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How to Screen Print on Skateboard Decks?

How to Screen Print on Skateboard Decks?

To screen print on the skateboard decks can be challenging as it isn’t a flat surface but a concave one. However, we will get through a step-by-step guide on how easily we can screen print skateboard decks. So, let’s get started.

Step by Step Guide to Screen Print on Skateboard Decks:

Screen printing on skateboard decks may be tricky as it isn’t a flat surface. Beforehand, you need to have some screen printing skills to get started. If you are a beginner, better practice on flat surfaces before attempting skateboards.

Here, we will be discussing the two and four-color screen printing methods on skateboard decks. So, let us get started:

1. Get your frames first:

Take three frames 16 inches wide and 24 inches long. Get screen mesh of 160 and 200 mesh count from online or a local store.

  • The first step is to make screens that you are going to print with. You need to make two frames of 160 mesh and one frame of 200 mesh count.
  • Start by cutting the screens two inches larger than the frames from all sides. Then fold the sides and stable it as tight as you can onto the frames.
  • Coat the screens with a photo emulsion using an aluminum scoop coater because it helps spread the emulsion evenly and is not too thick. You can get a jar of photo emulsion like Jacquard if you are not using it fast enough.

Because speedball comes in a larger jar that is suitable for frequent uses, after you coated all your screens, just put them in a dark place or under the sink to dry.

2. Working with Images:

In the second step, prepare the graphics with animated imagery to print on the skateboard deck. Finally, you can make a pencil drawing of a character, scan it or directly draw it using photoshop.

In Photoshop, you need to make three layers of the graphic. They are:

  1. White layer, which is a base coat
  2. One color is for the shade
  3. And the third layer is for the skin tone, and
  4. Blank line art.
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Most probably, you gonna rely on the color of the skateboard deck. You have to print out the transparency of each layer that you want to print as solid black. You also need to design your image to have something called a trap, which means the different layers have a little bit of overlap. It is important to do away with some slight misregistration.

Further, we will start printing a two-color image with black and white inks. It will be good practice for those who aren’t advanced. Then we will get to the four-colors printing as we prepared the graphic in photoshop.

3. Take a print of the image:

Use a laser printer to print the graphics on a transparent film. Then, it will be used as films to burn the screens. So, once you have your films made, you could use them to expose the screens you previously coated with emulsion.

Moreover, some people like to make two transparencies of the same image they expose to make it extra opaque. But it works well with a single film for exposing the screen. We are printing two-color graphics, i.e., with white and black color.

4. Expose the screen:

Place the printed transparencies onto the emulsion-coated screens and place them under some photo lights/CFLs/LED lights.

Cover it with a glass so that it holds the transparencies nice and flat. So that you can get the sharpest image possible on the screen. This process is known as the burning of screens. Then go to your wash booth or kitchen sink to wash it out with a spray hose.

5. Tape up screen edges:

After the screens have dried,  tape up the edges of the screen so that when you are printing, none of the ink can squeeze out and make a mess.

Some people use cheap packing tape to line the edges of their screens. However, spending some money to get the actual screen printing tape works better.

6. Skateboard Deck two-color Screen Printing procedure:

Grab the stack of blank skateboard decks you have got ready to print them.

  • First, you need to set up a jig for printing the skateboard decks. Then, you can have two pieces of wood that have some bolts sticking out of them that can fit into the inner truck holes on the skateboard deck.
  • Then, set up your screen with the screen printing clamps. So, you can flip up and down at hinges.

The first thing you need to do is get things lined up to print in the location on the skateboard deck. Then, use some screws to screw some little pieces of wood in place.

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6.1. Screen Printing the first layer of skateboard decks:

Once everything is in place, apply white ink to the screen, which will be the base layer on the graphic. You can use regular Speedball poster ink as it works pretty well. Moreover, the tricky about printing skateboard decks is their concave surface. It isn’t a flat surface.

So, for every skateboard, use fingers to bend the squeegee’s blade to conform to the curvature of the concave surface. In this process, the layer you are printing is more centrally located. Therefore, it’s a little bit easier.

After you finish printing up a layer, you need to clean up your screens with water and be re-used.

6.2. Printing the second layer:

Once the first layer of print on the skateboard deck dried sufficiently, you need to set up to print the second layer.

  • Fix your screen into the clamps and start aligning it to get the correct registration. And then tighten the clamps down.
  • Then apply black ink to the screen, which is gonna be the second layer of the graphic. You can also do with a single color if you are not advanced to print multiple colors on a curved surface.

One problem is that you can have ink under the skin because it squeezes out. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the reasons is the concave surface of the skateboard deck. The edges of the deck are about half-inch away from the screen. So, that quite a bit of a gap that allows ink to seep through. The reason is the ink can be too runny. You might look into some additive that can give the ink a little more grip.

After the printing is done, remove the screen printing tape from the screen and use emulsion remover to soften the emulsion on the screen to rinse them out and reclaim your screens and use them again.

7. Four-color Screen Print Method for Skateboard Deck:

Let’s get into a more complicated yet easy-to-print four-layers on skateboard decks.

  • Just like before, line the edges of the frame with the screen printing tape. So, that ink couldn’t seep out and make a mess.
  • So you have your three screens all burned, taped up, and ready to go. That is to say. We are going through the same process as before.
  • Tape down the printed transparency on the skateboard and use that to do the initial registration for the white base layer you’re going to print first.

As we discussed above, we gonna print three layers, i.e., a white base, shade, skin tone layer, and blank ink line. So, let us start printing the white base.

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7.1. Printing the white base:

And then also the same as before, but the white screen printing ink and lay a bead on the top of the screen and start printing.

The first pass is always difficult because the ink isn’t flooded onto the screen. In flooding screens, you make a pre-pass before printing onto the object that you’re printing.

After you get a white printed base on the skateboard, wash the screen.

7.2. Printing the skin tone layer:

The next step is to apply some custom colors as you need a skin tone and ink for the color of the shade on the character. You can add some colors to white, such as pink, blue, and yellow. Besides, you also have to mix up the skin tone. When you are ready with ink, let us get to print.

You may start to print the skin tone layer first. Then, follow the same procedure of flooding ink onto the screen and spreading with a squeegee. You gonna see the graphics come together layer by layer.

7.3. Screen Printing shaded area of Skateboard Decks:

Print the final layer with the custom ink mixture made previously.

You can print the shade with a couple of different colors so that there is more variety. Follow the screen printing steps we discussed above.

7.4. Printing black ink liner:

Finally, we got to print the final ink layer, i.e., the black ink liner. Again, bead the screen with black ink and pull the squeegee to pass the ink through the stencil.

Once you have completed the print job, it is mostly cleaning things up, reclaiming screens, and setting them out to dry.

You have one last step left. Just spray the printed boards with some satin clear coat to seal that graphic nicely.

The best of screen printing skateboard decks is you can sell or use them.

Written by Davis Brown

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