Reported by Julia Stainton
Every once in a while, a manufacturer in the crafting industry creates a totally unique product that makes everyone sit up and take notice. The Yudu is one of these cool new products, and this innovation comes from Provo Craft. Now that’s a company we’re all familiar with!
When this cool product hit the Winter 2009 CHA show, I followed the links, watched the videos and basically said…wow. Wish I could try. My wishes came true and I’m really excited to be able to review this product for Craft Critique.
If you’ve been living under a crafting rock (wink) and just haven’t heard about the Yudu, it’s a personal screen print machine that will screen print onto fabric and other media. Have you ever want to personalize your own clothing or loved the look of screen printed paper? This may be a product you’ll want to try out.
The Yudu arrived on my doorstep when I totally wasn’t expecting it. I was actually away on vacation but had happened to drive back into the city to finish up some work I just did not have time to do before I left. I couldn’t believe how heavy this huge box was. This is not a mini machine; you’ll need some serious space to store it. If you’re looking for specs…it measures 27″ x 18″ x 7″. I tucked mine into the corner of the dining room and waited for a chance to play. My Yudu came well-packed and almost everything I needed to get started was included in it. I love products that come ready for use!
What’s in the Box?
- Yudu machine
- adult t-shirt platen (holds your fabric firmly in place)
- blank ink-jet transparency
- 110-mesh screen
- 2 fl oz black ink
- Platen adhesive sheet (extra sheet for future use)
- instructional DVD
- quick start guide
- emulsion sheet
- electrical outlet
- water source
- sponge for cleaning screen
- emulsion remover to create a second project
- emulsion sheets for future projects
- clear tape to tape down sides of screen
- colored ink if desired
- iron for heat setting if item is to be washed
- weight to hold down top while exposing image
- baby wipes or rags for cleanup
Now what you probably really want to know is exactly how this whole thing works. What exactly is screen printing? Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:
Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A roller or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink past the threads of the woven mesh in the open areas.
Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. It is also known as “silk screening” or “serigraphy”.
When silk screening with the Yudu, an emulsion sheet is pressed into the silk screen and allowed to dry. The Yudu comes with a great drying rack built right into the machine. You simply open the little door on the front lower edge of the Yudu and slide the silk screen frame into the rack and hit the fan button. You may need to press the fan button a few times depending on the humidity of your climate, the temperature of your work area and the dampness of the screen. I found you really needed closer to an hour to dry mine properly. The good news…there are two racks so that you can do two at once.
Once the silk screens are dry, you lay your completed transparency design on the glass light bed, cover with screen, then felt side of platen. Add weight to prevent side light from coming in, and press the exposure button. After the 8 minutes has passed, spray and lightly scrub your screen with cool water to remove green emulsion from the design area. Dry screen.
Next the really fun part. Put screen on top of lid. Mount fabric onto platen and place it in the machine. Lift screen and flood with ink. Lower lid onto fabric, and press squeegee with ink across screen. Allow to dry.
Lastly, if you plan on washing your project, make sure you heat set with an iron. You’re done!
I have to admit, it took me a few weeks to get up the courage to use the Yudu machine. I’m not too sure why I found it so intimidating, and now that I finally made myself figure it out, it’s really NOT that hard at all! It’s fun!
Perhaps it was the time spent getting to the actual printing process that intimidated me. It does take some time, but I found the actual steps really did not take that long. While the screens were drying, it was easy to go about my day or evening cleaning up after dinner, throwing in some laundry, or my favorite, sitting at the computer designing another project. My greatest frustration was getting that emulsion on properly. Once I got that figured out, things went much better. I found that to get enough water on the screen, I laid it across my kitchen sink and then spread water across the surface with my hands. This kept the water from draining off and got that emulsion in better.
The other frustration I faced with the Yudu is choosing designs that were too fine in detail to print well. Once I figured out the parameters of what images I could use and those I couldn’t, things worked much better. The most important thing I learned from my experiences is to use some test fabric when screen printing your first image so that you don’t ruin a t-shirt if it’s not going to print right. The second most important thing… like most crafts, screen printing has a learning curve. Don’t expect perfection the first time. You need practice. As the saying goes…it always makes perfect.
Creating an Image – There are many ways you can create an image to burn into the emulsion. Provocraft markets their own extremely easy to use pre-printed transparencies to go along with the Yudu. These transparency packs contain 6 trendy designs that you can immediately use to create your own shirt. This makes it extremely easy to get started and there is no designing involved.
I’m assuming though, that if you’re really wanting to use this machine, you want the Yudu because you WANT to DO. You want to design and create it yourself. It’s a form of self-expression. The Yudu comes with a blank transparency that is specially formatted for use in an ink jet printer and the Yudu machine. Provocraft says that you can use your own ink jet transparencies but to use theirs for a crisper image. I took their word for it, but if you’ve played around with this, I’d love to hear what you have to say.
When creating your own image on the computer, you also need to bear in mind that the file needs to be in black and white. BLACK & WHITE. No shades of gray. If you do want to create a multi-color image, it is possible but it is definitely an intermediate or advanced technique. You’ll need a separate screen for EACH color, be able to line them up with registration marks, and allow for dry time in between. It just wasn’t something I wanted to tackle right away. Perhaps after a little more practice. Okay. A LOT more practice.
I’m not sure why, but I always tend to go right for the tough designs to try out first. I’m a sucker for punishment I guess! The main thing I quickly found out was that the more detail on your image, the harder they are to screen print well. I love using fine lines but I found that when creating a file at 300 dpi, you really need to make sure that your lines are minimum 10 ppi. Even if you do get the lines to burn out, you don’t have a guarantee that the ink won’t clog the lines making them unprintable.
Besides computer-generation, there are a few other ways to create your design. If you like to draw freehand, you can simply draw your design right onto a transparency with a permanent marker. This is one technique that I wasn’t brave enough to try, but I think you could make some really cool doodle-style designs this way. Another way to make a design for exposing the emulsion is to layer a mask onto a transparency. There are quite a few mask products on the market right now that would make beautiful transfers. Think Heidi Swapp and Tim Holtz. If you’ve been looking for another way to use your die cut machine, this is it. Cut out your image from solid black cardstock using a die cut machine or an electronic paper cutter. Adhere to a transparency (any kind will do in this case) and then expose the emulsion.
In this day of internet, it’s a really small world and you can find information in so many places. If you’re looking for more information about the Yudu, Provo Craft has a site, www.whatdoyudu.com, that has lots of great information. Samples, videos, tutorials, a link to download the full manual, and an entire list of all the available Yudu product line. This is also a great place for support as you can e-mail your questions direct from here.
On my quick start guide, I also found a link to www.unsilenceyourself.com . There you find the Yudu promotional videos; they’ve done a really creative job with them. The site is supposed to have an on-line community where you can watch videos – check, share creative ideas – not there yet and download free artwork – nada. I’m hoping Provo Craft follows through on this site and soon. I think it would be a fabulous inspirational place. There are a couple on-line user groups that you can join that have no affiliation to Provo Craft. Check out the yudu machine group at Yahoo Groups and YuduForums. I find the crafting community is very helpful and if you’ve got a question, you’ll probably get it answered.
T-shirts: T-shirts are a no-brainer for this product. Just think of all the cool things you can say with them. This machine worked really well in printing on the knit fabric. I suggest you leave the knit fabric on the platten to dry as the knit can stretch when you are taking it off.
Woven Fabric: I tried screen printing a few different woven fabrics with the YuDu. They worked really well. You get a great image, especially on the finer woven fabrics.
Felt: I had limited success screen-printing onto the felt. I think my image was just too detailed. I’d like to try out this fabric again when a bolder image to see what happened.
Cardstock: Cardstock is super fun to print on! I loved the screen printed look. Now why would you screen print when you can just run paper through the printer? You can see and feel the difference. I just love the thin layer of opaque paint as it gives it a really unique look. You can also screen print on dark paper with a light color and have it show up. Something you cannot do with a printer. Wouldn’t hand silk screen invitations be uber cool for a special event?
Paper Bags: I was really impressed with how well the kraft paper gift bags screen printed. These would make fabulous gift bags for birthdays or holidays and if you had your own little boutique…these would be so cool!
Sticky Back Canvas: A super cool idea for your scrapbooking projects
Blending Inks: I added two different inks to the screen and then pulled them across to get a multi-inked look without using two different screens. This was super easy and fun to do and gave a great unique look.
Light Desk: The YuDu has a glass top with a light in it. Try using it for some of your other crafting needs such as embossing.
- cool new product that allows you do wear your art
- you can screen print paper as well as fabric
- The machine may look intimidating but it’s really not that difficult when you follow the directions…it’s well-engineered and user-friendly
- very little mess
- Screens can be used over and over for different designs.
- Great selection of ink colors to choose from. I especially love the metallics!
- Inks are biodegradable and can be washed down the sink.
- Cost…this is an expensive hobby…mostly in initial product cost but the emulsion sheets need to be replaced with each new design
- Time-consuming to create a project
- I just could not get the screen prints to come out as well as the Michael’s sample t-shirt for the YUDU. Were each of these hand-printed or am I doing something wrong?
- There’s not a huge source of on-line help available at this time
I’m looking forward to playing more with this very cool product. I know that I’ve barely just scratched the surface on what you can do. I love the fact that this machine can be used by beginners, but there is also so many techniques and ideas for more advanced skill levels. I’m looking forward to trying to screen print wood, some canvas wall-art and I definitely want to try a multi-ink print using layers of screens.
I’d rate the yudu as an 8 out of 10. I love mine, it’s just that cost factor that may make it difficult for many crafters to afford. At a MSRP of $299.99 US or $400.oo Canadian, the initial investment can be hard to rationalize.
Tips for Success – I thought I’d leave you with a few tips for success.
- Get that emulsion film on there well or you’ll be disappointed with the end result. Use lots of water, press well and dry thoroughly.
- Keep unused emulsion films away from the light as they are light sensitive.
- Use bold graphic images for the best results.
- If using a finer image, use less time on the exposure settings.
- Don’t rush!
- Buy the Yudu Blockout. Trust me. You need this. It fixes any spots where the emulsion may have been compromised. I’m madly tracking some down as I know it will end a lot of my headaches.
- Use plenty of ink and squeegee the screen slowly and firmly while being careful not to gouge the emulsion.
- If you’re creating with smaller designs, you can put at least two, maybe even more, on top one transparency and then emulsion sheet. I put one image up and the other upside down so that I just have to turn my screen around and then the other design is in place.
- Practice, practice, practice! Buy some inexpensive fabric to practice on before trying it on apparel. You’ll be happy you did.
So…what can you do with a Yudu? You can have a whole LOT of fun with it! Make t-shirts, home decor pieces, screen print paper. If you can dream it up, you can print it out. Have you tried out the Yudu? If so what do you think? If you haven’t…is the Yudu something you might consider? What would YOU do with a Yudu?