x1 coating method (once on the T-shirt side, once on the squeegee side) is enough. Depending on the needs of the print, you can do a 2x1 (twice on the T-shirt side, once on the squeegee side) or 1x2 (once on the T-shirt side, twice on the squeegee side). Adding more layers of emulsion will lay down a thicker ink deposit when you start printing.
Not sure which coating method to use for a job? Experiment with different ratios to find the one you like most. It’s important to have an even, glossy layer of emulsion on each side of the screen. The squeegee will catch on any bumps in the emulsion once you start printing.
Coating a screen is just like any skill. It takes time and practice to get better at it. If you mess up, reclaim your screen and try again. You can only get better from here. With a coating stand, you can focus on proper coating techniques and hone your skills. What are you waiting for? Prep some screens!