How to Tape Retensionable Screen Print Frames

Screen printers have devised many different ways to tape a screen printing frame. Having visited many shops in many different countries, I have also seen all types of tape used. Some printers use packaging tape from office supply stores. Others even use duct tape. Thankfully, many will use the more expensive solvent-resistant block out tapes, which were designed for screen printing inks.

The techniques that I will review in this story, I learned about sixteen years ago, when I attended an SGIA training course on screen making. The products that I recommend for taping screens are the ones used in the course. They happen to be the products that RTape makes, though I wasn’t working for RTape at the time.

What we didn’t use was packaging tape. And we didn’t use duct tape either. Many of these packaging tapes are bad news for screens. Here’s the reason. These tapes leave gooey residue on the mesh and frame. Residue that is difficult to remove. Professional block out tapes peel off cleanly from the mesh without leaving adhesive residue. Sure these tapes cost more, but you spend less time on clean-up.

In one class we learned the right way to tape retensionable frames, such as the Newman Roller Frames. The technique that I learned can be applied to taping any type of screen. This story reviews those step-by-step procedures.

When taping a retensionable frame, there is absolutely no reason to apply the tape to the rails of the frame. If you adhere the tape to the rails, you will likely leave adhesive residue on them. And when you retension the screen, the tape will pull away from the frame. What’s important is that the block our tape forms a leak-proof seal on the mesh in the frame.

In taping the inside or well side of the frame, I recommend using of RTape Split Liner Tape, shown in the photo below. (The well side, which is also referred to as the squeegee side, is the side that you pour the ink on.) This block out tape features a back slit release liner protecting the adhesive side of the tape.

Split Liner Tape

After shooting a screen and washing out the image, make sure that the screen is completely dry before taping. Any moisture will cause a water-based adhesive to deteriorate. This can result in ink leakage during printing. It can also result in adhesive residue on the frame and mesh following tape removal.

In taping the screen, you will remove only half of the release liner. Only this half, with the exposed adhesive, is applied to the mesh of the frame. The unexposed half, with the release liner in tact, merely rests along the rails of the frame. In the procedure outlined in this instructional story, you first tape the corners and then you apply tape along the sides. Be sure that the half of the tape applied to the mesh is perfectly flat, without any wrinkles. Wrinkles are points where ink leakage can begin.

1. Cut half way through a 6” piece of block out tape, creating two flaps, as show in the picture below. When using split liner tape, remove the liner covering the adhesive on the two flaps.

2. Fold one flap over another to form a corner section.

3. Apply the corner sections to the corners of the screen. Make sure that the application of the tape is perfectly flat against the mesh of the screen, with no wrinkles. Remember: wrinkles will cause ink leaks.

4. Apply block out tape between the corner sections.

5. When using Split Liner™ tapes or Zone Coat™ tapes, tape the top halves of the sections with a small piece of tape.

6. Turn the frame over so the print side is facing you. Apply RTape Blue Block Out tape on the print side of the frame, aligning the tape with the tape applied to the squeegee side of the frame. Some screen printers only apply tape to the well or squeegee side of the frame. I recommend taping both sides of the mesh. By following this procedure, we found that the tape applied to the inside of the mesh will last much longer.

After applying the tape to the screen, coat the screen using liquid block out between the stencil and the block out tape. Do not use block out tape to mask off this area. Tape adhesive can ooze at the edges of any tape product. During printing, the squeegee can transfer pieces of oozing adhesive to the open areas of the screen. This adhesive contamination can inhibit ink flow, causing spotting and pinholes.

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