How to Make Photo Emulsion? – Guide on Getting Started

Photo emulsion is an innovative technique that you can apply for screen printing. Whether you are a professional or DIY project worker, this process will come in handy when you print images or logos on your t-shirt.

Normally, you can buy it from the store, but you will be surprised to know that you can successfully make it with the proper tools and techniques.

Now you might ask, how to make photo emulsion? To answer the question, you have to read this article. For your benefit, we have done some research and come up with loads of information that can help you out in this DIY task.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What is a Photo Emulsion?

It is an emulsion that is sensitive to light, and you can use it for photo imaging. The way you can achieve this is by using the emulsion in order to burn stencils straight into a silkscreen.

Thanks to this modern procedure, you can easily make screens that consist of logos, photos, and other designs.

If you are interested to know what it looks like, you will definitely be amazed. It is not completely liquid but more like a gel. In terms of chemicals, it contains crystals (silver halide), which are evenly distributed in the gel.

These crystals are effective and easily blend with plastic, paper, fabric, and even glass. Due to this feature, it is in high demand for photography around the world.

How to Make Photo Emulsion – Our Step By Step Process

Here is a step-by-step process that you can follow in order to make the perfect photo emulsion. Take notes whenever you find something worth remembering.

Check it out.

Supplies Needed :

  • Water
  • Whisk
  • Spoon
  • PVA glue
  • Dark container (including lid)
  • Bowl
  • Ammonium dichromate crystalline powder or potassium dichromate
  • Apron
  • Rubber gloves
  • Respiratory mask

Step 1: Prepare Yourself

Before you start the task, it is best that you shield yourself in advance. Since you are dealing with chemicals, your body is vulnerable in different ways.

So, wear the apron to cover your overall body, and if something spills out by accident, the fabric will protect you. Plus, wear rubber gloves to shield your hand and a respiratory mask to breathe properly.

Step 2: Organize Everything

Go to your work station and organize all the supplies (mentioned above). Keep them side by side so that you don’t have to run from one place to the other.

Step 3: Mix Ammonium Dichromate with Water

For this step, you will need a bowl. Take a good-sized bowl and mix Ammonium Dichromate (1 tablespoon) and water (2 ounces).

Stir the mixture slowly with a spoon until it is completely dissolved. Constantly check the result in this process and be patient throughout the whole time. Keep proper eye contact and moderate everything.

Step 4: Use PVA Glue

Now, gently pour PVA glue into the solution. Take about 6 ounces of it to get satisfactory results.

In this case, you have to stir with full effort because you are using a thicker product this time. Do it to the point until it is properly mixed. Normally, it takes around 2 minutes or so to get the job done.

Step 5: Stir the Solution Once Again

Yes, you have to stir the solution once again. You should use a whisk to help you out with that.

While whisking, continuously add an equal amount of ammonium dichromate and glue. Keep doing it to the point when the solution becomes a bit thick, and the color changes to blue.

Step 6: Finish It Off

After you are done with thickening and changing the color of the solution, take the dark container, and put it beside the bowl. Pour the solution into it.

Because the container is dark, you won’t be able to see anything inside, and this is how the solution will survive for a long time. With proper maintenance, you can extend its durability.

Finally, cover the mixture with the lid and store it in an area where there are no lights. Simply put, reserve it in a dark spot.

Congrats! You are done making photo emulsion.

Inks Compatibility with Emulsions

You will be thrilled to know that there are various inks that work with different types of emulsions.

Here are all of them.

Textile Inks

These come in Plastisol and water-based form. Most of the manufacturing companies prefer to use it.

When you are going to use the emulsion, you have to be very careful, or else you won’t get the result that you were looking for in the first place. So, ask the supplier which one will be best (water-resistant, non-water-resistant, pre-sensitized, or non- pre-sensitized).


If you use nylon fabrics for your printing purpose, you have to use these inks (solvent-based). Not only is it stronger, but the durability is top-notch.

So when using the emulsion, make sure it is strong enough to tolerate the solvents.

Top Tips To Make a Photo Emulsion

Below are all the tips that can help you out when you will make a photo emulsion.

Tip 1: Take the Help of a Pre-sensitized Emulsion If You Are in a Hurry

If you don’t have time to make a photo emulsion, don’t worry. You can easily use pre-sensitized emulsion since it is convenient and will give you fast results.

Tip 2: Use the Type of Emulsion That Can Resist Water

The best feature of an emulsion is to resist water in all conditions. When you will do the screen print, the screens will touch the water (for water-based inks).

So, to prevent the stencil from breaking down in the middle of the work, it is safe to use an emulsion that is water-resistant.

Tip 3: Never Expose Potassium Dichromate to Light

It is possible that you can use potassium dichromate as an alternative to ammonium dichromate.

But you have to make sure that it is not exposed to light, or else it will lose its texture and will get weak.

Tip 4: Keep Experimenting

Experiment with various mixture ratios and find out the variation in the output. You will get results according to the light source and room temperature. So, be prepared for that.

Tip 5: Be Mentally Prepared That the Stencil Will Start to Get Brittle

Keep in mind that the stencil will get brittle as you are going to use an additional portion of ammonium dichromate.

Tip 6: Take Necessary Precaution

Always work in an area where the ventilation system is properly maintained. Don’t forget to wear protective gear. Keep them neat and clean before you start the project.

The reason that you should take these precautions is that ammonium dichromate is highly toxic.

Tip 7: Never Use the Chemical in Front of the Flame

Please keep this toxic chemical away from flame or other heat sources. It will explode if it comes in contact with this high temperature.

Tip 8: Dispose of the Chemical in a Safe Environment

If you expose this substance for a long time, there is a chance to harm your health. It can cause cancer and other dangerous health issues.

So before disposing of it, make sure you are doing it in a safe and guided manner. At the end of the day, a safe and protected environment is mandatory.

Tip 9: Avoid All Kinds of Distraction When You Are Working

Keep the kids in another room and not near your working station. This will keep them safe and will give you the full attention that is necessary for this work.


So, these are all about how to make photo emulsion. Go through this article a couple of times so that you get a good grip on it.

Consult with a professional for advice and take their suggestion seriously.

Keep the environment risk-free.

Enjoy this creative process. Best of luck!

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