Knowing how to silk screen artwork is a nice addition to homes, and silk screen t-shirts are popular clothing for casual wear. Both items can be made at home when you know how to silk screen. The equipment is inexpensive and, with computer programs and access to the Internet, the art is readily available. The entire process takes less than a day to put together – including drying time.
- Prepare the artwork: The artwork is the most important element of the silk screen process. Define your own style and put it on a shirt or create a mural to hang behind your sofa. If you're the crafty type, draw on newspaper and cut a stencil to ink. Measure the paper or shirt to define the size of the art needed to fill the screen. If you're not crafty, pull up the image on the Internet and copy it on a disk. Take the image to a professional art supply store or sign-making establishment and ask for a film composite to be used on the screen. It may take several days to prepare the image. If the store is locally run and full service, it might be whipped up on the spot.
- Purchase the equipment: You'll need to buy four pieces of wood, some brads and glue, and a staple gun. Buy silk screen ink and a screen squeegee. For shirts, buy the specially-designed fabric ink. For artwork, you can use any type of water-based paint, even house paint. (House paint is not recommended for your first experience, however.) You'll also need to go to the fabric stores. This may be a new experience for dudes, but fabric stores have silk and are also an excellent place to meet single women. Buy extra synthetic silk, with enough silk to hang two-inches over the edge of the frame on all sides. Don't buy real silk. It's expensive and totally unnecessary.
- Prepare the silk screen: Make a square or rectangle with the wood and glue the edges. Once you're satisfied with a frame that sits flat on a table, put the brads in the wood to make the shape permanent. Next, stretch the silk over the frame. Use the staple gun to hook one side, then staple the side directly opposite. Do the same for the opposite ends.
- Attach the artwork: Tape the paper stencil onto the silk screen or wet the screen and apply the commercially-prepared gel negative stencil. Your stencil will come with specific directions, so follow them. Don't take shortcuts. If you use the gel, make sure the screen dries completely or the plastic stencil will be ruined.
- Test the screen: Use a piece of scrap paper to test the design, even if the image is used on fabric. Use a pencil knife to sharpen any edges that need definition. Put a small amount of ink at the top of the silk screen and move the rubber squeegee over the ink and draw it evenly down the silk to create the image.
- Screen the clothing or paper: Set up a flat surface and create the final art. An assistant (maybe someone from the fabric store) is helpful to hold the frame in place while using the squeegee.
- Experiment: Once you feel confident, cut fancy designs or pay to have the images made into gel transfers. Buy special sealer to coat the edges of the screen to prevent ink oozing from around the edge when finishing multiple images or tee-shirts. Gel block is another handy purchase. Use the gel to fill empty areas to keep extra ink or paint from bleeding onto the fabric or paper.
- Dry the art: Shirts require a warm iron treatment to set the paint or ink for washing.
- Collect compliments: Be sure to sign your design with a permanent fabric pen or a brush for the paper designs.
"The Complete Book of Silk Screen Printing Process," J.I. Biegeleisen, 1963