San Diego Screen Printing | What To Do When Your Screens Are Burned

This content was written for BREAKOUT CREATIVE

As BreakOut Creative grew, we spent time communicating, learning and physically visiting other print shops to see how they run, what chemicals they used and the process as a whole. The Screen Printing San Diego industry as a whole uses a lot of different techniques and styles, and no one uses the same exact process and products to do the work. One part of this process is burning screens. What is burning screens? That sounds like a bad thing. Why would you “burn” anything!? In this article, we’re going to go over the basics of what “burning a screen” means. If you have more questions about what a screen is, or other parts of the process, check out our series of Long Lasting Prints articles.

After a screen is coated with emulsion, it dries in a dark room. This is because the emulsion is a photo sensitive chemical, meaning it can’t be exposed to light until it’s ready for it’s purpose! Screen Printing San Diego workers know this is very important to maximize the quality of your prints. When a screen is fully dry, it’s ready to be burned.

Film, which we will cover in more detail in another article, is a transparent sheet printed on using a printer. Remember overhead transparencies? It’s the same deal. It’s clear, so light can pass through it, but not through the parts that it’s printed on. Some printers use vellum, or tracing-type paper as well. At BreakOut, we prefer to use film, as it creates a more professional, more precise end result. The film (which is printed with your image in black ink only) is placed on the screen. The screen is then placed upon a huge box with a glass top. In our case, we have a lid that closes over the top. The lid is made with a wet-suit type material that covers the top. A vacuum sucks all the air out, and creates a seal to allow the glass top, the film, and then the screen to be as tightly pushed together as possible.

Here comes the part where the term “burn” is used. Screen Printing San Diego customers are looking for the best “burn” possible. In order to do that, after air is sucked out, and the seal is tight and complete, a shutter is opened (or a bulb is turned on), allowing light to be exposed to the elements. Now we’re “burning the screen”. Light passes through the glass top, through the film, and on to the screen. The only place light doesn’t hit, is where the film is printed! This leaves that particular part of the emulsion soft. The other parts of the emulsion are hardened. The amount of time emulsion is exposed to light depends on many different factors from type of emulsion, to type of screen mesh, to type of light bulb. In a typical case, exposing can be anywhere from about 1 to 8 min.

Once the screen is finished exposing. The light is turned off, the screen is removed and taken to the wash out booth. Here, water is applied to the screen either with a hose or a pressure washer. As the water hits the screen. the parts of the emulsion that were NOT exposed to light soften up and simply dissolve out of the screen. The screen is then dried again, and is now ready to be setup for printing! Screen Printing San Diego shops might all use different products, burn times, and slightly different methods, but the process itself is always the same.

At BreakOut, we strive to find the best procedures, products and chemicals to create the very best end result. In doing so, you can rest assured that your printed product has a long lasting life and the quality of print is the best! If you have any questions, please call is at 858-513-1799 or visit us online at www.BreakOut.CO