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How To Make Screen Print Transfers? — A Step By Step Guide

How to make screen print transfers 

Screen printing transfers allow you to apply intricate designs onto various surfaces, such as fabric or paper. This versatile method is popular for customizing clothing, accessories, and even promotional items. Here’s a detailed guide on how to make screen print transfers at home, providing you with the flexibility to bring your unique designs to life.

Materials Needed: 

  1. Screen Printing Frame:
    • Choose a screen printing frame suitable for your project size.
  2. Screen Printing Mesh:
    • Select the appropriate mesh count for your design. Higher mesh counts are ideal for finer details.
  3. Screen Printing Emulsion:
    • Use a photosensitive emulsion for creating a stencil on the screen.
  4. Screen Printing Ink:
    • Choose quality screen printing ink in the colors you need.
  5. Squeegee:
    • Get a squeegee with a suitable size for your screen.
  6. Screen Printing Film or Transparency:
    • Print your design onto a transparent film for exposing onto the screen.
  7. Exposure Unit or Strong Light Source:
    • Use an exposure unit or strong natural sunlight for exposing the emulsion.
  8. Pressure Washer or Hose:
    • A pressure washer or hose with a spray nozzle for washing out the exposed screen.
  9. Screen Printing Palette or Surface:
    • A smooth surface for laying down your fabric or material.
  10. Fabric or Material for Printing:
    • Choose the material you want to print your design on, such as T-shirts, tote bags, or paper.
  11. Heat Press or Iron (Optional):
    • For heat setting the printed design onto fabric.

Step-by-Step Guide On How To Make Screen Print Transfers 

Step 1: Design Preparation

  1. Create Your Design:
    • Design your artwork digitally using graphic design software or draw it by hand.
  2. Print on Transparency:
    • Print your design onto a transparency or special screen printing film. Ensure the design is the same size as your screen.

Step 2: Prepare the Screen

  1. Coat Screen with Emulsion:
    • Apply a thin, even coat of emulsion to the screen using a scoop coater. Ensure both sides are coated.
  2. Dry the Emulsion:
    • Allow the emulsion to dry in a dark room or under subdued lighting. This may take a few hours or overnight.
  3. Attach Transparency to Screen:
    • Securely tape the printed transparency onto the back of the screen, ensuring it aligns with the coated side.

Step 3: Expose the Screen

  1. Use Exposure Unit or Sunlight:
    • Expose the screen to UV light using an exposure unit or, if using sunlight, place the screen with the transparency in direct sunlight for the specified time.
  2. Wash Out the Screen:
    • After exposure, use a pressure washer or hose to wash out the emulsion where the design was on the transparency. This creates openings in the screen for ink to pass through.
  3. Let Screen Dry:
    • Allow the screen to dry completely.

Step 4: Set Up Printing Area

  1. Place Material on Palette:
    • Lay down the material you want to print on, whether it’s a T-shirt, tote bag, or paper, on a smooth surface.
  2. Secure Screen:
    • Secure the screen in place above the material, ensuring it won’t move during printing.

Step 5: Apply Ink

  1. Load Ink onto Screen:
    • Place a line of ink at the top of the screen.
  2. Use Squeegee:
    • With the squeegee, pull the ink down the screen, forcing it through the open areas and onto the material below.

Step 6: Dry the Print

  1. Heat Set (Optional):
    • If using fabric, heat set the print using a heat press or iron according to the ink manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Allow to Air Dry:
    • Allow the print to air dry completely.

Step 7: Cure the Print (Optional)

  1. Use Heat Source:
    • For fabric prints, consider curing the print by exposing it to heat again. Follow the recommended instructions for curing the specific ink used.

Step 8: Finished Product

  1. Inspect and Enjoy:
    • Inspect your finished screen print transfer for quality and vibrancy. Your customized material is ready to use or wear.

Tips and Considerations:

  • Experiment with Mesh Count:
    • Different mesh counts will yield different print results. Higher mesh counts are suitable for finer details, while lower counts allow for heavier ink deposits.
  • Practice Registration:
    • Practice proper screen registration to ensure accurate and consistent prints.
  • Test on Scrap Material:
    • Before printing on the final material, test your screen on scrap fabric or paper to fine-tune your technique.
  • Clean Screens Promptly:
    • Clean screens promptly after use to prevent ink from drying and clogging the mesh.
  • Explore Various Inks:
    • Experiment with different types and colors of screen printing ink to achieve the desired effect.

Screen printing transfers offer a fantastic way to bring your designs to life on various materials. With practice and experimentation, you can master the art of screen printing transfers, creating unique and customized items that showcase your creativity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Making Screen Print Transfers

1. What is a screen print transfer?

A screen print transfer is a method of transferring intricate designs onto various surfaces, such as fabric or paper, using a screen, emulsion, and ink.

2. What materials do I need to make screen print transfers at home?

You will need a screen printing frame, mesh, emulsion, ink, squeegee, transparency or screen printing film, exposure unit or strong light source, pressure washer or hose, screen printing palette, fabric or material for printing, and optionally, a heat press or iron.

3. How do I prepare my design for screen printing transfers?

Create your design digitally or by hand, then print it onto a transparency or screen printing film. Ensure the design size matches your screen.

4. Can I use any type of fabric for screen print transfers?

Yes, you can use various fabrics such as cotton, polyester, or blends for screen print transfers. Ensure the fabric is clean and flat before printing.

5. Is it necessary to use an exposure unit for exposing the emulsion?

While an exposure unit provides consistent results, you can also expose the emulsion using strong natural sunlight, depending on your setup and weather conditions.

6. How do I prevent ink from bleeding on the fabric during printing?

Ensure the fabric is flat and taut on the printing surface. Experiment with different mesh counts and squeegee pressure to find the right combination for your design.

7. Can I reuse the screen for different designs?

Yes, you can reclaim the screen by removing the emulsion using emulsion remover or a similar cleaning solution. This allows you to reuse the screen for new designs.

8. Do I need to heat set the print on fabric?

Heat setting is optional but recommended for fabric prints. It helps to cure the ink and ensures a longer-lasting design. Follow the ink manufacturer’s instructions for heat setting.

9. Can I print multiple colors with screen print transfers?

Yes, you can print multiple colors using the screen print transfer method. Each color requires a separate screen and exposure process.

10. What if my printed design has imperfections?

Inspect your screen for any imperfections or blockages. Ensure the screen is clean, and the emulsion is properly exposed. Practice on scrap material before printing on the final product.

11. Can I make screen print transfers without a professional exposure unit?

Yes, you can use natural sunlight as a light source for exposing the emulsion. Ensure you have a stable setup and the right conditions for proper exposure.

12. Are screen print transfers suitable for detailed designs?

Yes, screen print transfers are suitable for detailed designs, especially when using a higher mesh count screen. This allows for finer details in the print.

13. Can I print on materials other than fabric?

Yes, you can print on various materials such as paper, cardboard, wood, and more, depending on the type of ink and surface preparation.

14. How can I troubleshoot issues with screen print transfers?

If you encounter issues, check for screen blockages, ensure proper exposure, and experiment with ink consistency and pressure. Cleaning the screen promptly after use also prevents issues.

15. Is it possible to scale my designs for different sizes of materials?

Yes, you can scale your designs for different sizes by adjusting the size of the printed transparency or screen printing film before exposing the emulsion.


Creating screen print transfers at home is a rewarding and creative process. By following these FAQs and experimenting with different techniques, you can produce unique and customized designs on various materials. Practice and adapt your approach based on the specific requirements of each project for optimal results.

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