How-to Screen Print a T-shirt at Your House

Screen printing can be a little daunting in the beginning, but it takes less effort to get started than it seems, and it’s manageable to establish a printing operation in your own space without breaking the bank. We’ll give you a guide of how you can achieve this with the least amount of supplies.

The underlying concept fundamental to silk screening is fairly straightforward and can be thought of in the same way a stencil works. Yet in place of creating each stencil separately, you cover a screen in photo emulsion and then cut off a picture using a bright lamp. So let’s dive into the details.

1. Make Your Image

While you’re trying your first one, do something easy that doesn’t have a ton of thin outlines. An ordinary silhouette from Photoshop is a nice beginning piece. You’ll want a strong black image for the moment as its essential role is to obstruct the light. The picture you choose will be burned into the emulsion in the fourth step. After fixing your sights on an image, print it out onto transparency paper (if you don’t want to do this yourself copy shops can do this for a dollar) with a laser printer.

2. Layer the Screen with Emulsion

The emulsion arrives in a couple of components: the emulsion and the sensitizer. Combine them in accordance with the instructions on the container. Set your screen down on a trash bag. Run some of the emulsion over the screen and disperse it all around the screen with the scraper (or squeegee). The emulsion should end up covering a little more than the cumulative area of the image you’re printing.

If need be, do the same thing again until the screen is covered and you’re unable to peer through it. What you’re going for is a light, level coat over the entire screen. Place the screen in a dark space for 120 minutes until it’s totally dry.

3. Expose the Picture to the Screen

Now it’s time to flash the screen with a source of light. In the room that was pitch dark (don’t expose the image to light yet), put down a black fabric or piece of wood. Set the screen and frame down; placing the screen face down over the black material. Then set the image transparency on the screen in the spot where the photographic emulsion is located. Seal the transparency by placing a segment of glass on it or with scotch tape.

Shift your light over so that it’s approximately one or two feet over the screen. Position it so the light (with the 250-watt bulb) points at the transparency with your image on it and let it sit. A table lamp produces the best results, but if you can’t access that, build a reflector with tin foil and put it over the lamp to bounce the beam underneath.

Don’t expose it to other lights. Give it another 10-15 minutes. Now you can delicately pick up the transparency. You should be able to notice dim blue borders on the screen where the image is burnt. If everything looks okay, you can clean it off. If it’s not done you can check back in couple more minutes. Be mindful that overexposure can cause the image to bleed.

4. Clear the Screen

Wash your screen with water out of a shower head, sink or hose. See the area where your picture is beginning to scrape off? Keep moistening it till you are able to clearly see through the image. Shine the screen up in a light to tell if it appears just like your transparency. Allow the screen to dry.

As soon as there’s no water left, cover any bare sections of the screen (the parts with no photo emulsion or the picture) using tape.

5. Print!

Rest your shirt on a smooth plane. Pack a square chunk of cardboard within the shirt below the spot you’re going to print on. Position the screen above the shirt with the pattern in the area you want to print it.

Run a little bit of your ink horizontally over the screen. Take your scraper and perform a fluid move across the screen, applying steady force (for people new to this you can practice this on a piece of paper before trying it on your shirt). Move the squeegee in all directions a few times to rub all the ink completely into the shirt.

Raise the screen, delicately remove the cardboard, and you’re finished. If you want to be certain that the image stays on the shirt for as long as possible, pop the shirt into the stove for 30 seconds at 400 degrees.

6. Tidy Up

Screen printing ink becomes dry very fast, so right after you’re finished with printing shirts, clean the ink from the screen to conserve it for future projects. If you decide to print a totally separate image, emulsion removers can rub the screen clean in order for you to reuse the frame and fabric.

Screen printing is little hard to get accustomed to. With more practice comes figuring out the precise timing of exposure, the force required to draw the ink all the way through, and other little things to make it easier.

After you know all the steps, creating projects with two or three tones isn’t quite as intimidating of a task. While you can use the large machines that most shops have to manage your screen printing, it’s very simple to do the same thing in your home if you’re willing to be put in the effort.