Trunk Screen Printing


Do you wanna live that sweet DIY life and print on the cheap? Well then I’m the guy for you! Go hit up your local thrift shop and snag an old costume trunk or even a large suitcase and so long as you can find a space for it, you have space to print! 


Supplies and where to source them


Thrift Store 

-Costume trunk or large old fashion suitcase. 

-Dining room chair 

-Large glass frame (larger than piece of printer paper)


-Kitchen timer

-T-Shirts, placemats, thicker cotton things to print on. 


Order online or pickup from the craft store (Amazon, Michaels, Speedball online)

-Speedball brand 10 by 14 inch blank silkscreen 

-Speedball brand Photo Emulsion

-Speedball brand Photosensitizer

(these are usually sold together as a kit)

 -Speedball brand Screen Printing Ink

-Red plastic Speedball brand Squeegee 

-Speedball brand 6 inch  rubber squeegee for textile printing 

-Clear tape

-Transparencies (you can print/buy them at the UPS store or at home on a laser jet printer) 


Hardware Store

-500 Watt Halogen Work Lamp

-Masking tape 

-Hose or long shower head

Printing Day One


  • Begin by filling the photosensitizer bottle with water, the bottle will feel empty but there is sensitizer in the bottom. Pour the sensitizer water directly into the bottle of photo emulsion and shake vigorously for about 3 minutes until the emulsion has turned from blue to green. If there is still sensitizer in the bottle you can fill it with water again and add it to the emulsion. Make sure it is well mixed, you can even use the handle of a spoon to stir it thoroughly. It will turn a bright green. 


  • Once the emulsion is mixed, use your spoon to dab emulsion on the edges of your blank silk screen, then coat it evenly using the red plastic squeegee. Flip the screen in every direction as you drag the squeegee across. Be sure to drag the squeegee all the way across to create an even coating. 


  • Once the screen is coated, place it with the flat side UP inside the empty trunk and let it dry for a full 24 hours. If there are any light leaks in your trunk or suitcase place a blanket over the top to ensure it creates a dark room atmosphere. Any light will begin to expose the screen prematurely and will cause issues. 


  • If you have not already, prepare your sheet of glass by removing it from the frame, keep the frame to place the glass in when you’re not using it.


Printing Day Two


  • Secure your 500 Watt Halogen work lamp to the back of a chair, the light should be approximately 18 inches above the top of the trunk/ suitcase. Keep the light off until everything is in place, ready to burn. The light should be pointed directly downward over the trunk where the screen will be placed.  


  • Print two copies of your design on transparencies, make sure they are bold and well spaced images, line them up and tape them together using clear tape. (a tips and tricks for printing at home transparencies coming soon!)


  • Place your dry screen on top of trunk/ suitcase (18 inches below lamp) 


  • Place your transparencies on top of the screen, center them directly in the middle. 


  • Carefully place glass on top of transparencies & screen (be very attentive while handling the glass, I like to keep the frame to store the glass in while I’m not using it. The glass will break very easily, so using a towel or scrap of fabric to handle it can be helpful.) 


  • Set an alarm for 11 - 12 minutes & turn on the 500 watt halogen work light (be careful the light will get HOT, do not leave the screen unattended) 


  • Once the alarm goes off, turn the work light off promptly. 


  • Carefully place your glass to the side in a secure place. 


  • Quickly take the screen to your washing location, at home the best place is the hose or a high pressure shower head with hose attachment. 


  • Thoroughly rinse the screen until the design is washed all the way out, you should be able to hold the screen up to the light and see light shine through the design clearly. If there are spots that didn’t wash out, lightly brush them with your fingernail or soft bristled toothbrush and apply more water, they will probably come out. (If your design blows out, you can use emulsion remover to remove the emulsion and try again. If you buy a photo emulsion kit, it will come with some emulsion remover. I like to keep mine in a spray bottle and spray my screen down if I need to reclaim it. Just spray, let it sit for about 10 - 15 minutes? and then wash it out from bottom to top)


  • Put your screen flat side up on a drying rack or flat surface to dry. (You can use a fan to dry your screen if you want to speed up the process). 


Printing Day 3


  • Carefully look over your screen and use a paintbrush and emulsion to patch any holes. To patch, just paint a thin layer of emulsion over spots where extra emulsion washed out of the screen.


  • Dry the screen and expose it under your work light for another 11 minutes. (you don’t need to rinse!)


  • Use masking tape to thoroughly tape all the edges of the screen, this will prevent ink from bleeding out once you start printing.


  • Lay out the item you will be printing on and make sure it is free from any wrinkles, make it as flat as possible. 


  • Place your screen on top of the item


  • Dab a spoonful of ink across the top of the design 


  • Line up your rubber squeegee at the top of the design, apply steady pressure and drag squeegee down across the entire screen, repeat dragging until ink is thoroughly applied 


  • Remove the screen from the item you’re printing on and check out your design! I like to grab from the bottom and peel the screen up off the thing I'm working on.(The first print might look a little patchy, so you might need to print a few tries on a few paper towels to break it in.)


  • Repeat printing as many times as you want! 


  • Wash your screen out once you’re done printing and let it dry before storing it back in your trunk. 


Don’t get discouraged if your screen doesn’t come out, or if it takes a while to get a hang of printing. I have made every mistake you can think of and followed all the rules but still ruined screens or had messy prints come out. Just try again and don’t give up. Burning screens takes practice and all the steps have to be followed just right. There’s no cutting corners when it comes to the science of exposing screens, so go easy on yourself and you’ll get there! It’s taken me years and I STILL have misprints! That’s all part of the process. 

Ultimately have fun, enjoy yourself, don't rush anything. Before you know it you’ll be selling prints!! 

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