Have you ever wanted to design and print your own tee shirts, without having to resort to sharpies or spray paint? Fear not! Screenprinting allows you to make super cool tee shirts, tote bags, prints, etc. that are one of a kind and totally your own! This method requires buying a few supplies (which will add up to around $30-40), but if you print frequently enough, they’ll most definitely pay for themselves in no time.
- shirt, or whatever medium you’re printing on
- x-acto knife
- cardboard (to put inside your shirt so the ink doesn’t bleed through
- fabric ink
- scrap paper (not pictured)
Step 1: Make a Stencil
Stencil-making is not as hard as it seems. For your first shirt, it’s probably best to start with a simple design, such as the one pictured here. To make a stencil, you can either draw something, or print something off the computer. If you’re printing something off
the computer, be aware that your stencil will be fairly flimsy and not reusable. If you make a stencil using light cardboard or oak tag, it will be stronger and likely reusable, but will have to be hand-drawn. Or you can trace a computer printout onto cardboard. Whatever works for you.
Step 2: Cut Out Stencil
This is where the x-acto knife comes in handy. Make sure that you cut out the areas of the stencil where you want the paint to come through; all areas covered by the stencil will have no paint go through. Also, cut your stencil out on a thick piece of cardboard or a cutting board so you don’t leave scratches on your table.
Step 3: Prepare Your Workstation
Printing can sometimes get messy so make sure to put down some newspaper or other scrap paper wherever you are working in case of an accidental paint spill. Put the cardboard inside of your shirt and position the stencil where you wish to print.
Don’t forget to put some scrap paper around the edges of your stencil!
Step 4: Print!
Here’s the fun part: actually printing your shirt! Make sure all of the parts of your stencil are properly arranged, and place the screen over your stencil.
Have a friend/sibling/parent/roommate hold down your stencil while you’re printing. A heavy book makes a decent substitute, but having an actual person there to make sure your stencil doesn’t move during the printing process is optimal. Using the spatula, put a sizable dollop of paint on the screen. Use the squeegee (that red plastic thing) to spread the paint over the entire stencil. Go back and forth a few times with the squeegee across the stencil to make sure that you don’t miss any spots and that the color is solid and consistent.
Step 5: Remove Screen
Once you’ve gone back and forth a few times with the squeegee and are confident that the shirt is done, slowly and carefully lift up the screen. If the shirt is sticking to the screen, do not pull it down; keep lifting up the screen until the shirt falls off.
Step 6: Hang it up to Dry
Now that the shirt is finished, carefully lift up the shirt by the shoulders and let the cardboard fall on the floor; do not try to pull it out or else you might mess up your shirt. Bring the shirt to your bathroom/clothesline/wherever you can hang it up to dry.
Step 7: Clean Up!
As soon as you’ve hung up your shirt, rinse your screen. If you wait too long to rinse, the paint will dry and solidify, thus making it more difficult to print shirts in the future. If you do not plan on reusing your stencil, dispose of it and all scrap paper immediately. Don’t forget to wash your spatula and squeegee!
Step 8 (optional): Iron your shirt
If you want the design to not wear out as quickly, once the shirt is completely dry, iron it on both sides to lock-in the color. This step is not required (your design won’t wash out of your shirt), but if you want to ensure it doesn’t fade and have access to an iron, go for it!
And ta-da! You have your own screenprinted tee shirt. And if anyone asks you where you bought it, you can proudly say “I made it myself!”