Are you tired of all the t-shirts in boutiques looking the same with similar images and texts that have nothing to do with you? Is this the area where you can try out your DIY skills and make something unique and just for you? Yes, it is. Screen printing might seem intimidating and quite impossible to do, at first. The truth is that it does not require a lot of material and a lot of skills. Just some basic tools and directions will be sufficient to succeed. We will not lie to you. It will get messy, but in the end, the results are making your effort worthwhile.
Getting the Supplies
As we already mentioned, you will not need a lot of expensive supplies. Still, you cannot rely on your hands only. So, you will need a screen and wooden frame, silkscreen fabric, transparency paper, photo emulsion and sensitizer, some special water-based screen printing inks, latex gloves, household iron, a 250 watt bulb, scoop coater, dark room, squeegees, a t-shirt or some other clothing piece and small piece of cardboard.
Creating the Image
This is the most important step in the screen printing process. It is not complicated, but it can make or break the appearance of some item. For your first time, start with something simple, such as leathers and words and silhouette created with Photoshop. After you have decided for one image, print it out onto transparency paper.
Coating the Screen
Mix together emulsion and sensitizer according to directions on the bottle. Lay down the screen on a garbage bag and spread some of the emulsion on it with a squeegee. Cover a bit larger area than your chosen image is. Repeat the process until the screen is completely coated (you cannot see through it). Leave the screen in a dark room for two hours and let it dry completely.
Exposing the Image
The moment of truth has arrived, so let there be light. Lay down the screen (side down) and the frame. Place the transparency paper with your image on the screen, where the emulsion is. Tape it down with scotch tape or put a piece of glass over it. Angle your lamp about two feet above the screen and wait for it to work for around 15 minutes. Clean the screen with water and leave it to dry.
Put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt and lay the screen over the fabric. Pour some ink horizontally over the top of the screen and make one smooth movement with squeegee down the screen. Run the squeegee on every side a couple of times to make sure that the ink is applied on the shirt equally. After you are done, lift the screen up and put the shirt in the oven on around 400 degrees for no more than 30 seconds. You can also dry it by ironing the back side of the fabric according to directions.
Additional Tips and Warnings
You will get better results if you use a spot heater and print twice. You should also hold the squeegee somewhere between 45 degree and 90 degree angle. Do not apply too much emulsion. That can cause unwanted open spaces in the screen which you will need to patch later. Clean the screen right after you are done with printing if you want to use it again in the future. You can wash it off with water, but it would be better to use an emulsion remover.
If the results are not just what you have wanted, do not worry. It will take some time to get used to screen printing. In time, you will learn the exact exposure time needed, the amount of pressure required to push the ink through and other quirks. Until that day comes, you will have to practice.