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by | 29 Aug, 2020 | Printing, Tutorial

Make Your Own Cheap and Easy Silk Screens

Setting yourself up to screen print can be an expensive business but you can make cheap and easy silk screens. I used this method to make a batch of small silk screens to use in some screen printing workshops I ran a while ago.

I needed small screens that could be washed out in a kitchen sink because of the space I had to teach in. Commercially made screens would have been very costly. So, in the process of nutting out this problem, I realised very serviceable and reusable silkscreens can be made from the frames contained in stretched canvases that are found very cheaply in discount variety stores.

With just a few other bits and pieces, cheap and easy silk screens are within reach. The process to make the screen is straightforward as I’ll explain below. I hope you give this a try and fall in love with screen printing just like I did!

Equipment you will need

  • a cheap stretched canvas from a discount variety shop (or other small wooden frame)
  • flathead screwdriver
  • pliers
  • sandpaper
  • soft pencil
  • ruler
  • silkscreen mesh
  • scissors
  • staple gun & staples
  • hammer
  • sharp craft knife
  • masking tape
  • water-resistant acrylic sealant
  • paintbrush


Prepare the frame

If starting with a stretched canvas, remove the canvas by prizing out the staples carefully with a flathead screwdriver and pliers.

Sand down the frame where the staples have been removed to ensure it is smooth.

With a pencil and ruler, measure the centre line of the timber frame and draw a line all around the frame at this point.

Alignment and spacing of staples. Image by Rebecca Angela

Attach the mesh

Cut a piece of mesh so that it is about 4-5cm longer and wider than the outside edge of the frame.

Align one corner and two adjacent sides of the mesh to the flat underside of the frame.

Staple the mesh to the frame at the corner and then work down the line you drew on the long side of the frame, stapling the mesh to the frame while keeping the mesh as taut as possible. Position the staples quite close together (no more than a centimetre apart), parallel to the edge of the frame.

A good taut and even mesh is essential to a satisfactory printing experience so, holding on to the excess mesh on the opposite side of the frame, pull the mesh as tightly and evenly as possible across the frame. Putting a weight on the opposite side of the frame (the one you just stapled) helps, as does positioning the frame on the edge of your workbench and pulling the mesh down toward the floor. Staple the mesh in place on this long edge.

Next staple along the short edge without overhang, ensuring tautness and then, pulling the mesh tight as before, staple the other short edge.

You should have a taut, even mesh.

If any of the staples are not flush with the screen, tap them in with a hammer.

Image by Rebecca Angela

Trim and glue the mesh

Using the frame as a guide, use a sharp craft knife to trim off the excess mesh.

Apply masking tape to the mesh on the underside of the screen (the side with the staples visible) along the inside edge of the frame to prevent seepage of the sealant onto the screen mesh.

Spread the sealant around the frame ensuring that the mesh sticks to the frame.

Remove the masking tape and allow the sealant to dry fully.

Make Cheap and Easy Silk Screens Pinterest Image