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Cheap screen printing tutorial

Alright, I've finally had the time to "screen print" another shirt, so here's the tutorial...

Materials needed: a t-shirt, yucky/cheap paint brushes, an embroidery hoop, screen printing ink (I use Speedball brand), a glue that isn't water-soluble (I use Mod Podge), curtain sheer material/tulle/old nylons, and a computer with a printer (or a good hand for drawing things).

Find an image you like and that has good contrast. My cow needed to be "cut out," and I've only got Microsoft Paint on this computer and it worked fine.

Save the image as a Monochrome Bitmap file and it will turn it black and white. If this loses all the detail, fudge around on Paint or try a different picture, haha.

Print it out so the image is the size you want it on the t-shirt (and also so it's not bigger than the embroidery hoop you spent ¢67 on).

After pulling the sheer curtain material/tulle/old nylons tight across the embroidery hoop (and screwing it shut real good), trace the image onto the material with a pencil with the material close to the paper, not upside down so it's far away.

You should be able to see the pencil outline easily without squinting too hard. If it's too detailed, fudge some more.

Turn the thing over and with the glue, paint all the "negative space," (all the places you don't want ink to go, the white space). Make sure the material isn't touching whatever surface you're working on otherwise you'll end up gluing the whole thing down, obviously.

Some people say you can use tape to fill in the bigger area, but I think that painting the glue on all over the larger spaces is the best part, but do what you will.

After the glue dries, center the image on the shirt face down, and I sort of stipple the ink through the material making sure it's fully saturated, but also making sure not to glob it all over the place.

Carefully peel it back, wait for it to dry, and follow the "setting" directions on the ink (mine is to iron it on medium 3 - 5 minutes each side with a piece of cloth/paper between the iron and the ink).

I hope that helps some!

Edit 5/11/06: I get emails when comments are made and will always try my best to answer questions, even if they have been answered in all these pages of replies. No need to come to my personal journal to drop notes; I get them--I promise!

Edit 8/13/06: Here is a brief FAQ I compiled that might help some people with their questions so that they don't have to scroll through all these pages of comments trying to find it or emailing me with them.

What paint? What glue?

Speedball brand Screen Printing Ink and Mod Podge glue are both what I use. I don't like the way fabric paint looks on fabric and I've never tried acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium, though I know people have gotten results to their liking with both. Mod Podge is a non-water-soluble glue. It cannot be washed out once it has dried. I buy both at Hobby Lobby and have no idea where else they are carried.

My printed image looks pixelated and rough; help!

If you used nylons/tulle, that's probably why. I like those two fabrics if you're really on the low-cost side of DIY, but a sheer curtain material works much better as the "weave" of the fabric is much tighter, making a more detailed screen/print.

Will the ink bleed through to the back layer of my shirt?

Maybe. Use caution as you would when working on a shirt any other time--put some newspaper between the front and back.

Can I print on other things?

Yes, so long as you use the right type of ink/medium mixed in your acrylic paint. Speedball makes ink for metal/wood/plastic (I believe) and there are a number of mediums you can purchase for your paint.

Can I wash out the glue?

No, that's the whole point. The glue doesn't wash out so you can use the screen with the same image over and over again. I think it's a little too much effort to make to use just once; if that's what you want, I'd do a stencil instead.

How do I do more than one color?

I'm sure you can separate layers in Photoshop and such and make multiple screens, but I've yet to try it out myself.

I'm from Such and Such publication; can I reprint this tutorial?

Please email me: kristyk51 at yahoo dot com.

Eat meat, stupid.

No, thanks.

This is a stupid idea.

Then don't do it.

I'll probably continue to edit this as needed. Thanks!

Find this archived at my blog here: http://stringstothings.blogspot.com/


( 823 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 27th, 2005 01:36 pm (UTC)
so i tried this this weekend. but it turns out the nylons i bought where too small, & i bought india ink, which my boyfriend said would'nt work. (or will it?)
my question is, once you make a pattern to print on the nylon (or whatever) can you use it more than once? or do you have to draw a new one everytime?
Jun. 27th, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC)
I have no idea if India ink will work...I'd make sure to put a good amount of newspaper between the front and back of the t-shirt to make sure it doesn't run through and dab it on very carefully. Maybe do a test run on a scrap piece of material so you don't ruin whatever t-shirt you're working with in case it doesn't work out.

And you can re-use the screens over and over again, yes.
(no subject) - blackdreams - Jun. 27th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 28th, 2005 04:38 am (UTC)
So, can the fabric/nylon you buy be too thin at all? Also, how much do all the things you need to do this cost all together, minus the shirt?
Jun. 28th, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)
I don't know if it can be too thin, I doubt it. Glue - $8, ink - $8, fabric - $1.50, cheap brushes - $2, embroidery hoop - $1 or less = less than $25 and all but the fabric can be reused, though there will probably be left overs.
(no subject) - _strategize - Jun. 26th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jun. 26th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 1st, 2005 03:58 am (UTC)
I love you. So much. Memories-ized, and will be linking to many people.

Jul. 8th, 2005 06:05 am (UTC)
where can i find these materials like the ink,glue,and embroidery hoop??i checked michales but had no luck can u help??
Jul. 8th, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC)
I buy them all at Hobby Lobby. You can get some of them even at Walmart, but the ink would be harder to find.
Jul. 10th, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
oh..... WOW. kowtow, kowtowwww! the world is a better place because of u. hehe.
Jul. 11th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
hey, I just wanted to ask if you know whether fabric paint would work as well as screen printing ink because I can't seem to find screen printing ink at all.
Jul. 11th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC)
Yes, fabric paint will work, I've used it before, I just hate the way it looks. You can try using acrylic paint with a textile medium mixed in; I've never tried it, but I know many people use it to paint onto clothes and such with good results.
(no subject) - beverly_ - Jul. 11th, 2005 04:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jul. 11th, 2005 04:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 14th, 2005 07:00 pm (UTC)
Definitely a kickass tutorial. My mom and I are always saying, 'That would make an awesome t-shirt,' but we never get around to doing it. When I was younger I used that shitty iron-on stuff, you know, the stuff that falls off after a month? But this is definitely WAY better. Thanks!
Jul. 14th, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC)
More questions?
Yay this seriously rocks. I know you've heard this 7 pages worth, but really it does.

A few questions:
1. Could you use bleach on the screen, with a colored tee, to create a different effect?

2. The prospect of painting all that glue on, so perfectly, makes me sweaty. Could you: use elmers glue to draw on the actual picture (the positive), let it dry and then glob on the Modge Podge, let it dry, and then wash the screen so the elmers goes away

3. For letters, can you use stickers and modge podge over them. Kinda like the method I'm talking about in question 2.

Thanks oh so much. i am soooooooo excited to do this!! I'm a teacher and I think my student council students would get a kick out of this as a fund raising project too.

Yay screenprinting!
Jul. 14th, 2005 11:54 pm (UTC)
Re: More questions?
Really, for all three questions, I have no idea; you should try them and let us all know!
Re: More questions? - karak411 - Jul. 15th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: More questions? - karak411 - Jul. 17th, 2005 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 18th, 2005 11:40 pm (UTC)
FANTASTIC! I have to try this.
Jul. 22nd, 2005 09:33 am (UTC)
Hi hi, thanks for the wonderful tutorial. I'm very interested in printing on t-shirts but have had no idea where to start. I bought a iron-on pack the other week, but the results have been very bad. I'm hoping that your method will work alot better! I was just wondering, if you are unable to find a shirt colour that you want, can you buy a white one, dye it and then screenprint on it? Or would the dye affect the screenprint that would go on it. Stupid question, I know.. but I really don't want to waste money and mess something up!!
Jul. 22nd, 2005 02:25 pm (UTC)
I don't see why the shirt dye would affect the ink, so long as it was thoroughly washed after dying. Walmart carries a wide variety of t-shirt colors in the boy's and men's sections, though I'm partial to Hobby Lobby's selections. Good luck!
Jul. 26th, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
Firstly, this is a fantastic tutorial. My hubby's website is wanting to do shirts, and this would be a great way to have lots of designs without having to have 20 shirts purchased before they're even printed.
My idea is to use fabric paint in place of the modgepodge, so 1) you could see where it was going better and 2) you'd have a fine tip to use. Orrrrr perhaps put the modge podge into a bottle with a fine tip, and add a little food coloring? That'd probably be cheaper. Orrrrr outline with fabric paint and fill with modge podge. XD
Jul. 26th, 2005 03:51 pm (UTC)
That.... is absolutely.... ingenious

You have just become my hero. OMG
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 5th, 2005 04:04 am (UTC)
Re: Question
I used sheer curtain material for this "screen."
Aug. 9th, 2005 01:49 am (UTC)
This is great, i'm totally doing it!
Aug. 14th, 2005 09:44 pm (UTC)
Cleaning the Curtain Sheer
How are you guys cleaning the curtain sheer? I can get the paint out, but I'm having a lot of trouble removing the glue from it. Any tips would be great.

Great guide, btw.
Aug. 15th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: Cleaning the Curtain Sheer
You don't remove the glue, that's the point of it being non-water-soluble.
Re: Cleaning the Curtain Sheer - qaz_werty - Aug. 16th, 2005 04:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Cleaning the Curtain Sheer - girlx512 - Aug. 16th, 2005 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
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