How to Screen Print your own shirts

In the day and age we live in today, everyone wants to leave their mark. Whether it’s through your achievements or simply by the way you express yourself, everyone is determined to stand out.

Your outfit is one of the best ways to make your personality shine and ensure the spotlight’s on you. Wearing a t-shirt you designed yourself is an excellent way of self-expression which tells people what your interests are. Additionally, custom t-shirts also make for great gifts as the personalization helps you relay affection that store-bought gifts don’t.

Screen printing on t-shirts can not only add life to old t-shirts, but it also adds character to new ones, too. There are many screen printing on t-shirts guides available that’ll help you out with the process regardless of whether the material of your shirt is cotton, silk, or something else.

Screen printing follows a general process and, luckily for you, we’re going to tell you exactly how you can create your custom t-shirts through screen printing.

How to Screen Print at Home

Gather what you need

Before you’re ready to dive into the process, it’s essential to gather all the necessary equipment required for screen printing. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Bright lamp
  • Transparency paper
  • Photo emulsion and sensitizer
  • Squeegee or a piece of cardboard
  • Cardboard to put inside the-shirt
  • Screen printing frame
  • Fabric ink

Create a design

When you’re screen printing for the first time, you should always start with a simple design. Even a design with basic shapes and lines would suffice, and you can move on to more complicated designs once you get the hang of the process. The only requirement of the image is that it needs to be a solid block image so it can block light since the image you choose will burn into the emulsion (more on that below).

Once you’ve decided what you want on your t-shirt, you need to print it onto transparency paper with a laser printer.

Coat the screen in emulsion

For the next step, you need to mix the sensitizer and emulsion together by following the directions given on the bottle. After this, you need to place your screen on a garbage bag or a few newspapers.

Once this is done, spread out the emulsion mixture on the screen with the squeegee until the combination covers more than the area of the design you want to print. You can keep pouring the emulsion mixture until you’re satisfied with the screen’s coating and it’s opacity. The layer should be even and thin across the screen.

The screen then needs to be kept in a pitch-black room for a minimum of two hours until it’s dry.

Expose the image with light

Once the screen is dry, you need to expose it to light. On a blackboard or cloth, lay down the screen with the screen side down. Then, place the transparency paper with your image on it on the area where you’ve spread the now-dried photo emulsion. The transparency should be secured with a piece of glass or scotch tape.

Next, place your lamp a foot or two above the screen and leave it there. After 10-15 minutes, remove the transparency carefully. You should be able to see faint lines where the image is burned on the screen. If you’re not satisfied, leave the transparency paper for a few more minutes, being careful about overexposure, which makes the image bleed.

Clean the screen

It’s time to clean your screen with cold water from a showerhead, sink, or hose. You’ll notice that the area with your image will start flaking off, so continue spraying the screen until it can be seen clearly.

To check whether it’s done, hold the screen against light and see whether your image looks just like the transparency. Let your screen dry after which you should cover any exposed parts with scotch tape.

Print the design on your t-shirt

So, it’s finally time to print. Lay the t-shirt down on a flat surface and stuff a piece of cardboard underneath the area where you want to design. Spread out a little ink horizontally on the screen and make a smooth and robust movement down the screen, practicing on a sheet of paper first if need be. Use the squeegee to run the ink in different directions to ensure the ink has spread through to the shirt.

Once this is done, lift up the screen and remove the cardboard. To ensure the image is secure on the shirt, you can heat up the shirt for 30 seconds in an oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Clean up the mess

The ink will dry up pretty quickly so you can clean everything up soon after, too. Wash the screen thoroughly so it can be used again later. If you want to print another design, you can use an emulsion cleaner.
While it may seem daunting at first, screen printing is an easy technique to master. Once you get used to its different aspects, you’ll be able to move on to more complicated designs with multiple colors in no time. By doing a few test prints before you move on to your favorite t-shirt, you can ensure you won’t be making any mistakes. With this complicated technique right at your fingerprints, you won’t ever need to go to a shop for your screen printing needs.

What should one keep in mind while making custom t-shirts through screen printing? Sound off in the comments below!