I wanted to learn how to screen print shirts for a long time, but the cost of the silk screen printing equipment always prohibited me from doing it. If you've never looked at the cost of screen printing at home, I'm here to tell you that it is very costly! Between purchasing the screen printing equipment and screen printing supplies, it's usually cheaper to have someone else do it for you.
The good news is, after many hours of research and trial and error, I've learned a new diy screen printing method that you, too, can do at home! It involves a screen printing process that uses simple materials (some of which you may have at home).
So, this Father's Day, before you shell out a bunch of cash for a non-sentimental store-bought gift, learn how to screen print and get to work on a one-of-a-kind shirt for your Dad that he'll really appreciate!
Silk Screen Printing Supplies:
Organza (or other sheer material)
Fabric paint or screenprinting ink
Paintbrush or foam brush
Piece of cardboard
Screen Printing Instructions:
The basic concept behind how to screen print involves pushing ink through a screen that has a design on it. If you block ink from going through the negative space on a screen printing mesh, it will show your screen printing art on your item. Make sense? Sound confusing? Just follow the step-by-step directions below and it will become clear.
Prewash your shirt to remove factory chemicals, and don't use a fabric softner in the washing machine or dryer (it leaves a slight residue behind on your clothing, and you want the shirt to have a totally clean surface).
Use an emroidery hoop that will be big enough to fit your design within it, and allow the squeegie to move freely inside it. Stretch a piece of organza through the hoop and tighten it. If you don't have organza, you can use another sheer material like an old sheer curtain...the color doesn't matter, as long as it has tiny "holes" for the ink to pass through. Don't spend a lot on your material...check the clearance rack for scraps of fabric or a thrift shop for a sheer curtain panel.
Once the fabric is stretched tightly, trim it to fit the hoop. Cover the edge of the hoop with masking tape to keep it from sliding.
Print a screen printing design on your computer or use a picture that you can easily trace around. Lay your hoop with organza over the design, and using a pencil,carefully trace around it onto the material (make sure the material side is down so that it is against the paper).
Using Mod Podge (an all in one glue, sealer, and finish that you can purchase at most craft stores), cover all the areas OUTSIDE of the design. Remember, you are keeping the design open so that the paint can pass through the screen there. You may need to use a big regular or foam brush for the large space, and a fine brush to get up close to the design. When you are done with one side, flip it over and do the same thing on the other side of the fabric.
If you'd like, you can choose to put a second coat on both sides once the first coat dries. This ensures that all of the little holes in the material are sealed that you want to be sealed. Trust me, a shirt with a bunch of little ink spots around your screen printing art looks terrible!
Once the Mod Podge dries, you're ready to print your design onto your shirt. Place a piece of cardboard between the two layers of your shirt to keep the design from going through to the other side. Lay the hoop where you'd like the design to appear on your screen printed t-shirt. Squirt some ink above the design. Make sure you have enough to cover the design, but too much will cause it to "bleed" under the open areas of the mesh.
Using your squeegie spread the ink around inside the hoop, allowing it to pass through your design and onto your shirt. Be careful not to press too hard, or the ink may leak around the design and make the edges of your design less crisp.
Don't be discouraged if you put a little too much ink on your first time. Just scoop it to the side and use less next time! It takes a little practice to learn how to screen print.
After you're sure that the ink has evenly passed through your design, carefully lift the hoop off of your newly screen printed shirt. It looks good, doesn't it? You should be proud of yourself!
Rinse the hoop out, and now that you know how to screen print, you'll be able to use it again and again (or just take the material out and start over).
Carefully place the shirt (with the cardboard still in between the layers) somewhere it can dry overnight. Once the ink is dry, place a thin cloth over the design and iron for about 30-45 seconds to set the design. Turn the shirt inside out and repeat the ironing. Make sure your iron is set on the wool/cotton setting, and that you don't use the steam setting (no water).
Do It Yourself Silk Screen Printing: How to Print With Screens
Have you tried the above "simple" silk screen printing process above, and want to learn the more advanced way of how to screen print t-shirts?
Just so you know, silk screen printing supplies are expensive. However, if you really love this hobby, you can make a lot of the screen printing equiptment at home. They even make silk screen printing machines for the hobbiest (you can find them at craft stores or online...they're called "YuDu" machines).
To get a better grasp of the steps involved, watch this video below to answer your screen printing questions:
Best of luck on your quest to learn all about screen printing t-shirts. It's a really fun hobby, and once you learn it, you'll be able to make some really cool do-it-yourself gifts!