How to Use Green Film on a Silk Screen

Written by jennifer meyer
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How to Use Green Film on a Silk Screen
Green film needs a black design printed on a transparent surface to block out light. (print graffiti image by timur1970 from

Traditionally, artists created screens for printing by spreading an even layer of light sensitive emulsion over a nylon or silk surface. They would then place a design over this coating and expose it to light. Emulsion exposed to light becomes hard, wheras emulsion not exposed can easily be washed away, revealing a duplicate of the design. While more cost effective than green film in the long run, applying emulsion requires a lot of practice. It's not only very messy, it's also hard to get an even coating across the whole surface. Green film operates in just the same manner as emulsion, except that the emulsion is already applied to a layer of mesh. This cuts out a laborious step of the screen printing process.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dark room
  • Newspaper
  • Green film
  • Design printed on a transparency
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard
  • Overhead light
  • Gloves
  • Black folder
  • Sink
  • Night light or flashlight
  • Paper or fabric medium
  • Masking tape
  • Silk screen ink
  • Squeegee

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  1. 1

    Spread two layers of newspaper across the floor of a small, dimly lit room. A darkroom is ideal, but a bathroom with only a night light for illumination also works.

  2. 2

    Place the film over your printed design, with the plaster layer on the film between them. Cut the film to fit the design using a pair of scissors.

  3. 3

    Remove the plastic layer from your green film. Place it on a piece of cardboard, with the slick side up. Put your design transparency on top of this and cover the whole thing with a sheet of clear acrylic or glass.

  4. 4

    Orient a light directly over the design, about 4 inches above it. Turn the light on. Let the light expose the film for up to 40 minutes. The exact time depends on what kind of light you are using and the brand of green film you have. Consult the instructions that come with your green film for an exact amount. Do not under or over expose the film.

  5. 5

    Don a pair of waterproof gloves and remove the green film from beneath the glass and your design. Put it in a black folder and run it over to a sink. If the sink is near a window, pull down the drapes.

  6. 6

    Remove the film from the folder and run water over it. Make sure the flow is very gentle. Lightly rub the meshed side of the film with your gloved fingers. Keep rinsing the film until the design appears. When you hold it up to a night light or flashlight, you should be able to see all the way through the design.

  7. 7

    Run the film back down to your dark room and expose it to the light for another 10 minutes with the slick side up. Do not place the film slick side down or it will stick to whatever is under it.

  8. 8

    Turn the light off and let the film dry overnight.

  9. 9

    Place the film over a cloth, shirt or paper, whatever you would like to print on. Attach it in place with masking tape, with the slick side facing down.

  10. 10

    Pour a line of silkscreen ink along the bottom edge of the film. Use a squeegee to spread it across the design. Hold the squeegee at a 45-degree angle and press firmly down as you move it over the design.

  11. 11

    Remove the film and quickly rush it to the sink. Rinse it and the squeegee before the ink dries. Do so gently. The ink design on your paper or fabric should be dry in, at most, 20 minutes.

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