A simple screen-printing system can quickly and easily print on pizza boxes. Screen printing is also known as silk screen. Screen-printing inks are bright and durable, and are perfect for printing on thick cardboard that will not fit in a traditional printing press. All you need are some blank pizza boxes, a trip to the art supply store and a bit of practice, and you will be printing pizza boxes in no time.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Blank pizza boxes
- Screen frame
- Foam rubber
- Clear tape
- Screen clamps
- Photo emulsion
- Clear vellum
- Halide light
- Water-based screen-printing ink
- Glass, 1/4-inch thick
Decide what size pizza box to print on, such as 14-by-14-by-2 inch. Order the blank pizza boxes and use one as a template to prepare a graphic design for printing. Include elements of type (words), logos, illustration or photos in your graphic design. Prepare the graphic design on paper with black ink, or design it on your computer in a word-processing or graphics program.
Transfer your graphic design to a piece of clear vellum (transparent paper). Draw with black ink right on the clear vellum, or print the design from your computer onto a piece of clear vellum. For graphic designs larger than your printer's capacity, print the design in sections and tile them (tape together a composite to recreate the graphic design on clear vellum).
Buy a screen frame at least 8 inches larger in height and width than your pizza box. To print a 14-by-14-inch pizza box, use a screen frame 22 by 22 inches or larger. In a dark room, coat both sides of the screen frame with photo emulsion and remove excess emulsion. Let the coated screen frame dry overnight.
Cut a piece of foam rubber to fit inside the screen frame. In a dark room, place the screen frame face down over the foam rubber, and place the clear vellum with the graphic design face down over the screen frame. Put the 1/4-inch glass over the clear vellum. Hang the halide light over the glass at a distance equal to the diagonal dimension of the screen frame.
Turn on the halide light for the time recommended in the instructions for the photo emulsion, usually five to 10 minutes. Turn the light off and develop the image by spraying the screen frame with warm water. Once the emulsion is sprayed out of the image area, blot both sides of the screen frame with newsprint. Place the screen frame in the sun or a bright light to dry.
Fasten two screen clamps to a flat surface or board with screws. Put the imaged screen frame in the clamps and tighten. Lay a piece of newsprint for a test print on the print area and bring the screen frame down over it. Put a thick line of water-based screen-printing ink in the screen frame in the end of the frame nearest the clamps. Pull the ink sharply towards you with the squeegee. Lift the screen frame and use the squeegee to push the ink back toward the clamps, flooding the screen with ink. Check your test print.
If your test print is successful, begin your run of printing pizza boxes. Place each box in the print area and bring the screen frame down over it. Pull the ink sharply toward you using the squeegee. Lift the screen frame and push the ink back toward the clamps, flooding the screen frame with ink. Check each print before making the next one. Lay the pizza boxes flat to dry. Stack only when dry. When your print run is finished, remove the remaining ink and clean the screen frame with water.
Tips and warnings
- Buy a screen frame with the proper mesh count for the ink you are using. Most water-based screen-printing inks print well with mesh counts from 150 to 200.
- If your ink dries in the screen frame while printing, add some extender to your ink to keep it flowing well in the screen.
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