Screen Printing Tutorial Part 2 – Make Your Own Cheap and Easy Screen Exposure Unit

I don’t remember where I heard it, but recently someone said something to the effect of – when you are trying something new and difficult, or it might have been about launching a new business, prioritize the things that you hate the most. The things that drive you nuts, that take hours longer than they should, that make you hate what you’re doing. Make those things as easy as possible first, as you get money flowing. Or invest in those things if you have startup capital. For me, with screen printing, I have two major problems both stemming from the same cause – I live in an apartment. The problems are that I don’t have an exposure unit and I can’t afford one so my screen exposures are all over the place because I’m using the sun, and also I don’t have a washout booth. Not only can I not afford one, I’ve no room for it. Nor do I have a hose or a pressure washer.

Today I’m going to show you how to solve the first problem for about $40. Later this week I’ll solve the 2nd problem for even less.

1. Go buy a Husky 700w halogen work light from Home Depot. You also will need two 8″ C-clamps and a small flat piece of metal or wood.


2. Open up the box. Husky has very thoughtfully pre-detached all the junk you don’t need. WooHoo!

3. Pull out the light unit, leave everything else in the box. You don’t need it.

4. Open up the screw at the top of the light unit in order to flip the glass front open.


5. Use a screw driver and pliers to bend open one of the metal brackets in order to remove the glass. It’s UV safe, it’s no good.


6. Close up the now glass-less front.

7. Install the halogen bulbs into the glassless gridless light. Just pop them in, just be gentle.

8. Use the C clamps and the flat metal or wood to clamp the base bracket to a short table. This is likely to dent the table so make sure it’s not one that you care much about. I’m using a scrap piece of metal from a former craft project that went nowhere. You could use a scrap piece of wood, a metal ruler, anything strong and flat really. This is pretty darn sturdy, but it’s not going to hold up a child if they lean against it, so make sure you put away your light when you’re not using it if you have small children or mischievous pets.



9. Use a yard stick to measure 16 inches away from the light. That’s where your screen needs to rest while exposing. Use a box or a stack of books to lift your screen to the right height. The box the light came in should work nicely for most tables. I actually use a cardboard box, then lay a large piece of cardboard that came with my screens on top of that.




10. Expose your screen as usual – place your transparency ink down on the screen using tape on the corners to make sure it’s taut, cover with non-UV glass, and expose for exactly 14 minutes if you are piecing together many pieces of transparency to make one large sheet, or do 13:30 if you’re just using one single transparency. I usually run a box fan pointed at the entire setup during exposures. It’s probably not necessary but things get really hot, I’d rather be safe.

11. Wash out, let dry in front of the fan, and re-expose for another 13 minutes without the transparency attached, flipping the screen over halfway through. This just makes sure the emulsion is completely set on both sides. Use the fan here again.

12. Start printing!



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6 Responses to Screen Printing Tutorial Part 2 – Make Your Own Cheap and Easy Screen Exposure Unit

  1. Joni January 4, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Hi! Thank you so much for these amazing tutorials. I am trying to set up a home studio and learning the hard way or taking ages to figure stuff out. Your info shared will save me a lot of time and mistakes hopefully. I wondered why you re-expose the screen and then flip it half way through? I have never seen that done before. Is it because you have coated both sides with emulsion? Is this necessary if you only coat one side?
    Thanks, Joni

    • Sarah Bailey January 4, 2015 at 8:58 am #

      Hi Joni, I hope your learning goes well! I re-expose the screen because after the washout the emulsion can still be quite soft. And actually on the unexposed ink side it’s still fairly vulnerable immediately after washout, even if you’re just coating one side. So I just expose it again to make SURE everything is set. It’s not totally necessary but I like to make sure everything’s set before I start work. If you’re not going to be using the screen for a day or two it’s probably fine to leave it.

  2. Joni January 4, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Aah, ok. I think I get it. Do you just pop the screen under the light again but without the transparencies on? It would be tricky to line it up just perfectly with transparencies again and ensure no blurring of edges I imagine?

    • Sarah Bailey January 4, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      Oh yes, just pop it under the light again, no more transparency!

  3. Matt Marv September 15, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    Great tutorial.
    What about blackening-out the room to prevent exposure of the screen during setup?
    Thank you

    • Sarah Bailey September 15, 2015 at 7:18 am #

      Thanks Matt, for drying we had a larger closet I would use with a towel at the bottom of the door to block light. For exposure I would actually wait until it was dark outside, but for the most part a quick trot through the house to your exposure spot won’t hurt anything as long as you’ve got the blinds shut. For setup before exposure if it’s daylight I’d just do it in the same closet I used for drying. Any windowless room, like perhaps a bathroom, will work.

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