Published on November 6th, 2009 | by Greg0
It’s Crafty: Yudu and Home Screen-printing
Have you ever wanted to print your own T-shirts? We certainly have, and even have done so via small-batch printing at a local shop and some online services. But doing it at home was a whole other ballgame, and unless you wanted to use iron-on items or simple tie-dye, it was difficult. Now, thanks to Provo Craft, anyone can screen-print at home.
We’ve taken a look at a previous machine aimed at serious crafters, the Cricut from Provo Craft. And the Provo Craft Yudu has some similarities beyond the cute names- they both offer interesting feature sets to a home audience that would not otherwise be able to afford the capabilities, and both have a fairly active community of people offering support and suggestions. Both, though, are made a bit too unfriendly to novices due to technical limitations and awkward implementations.
Screen-printing is hard. It really is. Also called silkscreening, the process consists of a frame which contains a mesh (often nylon). The mesh is where you’ll create a stencil, which is how you’ll add your design. Dip the mesh in ink, press it on a T-shirt, and voila. Of course, there are various places where things can go wrong, but the Yudu makes the latter part pretty simple and also assembles materials in a convenient package so you don’t need to make your own frames and such. The trickiest part is the stencil or screen creation, and you’ll want to brush up on words like “emulsion”- you can see a video here which might clear up some questions. You spray water on the included screen, then lay on the secret sauce, the emulsion film. These are expensive at $9 or so each, touchy, and require careful handling and storage.
The emulsion screens form the main part of the system- a great result here will most likely result in a great end product. But it’s tough to achieve, taking both practice and time. After choosing your art, via a cutout from the Cricut or a transparency printed on your home inkjet printer, you use the Yudu to literally burn your chosen image onto the prepared emulsion screen. It takes about ten minutes but potentially much more if you added too much water, and then you’ll need to clean out the excess emulsion, sponging and wetting down the screen. It’s more of an art than a science, but hey- we’re making art here! Then you let it dry, another few minutes of waiting, and then you’re ready for printing. Oddly, it’s a bit hard to tell the front from the back of the screens, and this can cause issues.
So, in the end, you can print via your finished screen onto most anything of your choice. Of course, a new design will mostly require a new emulsion screen (or re-claiming it, which we won’t discuss) and going through the process again, but re-printing your designs is straightforward. You add ink to the top of the screen, squeegee it evenly over the screen, and actually push it through to your material (a T-shirt or poster). Doing it by hand is a bit awkward and messy, but isn’t too difficult. We weren’t thrilled with the results, as they felt a little amateurish- but considering the cost and time, the Yudu isn’t really about the results. It’s about the process, learning to do it yourself, and the satisfaction that comes with successfully pulling it off. And it can be fun.
Last notes- the machine is very large and fairly heavy (30+ pounds). It’s nice that there aren’t chemicals, and that you have so much control over the process. At around $200, it’s quite a bit of craftwork for the money, and the machine does seem solidly built. Overall, it’s the best screen-printing system you can buy for home use, and is a great gift for the crafter who has everything but her own custom-printed T-shirts.