I’ve been stretching my own screens for a long time now. When I first started silk screening over 9 years ago, it didn’t take long to realize how expensive a pre-stretched screen is at any art supply store. To cut down on my costs, I started stretching them myself. It takes some extra time, but, once you’ve got it down, it’s a cinch! With a little practice, you can knock out some screens in no time.
What you will need to get started:
4 stretcher bars
1. Assemble your 4 stretcher bars. I usually get mine online at http://www.dickblick.com/
2. Lay out your screen mesh. I get my mesh from http://www.silkscreeningsupplies.com/ Most of my drawings are highly detailed, so I order the 200 mesh count screen. The higher the thread count, the higher the detail. Place the assembled stretcher bar on top of the mesh. It's a good rule of thumb to leave about 1-2 inches of mesh all around. You'll end up trimming off the excess in the end, but it's important that you have enough mesh to hold onto while you're stretching the screen.
3. Leaving about 2 inches extra, cut your mesh with a sharp pair of scissors.
4. Once your mesh is cut, while holding the mesh and stretcher bar together, place them perpendicular to the table. Begin stapling the mesh to the bar, starting with the middle, top side. Flip the bar over to the bottom, middle side and repeat. Do this to the 2 sides as well. Work your way out in the same order—top to bottom, side to side—until reaching the corners. As you work your way out, begin pulling the screen taunt. You do not want any slack in the screen!
5. Trim off the excess mesh.
6. Since your stretcher bars are wood, you’re going to want to duct tape the wood so that it won’t warp each time you wash the screen out. Duct tape the stretcher bar area—top, bottom, and sides. You’re going to lose a tiny bit of screen area, but that’s okay. Make sure to get the underside of the screen and all 4 corners. Trust me, you’ll be thankful that you did when it comes to drying your screen. This will insure that no water will get in and you can print confidently, drip-free!
Now your screen is ready for you and your artistic vision. Good job!