I started silk screening in art class at age 16 (8 years ago! Whaaat?) and I’ve loved it since day one. It’s so much fun! Or so I think. The summer I was 17, I started my very first business doing custom screen prints. It failed miserably and the only big order I did was after I’d given up and made me absolutely no money, but hey – whatever! It’s still a super fun and easy way to make your own shirts, among oh so many other things. We ended up doing some in college as well, and I did my required-to-graduate internship hours in a print shop. So much awesome! You can buy silk screens at most craft supply stores, but you can also make them yourself quite easily if need be. I’ll write up a tutorial for that some time in the future. 🙂
You will need:
- silk screen
- glue stick
- cardboard scrap
- fabric/screen printing ink
- scrap paper and tape
- plexiglass (or cardboard, something to put under your material)
- fabric/t-shirt/tote bag/whatever to print on
- (Optional) screen cleaner
- waxed paper
If you don’t have/want to buy fabric ink, you can always just use acrylic paints mixed with fabric medium instead, or just acrylics if you’re printing on paper.
- Glue your stencil face down onto the outside of the screen.
- Flatten your fabric on your piece of plexiglass. If you’re printing a shirt, or anything that has another visible side, put a piece of paper between the two sides to stop it from bleeding all the way through.
- Tape down some paper over the open space around your stencil so no ink goes through where you don’t want it to. My bit of fabric wasn’t big enough to warrant worrying about that.
- Line up your screen with your printing surface so the image is exactly where you want it.
- Using your cardboard scrap, glob some ink onto the screen. I chose to use two colours to make a brighter orange, but one’s perfectly fine as well! Or several. Make a rainbow if you want!
- Hold the screen down firmly. The easiest way to do this is to print on a waist-high surface so you can lean on the end at the edge of said surface and use your non-dominant hand to hold down the other. I often do my printing on my floor, so I use my foot instead.
- Squeegee up and down or side to side with a good amount of pressure twice. Then, using the squeegee and keeping everything in place, scrape the screen to get all the excess ink off and put it back in the jar.
- Ta-daaa! You have your very own silk screened image! Wash the screen out immediately with cold water to avoid the ink clogging it up. If you think you’ll be doing a lot of this, or multiple printings at one go, I strongly suggest you buy some screen cleaner. It won’t completely unclog everything, but it’s a big help! Leave it all somewhere to dry.
If you want to use the screen again for a different colour/stencil but don’t want to wait for it to dry on its own, just use a hair dryer. It’ll take you all of a minute and then you can get back to printing!
Leave your print somewhere safe to dry for at least an hour. Once it’s fully dry, tear off some waxed paper and place it smooth side down on your print. With the iron on the cotton setting (steam off), press down for at least 30 seconds on every spot of the image. This will heat-set the ink so it doesn’t come out in the wash.