If you need to get a dozen t-shirts for your child's baseball team or if you need an entire set of t-shirts for your fraternity or sorority, then you are going to want to engage the services of a company that specializes in screen printing. However, if you just need one or two shirts screen printed, then you might want to try the process in the comfort of your home. Here are the steps for screen printing t-shirts at home.
1. Purchase the Materials
First, you are going to need to gather your materials.
You will need one screen and frame, which you can purchase at an art store or as a kit online. The frame is usually made out of wood and the screen is the fabric that is stretched across it. The screen will be made out of a special fabric, such as specially treated silk, that is designed for screen printing. Do not buy any screens that are not labeled for screen printing.
Also check the same art store that you are currently in for a photo emulsion and sensifier, which form a special solution that is needed for image transfer. If your art store does not carry these materials, try purchasing them online.
While you are at the art store, also purchase the squeegee that is specifically designed for screen printing and the screen printing ink. If you can't find them at a brick and mortar art store, purchase them online.
Next, go to a hardware store to purchase latex gloves, a 250 watt bulb, and a large black trash bag. If they sell cheap cardboard at the hardware store, purchase a piece of cardboard that will fit inside the t-shirt that you are going to print.
Finally, purchase the t-shirts that you want to print from any retailer.
2. Get the Image Ready
Using Photoshop or another picture editor, prepare your image. Make sure that it is relatively simple for your first time and does not have a lot of thin lines. This image should be solid black because it is going to need to block the light. Print this picture out on transparency paper.
3. Get the Screen Ready
Next, you are going to need to get the screen ready. Make sure that the screen is totally assembled on top of the frame. Then, mix the emulsion and sensifier solutions together. Pour the mixture in a line at the top of the screen and use the squeegee to move the mixture around so that the entire screen is evenly coated. Once the screen is coated, take it to a room that doesn't have any light and leave it there until it is dry.
4. Get the Image on the Screen
Next, you are going to want to get the image on the screen. Cover a large box with a black garbage bag to create a surface that is totally black. Go into the dark room and, without turning on the lights, flip the frame over so that the dried screen is face down. Take the transparency that has your image and place it in the frame, taping it down to secure it. Take a desk lamp and put the 250 watt bulb in it. Angle the head of the lamp so that it is facing the image directly and then turn on the lamp. Allow the image to be exposed to the light for at least fifteen minutes without turning on any other lights.
After fifteen minutes, come back into the room to see if the image is ready. To check that the image is ready, pull up the transparency. You should see faint marks underneath the transparency where the image looks like it's been burnt into the screen.
5. Get the Mixture off the Screen
Next, take your screen into the bathroom tub or outside and apply a steady stream of water to clean the screen off. The image that you put onto the screen should become clear as you hose off the screen. Once it's totally clear, you're ready to print.
6. Print Your Shirt
Push the cardboard into the shirt so the area that you want printed is as flat as possible. Put the shirt and the cardboard onto a table and put the screen on top of the part of the shirt where you want the image to go. Pour ink onto the screen a little bit at a time. Use the squeegee to spread the ink around so that it's even. The ink will bleed through the part of the screen with the image and onto the shirt. After all of the ink is in the shirt, lift up the screen. Allow the ink to totally dry, or preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once the oven is ready, put your shirt in the oven for thirty seconds and remove it. This will allow the image to set on the fabric.
This method is excellent if you only want to print one or two shirts. Otherwise, it can take a long time. Talk to a screen printing company, like The Edge Screen Studio, for more information.