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.

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.

Chromaline Phat film

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.

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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.

Degreasing a screen

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.

preparing the PHAT film

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).

Positioning the film

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

Applying Blocking tape to the screen


Needed 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.

Sealing Phat film with dual cure emulsion

Using 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.

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Put any excess emulsion back in the pot.

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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.

getting read to expose the phat film

Step 4

Exposing the artwork
Align the film positive to the PHAT film

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

Blurry Screen Print

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

Registering Your Screen Print
Registering Your Print

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 could 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.

Organic Products and the Soil Association

Thinking Organic ..

Over the last 20 years or so we have heard much about Organic farming, when going to the supermarket we are now presented with many organic options for fruit & vegetables, dairy, meat and other products.

Our industry too has been starting to change with ink products, chemicals and textiles which are Organic. Organic textiles are based on materials grown on organic farms, and manufactured without harmful chemicals. This is better for local wildlife, animals and people. Clients are increasingly demanding quality products that meet these standards.

You may have noticed certifications such as Soil Association Certification and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) symbols appearing on certain ink products and chemicals. The symbols mean that products have been through a stringent certification process to ensure that the products are made using Organic methods and techniques.

Soil Association

Who are the Soil Association?

The Association was founded in 1946 by a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists with the overall objective of campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. The Association is a UK charity it is not a government body but has gained a worldwide reputation for driving and campaigning for Organic standards. The Soil Association played a leading role in the development of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and since 2006 have been certifying businesses to the GOTS standard.   (source – Soil Association website)

Why choose products which are Soil Association approved?

So you are confident that the inks / chemicals have been manufactured and processed to a strict criteria. Organic products are not just more socially responsible, generally better for all us but provide unique commercial opportunities.

Can I put the Soil Association Organic logo on my products if I have used Soil Association approved inks?

T Shirts bought from a garment distributor and printed with Soil Association approved ink does not make the T Shirt approved. To gain and competitive edge and appeal to this growing client market you need to become certified in order to use the symbols. The certification covers not just the inks and chemicals used, but also the environmental management the way waste water is treated as well as other factors. Both the Soil Association and the GOTS symbols are registered trademarks which can only be used by certified companies with approved products.


The purpose of this article is to give a simple summary it’s a big area and we will be writing more articles on the topic. For more information we highly recommend that you check out the Soil Association website and consider the certification process for your products or business.



We sell a number of products which are certified from manufacturers such as FujiFilm Sericol and Magna Colours.

Sericol Texiscreen Aqua AJ Waterbased Screen Printing Inks

Sericol TexCharge TC Discharge Waterbased Inks

Magna Colours MagnaPrint Discharge ULF Inks

Permaset Permatone Inks are certified by the Soil Association – The Supercover range is NOT certified.

Aluminium or Wooden frames

screen printing frames

There are two basic screens, they can both be used as silk screens with any mesh, the difference is the frame, one is wooden the other is made out of aluminium. Aluminium are more durable, If you are doing a lot of printing then you want a screen that will not warp and maintain tension (this is important). Wooden screens are often a lot cheaper but can lead poor quality printing. I suggest buying aluminium screens as they last longer. Wooden screens tend to warp due to wear and tear + reclaiming, seem to lose tension quicker so not great for multi colour work.

Aluminium screens are a bit more expensive though but always work the investment.

Wicked Printing Stuff sell many products to clean and extend the life of your screens, including a restretching service.

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. So no pinholes and if you are a Plastisol transfer printer it is the perfect solution.

Prepackaged film sheets

Ez  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 :-


Screen Printing Emulsion

Dye Migration Challenge

Printing Plastisol White onto 100% Polyester Garment

Dye Migration with 100% polyester garments100% Polyester Garments are becoming more and more popular, recently I tested some AWD (All We Do) Pink 100% Polyester Hoodies and some Black technical garments to see which ink worked best.  If you use a conventional plastisol or even a low bleed ink you run the risk of dye migration. So when printing onto a red garment with white plastisol ink after curing (and sometimes a day or two longer) you notice that the white ink has gone a shade of pink.  So the Dye Migration Challenge!

Printing Plastisol White onto polyester hoodies

Why does dye migration happen?

It is quite a technical discussion but it’s basically about the way polyester is made and the way the manufactures seal the dye (in particular the temperatures that are used).  The dye used turns into a gaseous substances (also known as sublimates) when the dye hits around 165 degrees Celsius, which inconveniently is around similar plastisol curing temperature.  The dye then bleeds through any ink printed on top.

So what are the options:-

Set the curing temperature to be lower and continue to monitor the temperature, note that the risk of under curing increases significantly. Check the documentation with the ink to confirm curing temperature, remember to allow for thick ink deposits.

Don’t screen print onto 100% polyester, probably not really an option for any of us as we live in a competitive world

Print a grey or black under base – a proven solution but can be expensive and not that practical especially for the smaller printer

Use a low bleed ink e.g. Rutland SF02 low bleed or Union Diamond White, in reality a great solution for Poly / Cotton blends but risks of ink bleed are still very high on 100% polyester garments.

Polyester White plastisol inkUse a specialist Polyester Plastisol ink – we sell the Best of Brands Polyester White, which works an absolute treat.  Make sure you don’t over cure the ink, but in my experience using this ink reduces risk, gives a smooth opaque finish and works a treat.


Tunnel Dryers made in the UK


800L Aquacure Tunnel Dryer



We have been building the WPS Panther Range of tunnel dryers, also known as conveyor dryers or conveyor ovens, since 2011. We manufacture the WPS Panther Tunnel Dryers range in Kent, using high quality components , uniquely designed to be maintained and serviced locally without the need for expensive maintenance contracts.

The design of WPS Panther Tunnel Dryers has been in production since the 1980’s, with thousands of the tunnel dryers still in use everyday across UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. These WPS Panther Tunnel Dryers have an unparalleled reputation for quality, reliability and performance. Very popular with the DTG (Direct To Garment) industry and now the DTF industry.  Our dryers are used  by  screen printers with large production volumes

The WPS Panther Tunnel Dryers are primarily designed for curing screen or digital printed textile inks but often used to dry solvent inks and for other industrial purposes, our tunnel dryers are being used for many different applications including the automotive, engineering and medical industries.

Other popular uses of the WPS Panther Tunnel Dryer include:-

  • curing plastisol inks
  • curing waterbased inks
  • curing DTG (Direct To Garment) inks
  • curing DTF transfers

Our tunnel dryer range caters for both small and large screen printers as it includes the ever popular 700 range of small / medium dryers and the larger 8000 series ideal for larger screen printers using automatic screen printing equipment or high throughput DTG(Direct To Garment) printers.

600 Tunnel Dryer

WPS have a great range of Panther tunnel dryers online so check here for specifications and prices or if you need a bespoke tunnel dryer solution please contact us or phone 01614426555.

When to use Plastisol Inks

When to use Plastisol screen printing inks?

  •     Textiles especially cotton and poly blends
  •     Easy to print with
  •     Eco Versions available
  •     Great colours on dark garments
  •     Specialist Inks like glitter, glow in the dark

An official distributor for Sericol inks the premier global brand and stocklist of the Union and Rutland Ink range, we also offer the cost effect WPS Range which includes a variety of specialist glow in the dark inks.

Widely used in garment printing because they are easy to print, do not dry on the screen, can be opaque on dark garments, and adhere to most textiles. They are composed primarily of PVC resin and plasticiser.  We also sell the Sericol range of PVC free inks.

All Plastisol inks need to be cured otherwise the print will come off in the wash.

Sericol Fluorescent Plastisol Inks

Which screen printing ink to use?

Are you confused which screen printing ink to use?

Which ink to choose? Plastisol, water based or solvent ink

You do need to spend a bit of time assessing which is suitable for your product and we would be glad to help and advise you. This is a little starter so you can do some more research on our website.

Water based Screen Printing Inks

  • An ultra safe product suitable for use on children’s clothing including babies
  • Suitable for use in school and colleges
  • Available for Paper and Board
  • Available for Textiles
  • For paper screen printing
  • Can be air dried.

Plastisol Screen Printing Inks

  • Only for Textiles e.g Cotton / Polyester Blends / Polyester etc
  • Easy to print with but needed to be cured  (otherwise print cracks and comes off in the wash)
  • Eco Versions available
  • Great colours on dark garments
  • Specialist Inks like glitter

Solvent Screen Printing Inks

  • Will print on non porous surfaces like metals and glass
  • Suitable for unusual substrates
  • For professional use

That gives you a start so you can start choosing the right ink for the right job. But remember we are only a phone call away should you want advice

How can I get rid of Pinholes?

Oh no Pinholes in my screen?

WPS Screen Filler

There are a few things to do, most of them are about keeping the environment clean.  This can be a little tricky in some screen printing studios.

Make sure that your coating trough is clean. I have got into the habit of washing the coating trough prior to use.

When sensitising your emulsion make sure the powder is truly ‘well stirred in’.

Make sure you have degreased your screen before you coat with emulsion, if you leave screens around without sealing them it’s surprising how much dust there is.  If you are going to use the screens immediately then seal them in a black bag.

Make sure the glass on your exposure unit is clean – dust gets every where! If you do find pinholes then you can either cover them up with tape or you use a screen filler which you can apply with a brush to cover the hole.

Make sure you use solvent resistant fillers with plastisol and solvent inks, use water resistant screen filler when using waterbased inks.