A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Making a traditional silk screen

 I want cost NOT to be an object so I will show you 4 different ways to make a silk screen. Today I will show you how to make a traditional silk screen. You can also buy silk screens already made but they are a bit pricey. This one is $20.99 before shipping 

Things to think about before you make your silk screens. 
  • Good wooden silk screens will last your life time.
  • There are innumerable uses for a silk screen not just deconstruction
  • Building 5 or 6 silk screens will open up endless surface design possibilities
  • Using silk screens is addictive (smile)
  • other uses include freezer paper stencils
  • pellon interfacing
  • newspaper stencils
  • wax resists
  • flour resists
  • tape resists
  • objects as a resist (like leaves and flowers)
  • elmers glue resist just to name a few. 
I conduct a 2 day silk screen workshop and we just get a chance to "taste" these techniques in two days. So making a silkscreen (or more!!) will open up a world of incredible surface design techniques.

Materials for a traditional silkscreen

Wood 2 X 2 by 6 feet long. These are simple to pick up at Home depot. Try to get straight ones. You may have to "sift" through the pile but you'll find them. One 6 foot piece per silk screen.

Cheap window sheers or sheers yardage from Joanns.

Staple gun with 1/4" staples

"Gorilla " tape or DUCK (quack duck) tape. Do not buy duct tape. Gorilla tape - the better choice is expensive but worth the extra money. These are the ONLY 2 tapes that will work

I'm going to say, you can build a wooden silk screen for about $5.-$6. each

Building the silk screen

You do not have to start a production line like I do and you DO NOT have to waterproof the wood if you are taping them completely. Below I show both waterproofing AND complete coverage with tape. You can chose one way or the other.

This is a piece of the 2" X 2" stock from Home Depot. You will probably have to ask them where to find it in the store.

You don't have to cut your wood on a 45 degree angle. You can build a frame by butting the pieces

I would use wood glue and screw the joint. I use sheetrock screws because they are sharp and go in pretty well. Of course, pre-drilling won't hurt but I don't bother. If you use fat screws then definitely pre-drill.

I make a dozen or more at a time and get a real rhythm going.

Since water on wood is the enemy, I use this Cabot product to water-proof my frames. This is not necessary since we will be encasing our screens in tape which is water-proof. When I use the Cabots, I use much less tape. These screens are drying OUTSIDE on a pole between two trash cans.

You just need to knock together the 4 pieces of wood and not worry about anything else. Now lets get started:

Gorilla tape and staple gun

Lay a piece of sheer fabric over your frame and overlap the frame by about 2"

Start on the top of the frame (the side farthest from you) and staple in the center. Gently pull the fabric to the left as you staple to the left

Gently pull the fabric to the right as you staple to the right.

Now you can pull till the fabric is taunt and staple in the center of the bottom (side closest to you). As you staple to the left, pull down and to the left. Then pull down and to the right as you staple to the right.

Rotate the frame one turn so the top and bottom are the sides not stapled. Staple the top starting in the center like before. 

Pull down making the fabric taunt as you staple the bottom (last) side.

Pull each corner and staple making the fabric taunt.

Trim the fabric within a 1/2" to 3/4" from the staples without having any fabric going over the side of the frame.

For simplicity sake lets say we are looking at the outside of the frame above and the inside of the frame below.

Starting on the outside of the frame (below), place a piece of tape on the frame which extends over the frame and into the void in the center of the frame by about 5/8". See the next photo.

Here you can see from the "inside" of the frame that the tape on the outside is visible through the sheer fabric about 5/8"

Use you thumb and gentle but firmly press the sheer fabric onto the sticky side of the tape. In subsequent steps we will put tape on the inside so these overlaps will "kiss" each other, a tape sandwich with sheer fabric filling. 

 Do all four sides with the tape over lapping the frame on the inside by 5/8".

Here is a perfect picture of the way you frame should look on the inside with the sheer fabric nicely pressed into the tape.

 Now we are going to make that "sandwich". For your first 2 sides, cut the tape the exact (close as possible) dimensions of the inside of the frame. See the picture below.
 Curl the tape and try to get it as absolutely close as possible to covering the exposed tape from the top side. This is where the tape sandwich with the sheer filling comes in. THIS IS HARD TO DO. Just go slow, take your time and try to get to  edges to match.

Here is the first piece of tape perfectly covering the tape from the other side. I only did this perfectly this time (smile). Be gentle with yourself and as long as you don't press them together hard, you can lift the tape and try again.. This is the most important part - butting those edges.

I go for the very top edge, then I flip the frame and check the other side making sure the sticky side of the tape isn't entending beyond the other tape. then I "walk" the tape back against the frame and press hard on both the wood and sheer.

I was very lucky and this came out perfectly. Not my usual result. Sometimes I see just a hint of the tape from the other side like this:

Don't sweat the details too much just do the best that you can.

OK, back to the inside... Now this is all pressed in place

and the other side

Just a touch too long but that's nothing to worry about

Do the other end then so top and bottom are done. Now for the other sides

This time cut the tape about an inch longer on each side (below)

Butt those leading edges, walk the tape back to the wood

Then "tailor" those inside corners the neatest way you know how making sure there is an overlap of tape AT the corner to keep the water out.  Now all four sides are done on the"inside" of the frame.

 Done. You have just created a "well" for the thickened dye. Now if I were working with a water proof frame I would stop here on THIS (inside) of the frame and continue to the other side (outside). 

On non-waterproof frames, we will start the next layer of tape. Looking at your frame from the inside (see below) 

Cut a piece of tape just the size of the inside frame (see below)

Place the tape with a scant 1/2 overlap over the first row.

Fold back onto the top of the frame. Do opposite sides the the other 2 sides.

 Now on the bottom (outside) of the frame, apply tape to opposite  sides till all four sides are covered

 Bottom is finished 

Now looking to the inside cut tape applying to opposites sides.... 

 ......till all four sides are covered

Now your frame is done on the inside

and the outside is completely waterproof.


  1. Thank you. I have wanted to make some screens but had no idea what to do. I can do this!

  2. I can do this. Yes I can. Didn't think so though ;-). Thanks again!!

  3. Beautifully demonstrated, Beth! I have not tried to cut my own wood before... limited on tools, but since an angle cut is not mandatory, I may give this a try. Thanks for the great write-up!

  4. Excellent tutorial! Documenting each step was a huge undertaking for you.....thank you on behalf of Fire readers!

  5. Wonderfully clear. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for the clear explanation. I will try to make one like this!

  7. This is FANTASTIC!!! I LOVE my good wood screen and have wished for more but they are pricey. NOW I can make a bunch of them. Might have to wait a bit though, my compound miter saw is in the barn...it is 15 degrees Fahrenheit today. Also, I know I'll be using the wood protector. I don't have the patience for taping everything! LOL!!

  8. Excellent tutorial! I am sure you have demystified building your own screens for many. Really thorough and well appreciated!

  9. What an excellent tutorial and thank you for all the pictures!! I had hoped to try silk screening this year but that hasn't happened. Definitely a goal for 2015!


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