How to build plans for a screen printing press

Written by steven lafler
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How to build plans for a screen printing press
Screen printed Tshirt (Recycling T-shirt Front and Back View image by Sophia Winters from

You can build a three colour screen printing press for about two hundred dollars in materials. This is a table top press, cut out of a four foot square piece of thick plywood, and set on saw horses. With practice, it is possible to print three colour designs in perfect register on this press. A quality used rotary screen printing manual press costs at least a thousand dollars. This simple home made press can get you started for a fraction of the cost.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Four foot square plywood, 3/4" thick
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Jigsaw
  • Masonite or pressed board, 1/4" thick
  • Skill saw
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Sander
  • Nails
  • Wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Screen print clamps
  • Saw Horse Clamps
  • Two by four lumber
  • Two by two lumber, four foot long

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  1. 1

    Measure 14 inches from the side of the plywood and draw a line 22 inches long. Measure another 2.5 inches towards the centre of the board and draw a line parallel to the first line. Connect the two lines where they end, 22 inches long. Draw a mirror image of these lines on the other side of the plywood, parallel to them. Use the jigsaw to cut channels into the board where the lines are drawn. The area left in the middle of the board is the shirt board, where shirts or paper will be loaded on the press to print.

  2. 2

    Measure from the inside end of each channel a four by four inch square, pointing back in towards the shirt board centre. Cut the four by four inch squares out with the jigsaw. This creates room for the shirt end when it is loaded on the press.

  3. 3

    Use the jigsaw to round the four corners of the shirt board. Sand smooth all edges of the shirt board where cuts have been made with the jigsaw.

  4. 4

    Take the piece of two by two lumber and cut a bevel on one end at a 45 degree angle. Place the bevelled end centred under one side of the shirt board, running all the way to the other end of the four by four foot plywood, and screw or nail into place. This will support the shirt board during printing operations.

  5. 5

    Cut a piece of 1/4" masonite or pressed board to 15 inches square. Fasten to the top of the shirt board on the side opposite the bevelled support board with wood glue. Hammer a small nail or brad into each corner of the masonite or pressed board about two inches in from the edge of the shirt board. Use the jigsaw to cut round corners to match the rounded corners of the shirt board underneath the masonite. Sand the edges and corners of the masonite or pressed board until smooth.

  6. 6

    Place a set of two screen print clamps opposite each of the three sides of the shirt board. Find the centre point of each side and measure four inches in either direction. Fasten clamps to the plywood surface with wood screws. Screens will be placed in the clamps and brought down over the shirt board for printing operations.

  7. 7

    Build two saw horses using saw horse clamps, nails and two by four lumber. Set the height of the saw horses to your waist. Place the table top screen printing press on top of the saw horses and fasten with wood screws.

Tips and warnings

  • You will need three 22 inch square imaged screens, screen printing ink and squeegees to operate your press. Research screen making and screen printing technique.
  • Practice with your press before printing commercial work on it. This press has been used professionally and is capable of printing three colour work in perfect register.

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