Make Your Own Silk-screen T-Shirts

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Make Your Own Silk-screen T-Shirts
Make Your Own Silk-screen T-Shirts

Silk-screen printing enables one to print a more intricate pattern compared to hand stenciling on fabrics. There are many methods in silk-screen printing which use a woven mesh to sustain an ink blocking stencil but the easiest way to silk-screen your own T-shirt at home is to use the flat-bed method. This is how to silk-screen a T-shirt using a stretched frame, stencil and squeegee.

Things You'll Need

  • A stretched mesh frame
  • Squeegee
  • Cut -out paper stencil
  • Textile paint
  • X-atco or utility knife
  • T-shirt

Purchase or assemble a silk-screen frame if you do not have one. To make one, nail together a wood frame with square stock pine or other cheap wood and make it so that the inner well where the screen will be affixed is approximately 10 by 14 inches. Use a small staple gun or carpet tacks to attach the silk mesh which should be cut to the exact dimensions of the outside of the frame. Staple or tack one side first and then pull the fabric taut to attach the opposing side. Then attach the other two sides in a similar way, making sure the fabric is stretched tight in all directions.

Decide what design you would like to make on your T-shirt. It is better to start out with a simple one-color design if it is your first time silk-screening. Sketch your design and then, using the X-acto knife, carefully cut out the design and attach the paper to the underside of the stretched mesh screen frame. Waxed stencil board can work well because you can see through it to trace a design or any other smooth stiff paper that is stronger than regular printer paper. Completely seal the edges of the stencil to the underside of the screen with masking or draftsman's tape.

Place a good amount (3/4 cup) of the textile paint into the well of the frame and place the frame on a piece of newspaper, tag board or other scrap paper. Run the squeegee over the paint so that the paint is forced through the tiny openings in the mesh. Remove and check the test design to see if it came out as you wish it to look on the T-shirt. If not, redo the stencil and make sure the tape is properly sealed around it, try again until it is ready for application on the shirt.

Place the frame over the stretched T-shirt so the stencil is placed where you wish the design to be and have someone help you hold the frame securely so you can squeegee the paint through.

Remove the frame from the stretched T-shirt by slowly peeling it away and let the design dry thoroughly. Textile paints are recommended because these can endure being washed in a regular washing machine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Paper stencils are good for no more than 30 printings in most cases. If you wish to create a silk screen stencil for many more uses then consider using a coating of shellac on the stencil to prolong its use. Place the shellacked stencil (after thoroughly drying it) on the underside of the silk screen and adhere it by running a warm iron on the back of the silk. Then tape the edges.

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