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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/


( 822 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 2nd, 2004 07:55 pm (UTC)
wow, that seems ALOT easier than how i do it.
i usually fix up the photo on photoshop, print it on construction paper, and then i carefully cut it out with a razor, not even and exact-o. then i tape it to the shirt and then dab it with a makeup sponge with fabric paint.

it works fine, but its hella time consuming! >.o
yours looks alot easier and convienient.
Jun. 2nd, 2004 09:39 pm (UTC)
*bows among your feet*

we are not worthy!!!
Jun. 2nd, 2004 09:56 pm (UTC)
just a quick question... did you dilute your speedball ink at all? because I've got some of that and I just wanted to make sure.
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jun. 2nd, 2004 10:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 3rd, 2004 10:10 am (UTC)

when i put the glue on, do i put it on the side pictured below, or the other side?

Jun. 3rd, 2004 10:55 am (UTC)
I have the hoop so the material isn't touching whatever surface I'm working on, so there's a space between the material and table/carpet/whatever. So I guess I put the glue on the other side than what the picture shows, but it doesn't matter really either way, so long as you don't glue the whole thing down to whatever you're working on top of.
(no subject) - __victim - Jun. 3rd, 2004 11:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __victim - Jun. 3rd, 2004 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jun. 3rd, 2004 11:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __victim - Jun. 3rd, 2004 12:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jun. 3rd, 2004 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __victim - Jun. 3rd, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girlx512 - Jun. 4th, 2004 08:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 3rd, 2004 12:01 pm (UTC)
Incredible silkscreening talent you got there.
Jun. 4th, 2004 04:23 pm (UTC)
i wanted to do this this weekend, but im having trouble finding the ink. i called micheals but they say they dont have it. where do you recomend looking?
Jun. 4th, 2004 11:38 pm (UTC)
I bought mine at Hobby Lobby, I don't really know where else might sell it.
(no subject) - run_igmo_run - Jun. 5th, 2004 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 9th, 2004 04:20 pm (UTC)
waiting for my glue to dry now, and then ill be ready to print, but i have one question.

on my speedball ink, it says something about dont let ink dry in screen. so once i print it once, take the screen and wash off the ink as i let the shirt dry? is this necessary if i'm gonig to print it again right after the first shirt? thanks!
Jun. 9th, 2004 10:18 pm (UTC)
Well I guess it depends on how long you're letting the ink sit in there. I wouldn't let it stay in the screen for more than 15 minutes (tops) really because I haven't experimented with its drying time, and I'd really hate to ruin something I worked so much on.
(no subject) - __victim - Jun. 9th, 2004 10:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lightswentout - Jul. 2nd, 2004 08:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC)
What's the glue for?
Jun. 11th, 2004 09:36 am (UTC)
so that the ink doesn't go through to the parts you don't want it through.
(no subject) - 522 - Jun. 11th, 2004 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC)
how long are you supposed to leave the hoop on the shirt? should you peel it back as soon as you're done painting or should you let it sit for a few minutes?

sorry about the dumb questions!
Jun. 24th, 2004 10:25 am (UTC)
Once I'm done putting the ink through I carefully peel it back.
Jun. 11th, 2004 05:48 am (UTC)
you know what? my mom has been screenprinting for years, i have assloads of friends that screenprint and they've all attempted to explain it to me and it always seemed complicated and scary. this was the best explaination ever. thank you, thank you. have you ever considered going into teaching? seriously...
Jun. 19th, 2004 01:41 am (UTC)
all right all right, so youve answered tons of questions, but if you have time for one more, how do you do details? with "real" brushes? cuase i have trouble getting those to work well with the glue, i mean, but i also have trouble when i try it with the corner of the cheap spongy brush... how do you get it exactly how you like? and have you tried multi color stuff?

its mostly these damn details im having trouble with... seems whatever i do, its really vaugue. thanks!
amazing tutorial
Jun. 24th, 2004 10:25 am (UTC)
For details I use a smaller paint brush for the glue, but for anything that doesn't come out as crisp as I'd like, I go back over with a small paint brush with the ink afterward. I bought a variety pack of super cheap-o paint brushes at Hobby Lobby for like $2 and I just use those for this stuff.

And no, I have tried more than one color yet. I've been tied up with crocheting baby blankets lately and my t-shirt making had to be set aside :o(
Jun. 28th, 2004 01:38 pm (UTC)
HELP... some bubbly probs
So I was really excited about this and went out and bought the stuff for this project but i get the idea that i'm using the wrong tulle. whenever i screenprinted and lifted the screen, i would get bubbles on the screenprinted area. am i not waiting enough time to lift up the screen? or is my tulle too big? I think the tulle squares might be too big, so maybe i'll try panty hose next. Any advice?
Jul. 3rd, 2004 02:11 pm (UTC)
Re: HELP... some bubbly probs
Hmmm...Or maybe you need to use a bit more ink and make sure it gets pressed all the way through to the shirt? That's all I can come up with, sorry.
Jul. 1st, 2004 08:32 pm (UTC)
the awesomness of this tutorial is greatly appreciated. the most awsome part? i didnt have to go to the store, cuz i had everything i needed already!! i hope everyone replies with their shirts, im making mine asap. and i might also have to steal that pic, because ive been wanting a shirt forever that says 'cows are cute. im glad i don't eat them'
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Bleeding (that sounds morbid, er...)
Not reeeaaally, but I put newspaper or cardboard in between layers of t-shirt fabric anyway. I get a few spots that bleed though.
Jul. 17th, 2004 12:00 pm (UTC)
I'm going to try this sometime this weekend. but one thing that i dont understand is when you said that you stipple the ink through the material. What exactly did you use to do that process?
Jul. 30th, 2004 11:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry this is a bit late, but I use a cheap stiff paint brush (the kind that you buy a package of for like $1.99.
Jul. 30th, 2004 11:36 am (UTC)
Everyone has said it, but THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've always wondered and was considering spending muchos on a kit. You are now my favorite poster ever. The old fav is going to be so jealous.
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