How to make a homemade screen printing emulsion

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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Screen printing, otherwise known as silk screening, is typically used in embroidery, T-shirt, and print shops. A design is drawn, typically using graphic design software, then transferred to a piece of vellum. The vellum is then placed onto a silk screen coated with emulsion and set under lighting to burn the design in. Emulsion is a solution used in many printing and photography labs, and can be made at home.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • PVA glue
  • Water
  • Ammonium dichromate crystalline powder (potassium dichromate can be used as substitute)
  • Bowl
  • Whisk and Spoon
  • Dark container with lid
  • Rubber Gloves, apron and respiratory mask

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  1. 1

    Mix 1 tablespoon of Ammonium Dichromate with 59.1ml of water in a bowl. Stir until dissolved.

  2. 2

    Pour 170gr of PVA glue into the solution. Stir vigorously for two minutes or until mixed in throughly.

  3. 3

    Whisk the solution and add continue adding equal portions of glue and ammonium dichromate until the solution becomes a slate blue colour and slightly thickens.

  4. 4

    Pour the solution into a dark, non-see-through container. Cover the solution and store in a dark area, away from light sources.

Tips and warnings

  • Potassium Dichromate can also be used, but light sensitivity is much more intense and this results in lower exposure time and very brittle texture.
  • Experiment with different mixture ratios to achieve a desired effect. This can vary depending on room temperature and light source. More ammonium dichromate mixed in generally creates faster exposure but the stencil will be brittle.
  • Ammonium Dichromate chemical solutions are extremely toxic. Ensure that you work in a well-ventilated area and wear adequate respiratory and skin protection.
  • Keep Ammonium Dichromate away from heat or flame as it will explode. Prolonged exposure to the substance can cause cancer. This is a hazardous material and needs to be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

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