High Build Stencils – How to guide

How to Create High build stencils

Illustrated Step by Step Guide

Looking to give your designs the edge with a 3D raised look or wanting to add some texture to your designs?  High build stencils are also used extensively when printing circuit boards, applying varnishes to give a raised feel and for applications such as non-slip socks.  Then you will need know how to create a high build stencil.

1 High Build Stencils

You have a couple of options, you can use direct emulsion and build up the coats or you can use a capillary film – which is a sheet already coated with an emulsion.  In this article we are using Chromaline Phat Film which is the quickest and easiest way to create the high build stencil.

Phat Film comes in various sizes giving a stencil depth from 100 – 700 microns,  in this article we are using 200 micron film,  to give you some comparison a 43T mesh screen with a coat on both squeegee and print side will give you stencil depth of around 25 microns.

So to get the same stencil depth as a 200 micron film, that works out that you would need at least 9 – 10 coats of emulsion which needs to be applied when the screen has dried, which equals lots of work and lots of time (over a day to prepare one screen!).  Also to get consistent coats is difficult and there is always a risk that another emulsion coat which be added to a coat which has not completely dried which reduces light sensitively and can lead to premature stencil failure.

2 High Build Stencils

How did we do it?

Step 1

We printed out our film positive as per normal, we are using  an Epson 1500W with Blacquer Ink – it is really important that the artwork is as dark as possible.  Hold your positive up to the light and if you can see the light through the artwork then print 2 copies out and stick them together with invisible tape.  TIP – you can print one of the copies out in Red, which is a colour which blocks UV light.   PHAT film is coated in a Photopolymer emulsion which is fast exposing but you need to be as accurate with exposure timings as much as possible.

3 High Build Stencils

Step 2

Degrease your screen as per normal using a degreaser and power hose.  In this article we are using a 32T screen.  It is best to use low mesh count screens when using high build stencils. Make sure your screen is completely free of grease and dirt.

4 High Build Stencils

Dry the screen.

Step 3

We use a standard dual cure emulsion to laminate the PHAT film onto the mesh.  We performed the steps in sub dued light.
Remove the cover sheet of the PHAT film.

5 High Build Stencils

Place the screen print side down onto the PHAT film, we are lucky enough to have a clean platen to rest on otherwise use a table (make sure the surface is clean and free of any dust).

6 High Build Stencils

Put some blocking tape squeegee side of the screen around the edges of the film.

7 High Build Stencils


We will need to laminate the PHAT film to the mesh using a dual cure emulsion, you can pretty much use any dual cure emulsion – in this article we are using Macdermid Autosol 5000 which was already sensitised and ready to go.   We poured a ridge of emulsion onto the taped area of the mesh.

9 High Build Stencils

We then used a squeegee (Medium 75 green are perfect for this) to cover the PHAT film. Use the same pressure as if you were flooding the screen.  You will likely have to coat 4 times using the squeegee – if you can hear the squeegee rub on the mesh it means you need more coats of emulsion.

10 High Build Stencils

Put any excess emulsion back in the pot.

11 High Build Stencils
Put the screen in your drying cabinet.  Make sure the emulsion is completely dry before moving to the next step.

Peel off the thicker release sheet (if the release sheet puts up some resistance then leave the screen to dry for a little longer) then try again.  After you have removed the sheet then put the screen back in the drying cabinet for 5 mins or so.

12 High Build Stencils

Step 4

Exposing the artwork
Align the film positive to the PHAT film

13 High Build Stencils

We then exposed the screen for 350 seconds, we are using a WPS Mini Exposure Unit (uses actinic tubes) with built in drying cabinet.  We are using a 200 micron film so you will need to adjust the timings of your exposure unit based on the bulb strength, type of bulb and thickness of the film.

14 High Build Stencils

Step 5

Washing out the Stencil
After the screen has completed the exposure time then we are ready to wash out the stencil.  The best way to do this is to prepare some hot water (hot bath temperature).  Use a sponge, dip it in the hot water and gently rub the stencil.  If you don’t use hot water you could spend 10 minutes or more trying to washout the stencil using the power hose by itself.

15 High Build Stencils

16 High Build StencilsWhen the stencil is clear, use the power hose (or power washer on low pressure) to wash off any residue. Remove the blocking tape. Give the squeegee side a spray and start to remove the blocking tape, don’t be surprised to see some evidence of emulsion run off suggesting under exposure.  Don’t worry this is normal but make sure you give it a good enough wash squeegee side to make sure there is no emulsion residue in the Stencil.

17 High Build Stencils
The screen is now ready to go in the drying cabinet.  Don’t worry if you see any blisters around the edges of the film – this is because the light has not gone through the blocking tape.  If there is blistering across the film then the film is underexposed.

18 High Build Stencils

When the screen is completely dry we are now ready to apply blocking tape to uncovered areas of the screen.  As an option when you are laminate the PHAT film with emulsion you could cover up the rest of the screen – in this article we have used blocking tape.

19 High Build Stencils

Step 6

We are using WPS Premium Cotton White Ink and a 65 Blade (Red) Squeegee – softer the blade the better as we need to get plenty of ink to flood into the stencil.  We double flooded the stencil prior to printing.

20 High Build Stencils

To increase the opacity and depth of the print, we printed out the stencil – flash dried the ink and double flooded the stencil again and printed again. (AKA Print – Flash – Print)

21 High Build Stencils

Important – with a high build print, there is a lot of ink on the garment.  You will need to increase the curing time to ensure of the ink is completely cured.

22 High Build Stencils

What do you need to create a High Density Stencil?

We used the following equipment and consumables:-

WPS Degreaser

Epson 1500W using Blacquer High Density Black Ink

A4 Inkjet Positive Paper

Chromaline PHAT film 200 micron

Autosol 5000 Dual Cure Emulsion (laminate the film onto the mesh)]

Blocking tape

Aluminium Screen 23 x 31 32T Mesh

Squeegee Wood – Blade 75 Green

Squeegee Wood – Blade 65 Red

WPS Mini Exposure Unit with Integrated Drying Cabinet

WPS Premium Cotton White Plastisol Ink

KFIX hitak spray

WPS 6 colour 6 station carousel
We used a Hot Air Gun to touch try the ink instead of a flash dryer and we used a Heat Press for curing – if printing a production run we would use a tunnel dryer.

Ulano Capillary Film


Looking for an alternative to direct emulsion?

Textile Capillary Film is a viable alternative to direct emulsion. It is intended for standard textiles, using conventional non-aqueous Plastisol inks. Ulano film produces superb stencils quickly, consistently and with no mess or waste, giving a controlled coating thickness. With the added advantage minimal training is required. It dries quickly giving you a fast stencil turnaround thus speeding production

Prepackaged film sheets

The film is available in 2 different sizes and is sold in packs of 5 sheets.

Simple step by step instructions can be found at http://www.ulano.com/TechData/EZ-FILM30tds2012.pdf

There is also an online tutorial on youtube which can be found at :-


Before using the products listed in this category please make sure you are familiar with the relevant product safety data sheets in the following link. http://www.wickedprintingstuff.com/links.html

buy it here Ulano Capillary Film.

Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies

Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies

  • Easier stencil production for screen printers.
  • Improve production times
  • Improve screen quality

Over the last few years various new pieces of equipment have come into the marketplace promising a revolution in stencil production. We thought we would take time out and look at the different technologies, consider the promises made and give a view about how they work, the pros and the cons, and if these technologies would suit your business.


We are going to look at the

  • Digital Screen Makers (DSM) from RISO
    • Goccopro 100
    • Goccpro QS200
  • Direct to Screen or Computer to Screen (DTS or CTS) Systems –
    • Exile FREEStyler
    • Exile Spyder II system.

There are plenty of other DTS or CTS systems but we are focussing on the most popular in the UK.

The fundamental difference between DSM and DTS (sorry about the use of abbreviations!) is that DSM uses a silicon coated mesh (RISO refer to the Mesh as Media), the DSM machines have a thermal print head which burns off the silicon film leaving the stencil. The DTS systems print directly to a photo sensitive emulsion standard screen printing screen using ink jet or wax head technologies. Hope you are keeping up at the back!



Digital Screen Makers (RISO Goccopro 100 / QS200) Direct to Screen (CTS) (Exile FREEStyler / SPYDER II)
Pro Con Pro Con
Creates the stencil without the traditional process of using of screen degreasing, photo sensitive emulsion, dark room, film positives and washout. Simplifying and giving a clean process (which is a big Pro)


Good for quick turnaround low volume printing. Ideal for printers with no previous screen printing experience.


Work like a computer printer so relatively easy to install and implement. It does not need a RIP.


Lower foot print – they do not take much space.


You do not need a huge stock of frames.



Use proprietary mesh which is expensive and limited in options (currently 4 mesh counts available equivalent to 80T / 72T (Goccopro 100 only) / 48T and 28T).  Need to budget £7.00 – £15 per screen not including stretching cost.


Mesh is not as robust as traditional mesh so print runs are limited for 400 or so prints before the mesh starts to break down. Some printers use silicon oil or a mesh hardener to extend life.


Limited stencil versatility e.g. printing plastisol transfer is very tricky as you can’t do much about stencil depth.


Mesh not suited for all solvent inks


After you have printed 9 times out of 10 the mesh goes in the bin. There are some techniques to keep prints but don’t bank on it.


Machines are not maintenance free, thermal heads do need to be kept clean.


Thermal approach is simple and effective however ash can get left in the stencil reducing ink opacity. The remedy is to use a mesh cleaner.

Ideal for established printers looking to increase throughput and productivity. Targeted at printers using 20 – 30 screens per day. Uses the traditional approach using photo sensitive emulsion, exposing and wash out.


Replaces the need for film positive printing (especially when using inkjet printers) which can be expensive, slow and error prone.


Aids registration as units normally have standard automatic printing registration methods e.g. MHM pin system / M & R Triloc


Produces very high quality stencils which would be very difficult to achieve using traditional film positive process. Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 to 110 lpi depending on the system


Takes advantage of current assets e.g. exposure units, screen printing frames and washout. Existing printers may find this technology easier to embed.


Works with all inks and mesh types.

Initial purchase price for the bigger units is very high so making DTS cost prohibitive to smaller or mid-market printers.


DTS requires consumables so there is an ongoing running cost Typically ranging from 0.25p to 0.70p depending on chosen system.


More evolution than revolution.

Some DTS systems use inkjet technology which generally speaking does not give the same level of quality of a wax ink based system used in higher end systems




Goccopro 100

GocoproHow does it work? Similar to a computer printer, you load the Goccopro 100 with a roll of mesh, you then output the artwork directly to the Goccopro 100 which creates the stencil and automatic cuts the mesh. Take the mesh and stretch it on to a quick stretch frame (there are some different frame options some very innovative), register on your carousel and print. When you have finished you discard the mesh and start again.


DSM ProcessSource: RISO website

What is good about it? Compact, quick, easy to use, the quickest way I have ever made a stencil – 5 minutes in total. Ideal for point of sale applications and very quick, simple, ideal low volume work.

What is not so good about it? Small print width (11.69” wide and up to 31.5” long), only useful for single colour jobs or lose aligned multi-colour work (this is the drawback of having to stretch the screen after the Goccopro 100 creates the stencil). It has limited mesh counts. Printing onto dark garments using the quick stretch screen is challenging, as classic ‘print / flash / print’ steps to build up the ink deposit to be opaque enough is difficult, some of the more robust stretch screens could give a better result – you might need to use a discharge ink. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.

Goccpro QS200

Goccopro QS200

The big brother to the Goccopro 100, but works slightly differently. You create a stretched screen first either using a quick stretch frames (there are many options out there) or a self-stretching screen like a Newman frame. You can glue the RISO mesh to a standard aluminium frame, but this is very tricky compared to re-stretching traditional mesh. You load the stretched frame on the bay, select print from your computer and the QS200 will create the stencil. You then register the screen on your carousel and print as per normal. When you have finished you discard the mesh.

DSM process 2Source: RISO website

What is good about it? Easy to use. Supports frames up to A2 size so works with 23 x 31” screen sizes, you can use it for multi-colour work, and you can use different frame types interchangeably. Good for low production printing. Quick, the fastest I have created an A4 sized stencil from start to finish is around 10 minutes (larger artwork will take longer) including stretching the screen.   Ideal for point of sale applications, good low to medium production e.g. 20 – 400 prints. Typical profile would be a DTG or Vinyl / Laser Transfer printer wanting to increase margin, screen printing 50 T Shirts with the same design would be quicker, faster and more profitable than using other technologies.

What is not so good about it? Limited mesh counts, a busy printer will experience head alignment and cleaning issues – some dirt on the print head will ruin the stencil and waste mesh. You don’t achieve high tensions on self-stretch screens, up to 19 ncm (newtons per cm) (but ok for manual printing) if you are lucky compared to 25 ncm on a brand new stretched tradition frame, so you might have to adjust print technique.   You would need to use a Newman style frame if using the machine on a fully automatic carousel and use tape to reinforce the mesh. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.

FREESTyler Direct to Screen



How does it work?   You place an emulsion coated screen on the flat bed of the FREEStyler (it comes with various clamps that came be used to aid registration), you then control how the stencil is printed using RIP software that comes with the system. It replaces the Film Positive printing process, the FREEStyler uses inkjet technology to print the artwork directly on the screen with a quick drying ink which is water soluble.   When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass on your exposure unit.

What is good about it? Designed for the small and midmarket with an appropriate pricing structure, supports frames up to 36” x 26”, (creates stunning stencils Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 lpi) which would be difficult to achieve accurately with film positives printed with an inkjet printer. Opens up a new host of opportunities for the small / midmarket printers creating 30-40 screens per day (probably will do a lot more than that but note that the consumable costs will mount up and the bigger systems might be better choice) likely to have an automatic carousel or a number of manual / semi-automatic carousels. Takes between 3 – 12 minutes to make a screen depending on what settings you are using. Uses a clamp system to enable quick accurate registration. Makes use of existing investments of screens and equipment.

What is not so good about it? There is an ongoing consumable cost for the ink (typical £0.70p per screen), it does not replace the process but complements it so not exactly revolutionary. It is a brand new system so it is a bit too early to know if there are drawbacks.

SPYDER II Direct to ScreenSpider

How does it work? Similar concept to the FREEStyler, you place a coated screen in the SPYDER. The stencil is printed using RIP software and uses prints wax ink which is water soluble. When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass. The system uses bi-drectional printing and is very fast – approx 1 minute to create the screen mask.

What is good about it? Its quick, creates stunning stencils (it has a 1200 dpi and supports up to 110 lpi). It is targeted and designed for large commercial printers with challenging requirements creating large numbers of screens on a daily basis typically might have 2 or more automatic machines. Ongoing consumable cost is low approx. £0.25p per screen.

What is not so good about it? Reassuringly expensive

They are a number of CTS / DTS systems in the market place e.g. M&R i-Image ST Computer to Screen Imaging System, CST GmbH (more high end solutions for industrial printers rather than the textile market) all of them having their own pros and cons but work on a similar concept. Some solutions have an integrated LED exposure unit which offers some advantages in optimising the process. However in some respects a CTS without exposure unit is a better solution as you would be able to produce screens faster if in a high production environment than with the integrated solution.

In conclusion

Digital Screen Makers and Direct to Screen systems are a very different proposition, it is a little like comparing apples and pears. The key thing is around being clear about your requirements and business objectives before making investments in either technologies. The Digital Screen Makers are niche products which for some printers will open up new opportunities e.g. a DTG printer wanting to provide limited screen printing options. Outside of that niche the traditional approach using a Direct to Screen technology might be the better bet as you will also gain from the versatility of the traditional process. You might actually have a need for both, using the more modern technology at a trade show or exhibition where turn round speeds are vital.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements and we can help you to find the right solution for your needs.

Tunnel Dryers

When is the right point to invest in a tunnel dryer?

As your volumes grow waiting several minutes for a garment to dry using a flash dryer is no longer going to be an option. If you want to cure dozens of garments an hour then you going to need a tunnel dryer.

We have produced this handy chart to enable you to make a selection of the right tunnel dryer for you but please contact us with any questions.


Wicked Printing Stuff manufacture the amazing WPS Panther Texitunnel Dryer Range – one of the most well known brand of dryers in Europe with a reputation for quality, reliability, longevity and performance :-
•    Texitunnel 700 – the most highly efficient small dryer in the market and the most popular dryer in UK, suitable for curing up to 500 garments per hour plastisol ink. Available in either Single Phase or Three Phase power options. Ideal for manual printers.
•    Texitunnel 700L – longer drying oven idea for Screen Printers and Digital Printers used with Annajet, Viper, Brother, Resolute DTG printers, Epson DTG, Texjet and inks needed to cure high volumes of garments, available for Three Phase Power. Ideal for manual / semi automatic and DTG printers.
•    Texitunnel 8000 series – ideal for automatic screen printers and high performance digital printers. High curing throughput. One of the most popular dryers in Europe.

If you require a longer tunnel,  wider belt or have specific requirements then please contact us. For further detailed information about our dryers please download our comprehensive eight page  fact pack

Our full range can be found here Tunnel Dryers.

When I print my shirt, my image seems to be a little blurry.

When I print my shirt, my image seems to be a little blurry.

Registering Your Print

Registering Your Print

Again this can be caused by a number of things: Are the screens tight in their clamps and the micro registration tightened? As you print the force will alter your screen’s position on the print surface. So, if the clamps holding your screens are loose then your print will be out of registration. This would especially be true on 1 colour prints.

Are the platens secured to the press and have you applied a good amount of tak to hold the garment in place. If you are using a flash, and after your second pull or colour it is burring, then the flash could be shrinking the shirt, thus distorting your print. Also if you flash for two long between colours you will start to cure the ink which can result in blurred / poor print quality.

Has your screen mesh lost it tightness? The screen needs to be tight so that your image is tight. Time to restretch.

Is your mesh count and squeegee right? It can be surprising how much of a difference this can make when printing.

via Wicked Printing Stuff, your home for screen printing equipment and supplies – FAQs.