Quick and Easy! Build a Screen Print Frame From An Old Picture Frame.

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November 19, 2008

Old Picture Frame + Curtain Sheers= Your Very Own Screen Print Frame!

You can build your very own silkscreen printing frame with just a few simple items from your own home. 

Here’s what you’ll need to get started.

1. a picture frame with the glass and backing removed
2. old curtain sheers
3. utility duct tape or solvent resistant tape for silkscreening
4. acrylic varnish sealer and paint brush
5. an electric staple gun

Step 1- Find a picture frame


 

Step 2- Remove hardware from the back of the frame

If there is any hardware on the back of the frame remove it now and sand off any raised or rough bits so that back of the frame sits nicely on a flat surface.

Step 3- Cut Curtain Sheers

Pick out an old pair of curtain sheers. or buy a small bit of new sheers from the fabric store. You should make certain that the sheers do not have too much of an open weave. See this example for how dense the sheers should be.

You can buy the curtain sheers at Fabric.com...Up to 70% off Retail

Then trim the sheer so that it is about 2-3 inches larger than the frame’s outside dimensions.

Step 4- Before you start stapling

You are going to want to use an electric staple gun or a power assist staple gun- a manual stapler is just too difficult to use while holding down your sheer fabric. And it’s a good idea that you use one that has a safety built in so you don’t accidentally staple your fingers! The size of staple that I use is 3/8”. I don’t recommend anything longer than that because if you make a mistake they are too hard to get back out. You might even try a 1/4” staple.

And for goodness sake don’t forget to use safety goggles!

Step 5- How to properly staple your sheers to the frame

Turn over your frame so the front is on a flat surface. I like to put down a non-slip mat too. Lay your sheer pice on top of it so it looks fairly square.

Put in your first staple- it should be placed in the center of the frame bar and about 1/3” from the outside edge. (too close to the inside or the outside edge you risk stapling off a whole chunk of frame!)

Your second staple should go directly across from your first and you should pull the sheer enough so that you can’t pull it much more- but not so much that your sheer starts to rip on the other side. This step make take some practice- but I promise you’ll get better at knowing how much is too much or too little the more you do this. Essentially you are going to want a screen that is firm to the touch where you could rest something light on it without the sheer dipping.

Follow the same steps until each of the four sides is completed. Make sure that you have kept the grain of the fabric fairly straight (I have only done a so-so job on that as you can see). The straighter the fabric the better your results in the end.

Now staple the corners. Again, keeping the fabric pulled tightly and in this case towards the corner. Do each subsequent corner- always stapling the opposite side from the staple you just finished. Make certain to keep the fabric from being pulled too much to one side or the other. 

Now fill in the between the staples- always by pulling the fabric and stapling the center between two staples. Stapling the opposite sides each time.

Now fill in between those staples, pulling the fabric tightly until the staples are only about 1/4” apart. The number of total staples will depend on the size of your frame.

If you have some staples that are a bit raised from the frame it’s a good idea to hammer then down gently to make them flush with the edge.

Step 6- Sealing the frame and sheers

This great acrylic varnish sealer is sold at most craft and art stores. We’ll use it to keep ink and water from getting under the staples when printing and washing.

Paint it on and cover the entire edge of the frame. Be mindful not to get any onto the printing area of your screen- it will act as a resist for the inks and you may have to redo your screen. If you do get some on your printing area you can try to wash it off right away with some soap and water- since it’s a water-based varnish. If that happens let you screen dry completely and then finish the sealing. Once you finish let the frame dry for at least 30 minutes.

Step 7- Taping off the frame

Now you want to tape off the underside of the frame- which is often referred to as the substrate side. The tape will help to keep ink from squishing out onto your work as you print and will also act as a way of protecting your work from the staples and raw edges of the fabric which become hard with the sealant.

I like to put the tape on so that the corners meet and i can trim the excess off and have a neat and tidy frame. 

Here is the finished underside of the frame with tape.

This is how the frame will look from the topside- or the squeegee side as it is sometimes referred to. Notice that I did not make too much of an overlap with the tape so I could maximize my printing area on this small screen.

Step 8- LAST STEP! Wash the frame

You are almost finished. You just need to wash the fabric of your screen. This will ensure that any sizing, detergents or fabric softener is washed away; they can really interfere with your printing projects. I just use dish soap. Once you are finished you can let your screen dry and then it’s ready for your silkscreen printing projects! Try one of the ‘Quick and Easy‘ project tutorials to get you started.

 

 

There! Now you’re done!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Judi 02.23.09 at 12:19 pm

Thank you for sharing this technique, looks easy and fun.

admin 02.23.09 at 12:41 pm

This is the same technique I demo’d on the Martha Stewart Show last week! She loved it!

Brandon 02.28.09 at 12:23 am

I’ve always wondered how I could use old picture frames to make screen print frames! Thanks Michelle! Can you use photo emulsion on the sheer curtains?

admin 02.28.09 at 8:58 am

The answer is yes- but your curtains are going to have to be really tightly stapled so that you can apply decent pressure to the mesh (curtain sheers). You don’t want your emulsion going on too thickly. It took me a few attempts before I got the hang of it.

Brandon 03.02.09 at 12:21 am

Thanks so much! I had emulsion left over from a screen printing kit i bought a few months back. I could never get all the emulsion out of the areas of the screen that were suppose to be washed out. Come to find out, my transparency with the artwork on it wasn’t opaque enough. I retried the same graphic (but more opaque) today on my handmade frame and it turned out awesome!!!!!

admin 03.02.09 at 8:33 am

Nice to hear Brandon!

Alesha 12.26.09 at 1:16 am

Thanks for posting this!

ELESIA 02.28.10 at 1:01 am

CAN I PRE WASH THE CURTAIN SHEERS BEFORE I ATTACH THEM TO MY FRAME???

admin 04.19.10 at 6:45 am

Sure.

Kesha 01.21.12 at 8:00 am

Thanks so much!. I am a pageant director and needed another route for printing on my sashes. This is awesome! Very cost effective.

pania 04.26.12 at 9:34 am

Yay! U just saved me alot of money. was about to shop online for a hole new screen printing mechine…..thank u so much! Kant w8t to start making my own!!

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