How To Make A Printed T-Shirt
Whether you’re looking to sell your original designs, or you simply want to unleash your creativity and produce some unique items for your wardrobe, printing t-shirts at home is a fun and relatively inexpensive activity. Screen printing may seem a little intimidating at first but it’s a lot easier than it initially appears, and the more practice you get, the better your designs will turn out. The following steps show you how to achieve a great finish to your printed t-shirts using minimal supplies.
What is screen printing?
The basic idea behind this method of printing is similar to a template – instead of cutting out the shapes individually, however, you coat a screen in photo emulsion and transfer it to the fabric using a blocking stencil, printing one colour at a time so several screens can be used to produce a multi-coloured image.
What supplies will I need?
The following materials and equipment will set you back around £25. While this may sound expensive, if you’re planning on printing a lot of t-shirts the cost per make is quite low and, if looked after, the screen and squeegee should last you a long time.
- Screen printing fabric ink – opt for a ready-made ink to start off with and make sure that you follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure your design is washable.
- Screen – these can be purchased ready-made as well or you can buy mesh (43T mesh is ideal for general printing) and a canvas stretcher to make your own. Simply stretch the mesh over the frame and staple the edges evenly so you have a taut surface to work with.
- Squeegee – For fabric printing, a D-Cut blade or a square-edged style is ideal.
- Plain paper
- Craft knife
- Masking tape
What’s the process?
1 – Create the design you want to use and make sure it can be easily cut out with paper using a craft knife. If you’re just starting out, do a trial run using just block shapes such as triangles or diamonds before moving on to more complicated patterns.
2 – Take your screen and use masking tape to hide the edges of the underside (the side which will make contact with the fabric) so that when you lay the stencil over the top there should be no mesh showing through around the edges. This will prevent the pain from seeping over the edges of the stencil.
3 – Lay the t-shirt flat and put the paper stencil on top, wherever you want the design to show up. Place the screen on top of that (be careful not to move the stencil!) and make sure the screen is centred over it.
4 – Add around a tablespoon of ink in a line across the top edge of your screen.
5 – Holding the screen down firmly with one hand, use your squeegee to apply pressure on the ink and pull it down the screen, taking the ink with it. Try to pull it at a 45-degree angle if you’re using a square blade or drag it in an upright position if you’re using a D-Cut. Repeat this process and then put the squeegee to one side – it will be full of ink so be careful not to drip the excess onto your t-shirt.
6 – Hold the fabric down with one hand and lift the screen up carefully from the bottom edge with the other. You should now be able to see your design on the t-shirt – once they’re fully dry, you’ll be able to wash them without the design running.
7 – At this stage, you want to make your next prints quickly as you’ll notice that the paper stencil sticks to the screen due to the ink – if the ink starts to dry, you need to wash the screen immediately. Once water-based ink has dried in the screen, you won’t be able to get it out.
8 – Once you’ve finished printing all of your t-shirts, you can discard the stencil and wash the screen with cold water – make sure you get rid of all the ink by scrubbing it lightly with a sponge or nylon dish brush, and then leave to air-dry.