Want to save money by learning how to screen print T-shirts yourself. Whether you need identical team T-shirts or you just like designing your clothes yourself, screen printing your T-shirt at home is a fun way to achieve your goal. You’ll need an initial investment of a few art supplies. After that, follow these steps to learn how to screen print T-shirts at home.
To screen print T-shirts you will need:
- Plain T-shirts
- Printer paper
- Art silk screen
- Photo emulsion kit
- Art supply wiper
- Hardwood board
- Clothes hanger
- Iron and ironing board
- Create your screen print design. If you’ve never created a screen print design before choose something simple with thick lines that can easily be transferred during the screen print process. Make the design small enough to fit on your T-shirt as well as on standard printer paper (8.5 x 11 inches).
- Visit a photocopy store. The next step in screen printing T-shirts requires that you transfer the design from opaque printer paper onto transparent paper. Visit your local Kinko’s or a similar photocopy store, where their special printer can impose your image on transparency paper.
- Buy supplies to screen print T-shirts. At your local art supply store look for a wooden frame with a silk screen stretched tightly across it. In addition look for ink especially formulated for dyeing canvas or fabric and a wiper for spreading the ink on the silk screen. Finally, buy a photo emulsion kit that will provide you with the chemical process required for copying your design onto the silk screen. At your home improvement store buy a piece of hardwood slightly larger than your silk screen design. And, if you don’t have plain T-shirts at home, look for cheap ones at your local craft store.
- Transfer your design onto the silk screen. The next step in learning how to screen print T-shirts is the most difficult and requires patience and accuracy. By applying the photo emulsion onto your design and coupling this with exposure to heat generated by a 150 watt light bulb you will effectively burn the image of your design onto the silk screen. As different emulsion kits have different instructions, read the package information carefully and be sure to position the light bulb at the recommend distance from the screen and for the recommend time only.
- Screen print your T-shirts. Once your image has been transferred onto the silk screen you are ready to proceed with screen printing your T-shirts. Slip the hardwood board inside the first T-shirt and position it on a flat work surface. Rest the silk screen over the T-shirt, positioning the design where you would like to see it printed onto the fabric. Pour ink onto the screen and use the wiper to smear the ink thoroughly through every part, working from the top downwards and then back up again. Lift the screen off when you’re done, and you will see your design now transferred onto the T-shirt.
- Set the ink on your screen printed T-shirts. Hang your printed T-shirts on hangers and allow them to air dry in a dust free location. Once dry, place each T-shirt in turn over your ironing board, cover the screen printed design with a piece of printer paper, then iron over the paper for five minutes. Make sure that the iron does not release. The dry heat will allow the ink to set and keep your homemade screen printed T-shirts looking like new for a very long time.
Instead of screen printing your favorite T-shirt from the get go, take the time to make a few practice runs with the ink and screen to be sure of the process. Use old T-shirts that you don’t mind ruining, and pay close attention to the way the ink behaves when you smear it over the screen.