Screen Print How-To

Special thanks to "craftgrrl" Kristy (girlx512) for her cheapie screen printing tutorial, which I used as a basis for my first screen-printed tee.
A few years ago, I posted a "Woodcut How-To" showing the steps necessary to create a wood block print, in that case, of an image of my water witch, Jenny Greenteeth. That tutorial is responsible for, I would say, 35% of the visits to my blog, and is the first link to pop up when googling for a woodcut tutorial. So when I decided to teach myself screen-printing, I knew a new toot was in order.
I wanted to take silk screening in college but never had the time/credits. I took lithography and acid etching, and always meant to teach myself to silkscreen later. Plus, I looove tee shirts, own probably four or five dozen that I wear regularly, and have toyed around with creating my own for years. I had at one point set up a CafePress account, but I would prefer to do the printing myself, have more control over quality, etc. And now that I have an Etsy shop set up, I can start selling my designs there.
We've got a new machine for sale at work called a Yudu screen printer. I attended a demo the other day and fell in love with the machine, but I just can't afford $300 (I'd much rather put the $ toward a new camera for my stop-motion). So I googled and turned up craftgrrl's cheap toot, linked above. Same basic technique without the complicated and expensive tools. Here is what you will need:

*Material to print on (a tee)
*Material for your screen, traditionally silk, but Kristy says you can even use nylon, though you may end up with a pixelly image due to its loose weave. She recommends curtain material, and just so happens we have a canopy bed and lots of old dressing for it, including some old ugly peach sheer curtains, so thats what I used.
*An embroidery hoop
*Glue (Mod Podge recommended and thats what I used)
*Pencil/pen for transferring image to screen
*Ink (I bought a bottle of black screen printing ink made to go with the Yudu machine, but Speedball makes it as well)
*An iron to heat-set the ink after drying.

Lets get to it then....
I need a Jenny Greenteeth shirt. No doubt. So I took my original woodcut image, photoshopped it a bit to get rid of the body and control the hair strands a little more. (I didn't even realize until doing this, that I had printed my woodcut backwards! Oops :D I hadn't considered that she was not symmetrical, missing an eye. So the image on the woodcut print is actually reversed, her "good eye" is in the wrong socket.)
I bought a 17" embroidery hoop and stretched a piece of my curtain fabric onto it. I had to tighten the screw and then tug on the loose ends of the fabric to get it stretched tight enough, then tightened the screw again as tight as I could get it. The result was almost like the surface of a snare drum, excellent!
Next I measured my shirt to figure out how large I could make my image, ended up deciding on about 14". So I opened up my photoshop image file, changed the size to 14" wide, and printed it out on two sheets of paper, which I then taped together to form the complete design.
Next I laid my "screen" (my fabric-stretched hoop) down on top of the image so the material is flush with the printout. This is how you will later drop the ink, with the fabrics flush together, so it isn't necessary to reverse the image for this style of screen printing. After laying the "screen" over the image, I took a felt-tip pen and traced the blacks onto the screen.
Now comes the most time consuming part of the process, the glue mask. In traditional silk screening, you would use photo emulsion fluid to "develop" the image directly onto the screen. Here, all you do is paint the negative space with your glue, creating a mask that will block the ink from transferring through the screen. You are basically making a glue/fabric stencil. Don't go too goopy with it or it will glop up on the reverse side of your screen, I would occasionally flip the screen over and smooth out the glue globs with my brush. I ended up doing two thin coats of the glue to make sure that all of the little holes in the weave were filled in completely.
You can apparently use tape to block out the larger areas, but I went ahead and painted my glue over the entire edge of the screen. I found that, like when priming a stretched canvas, as the glue dried, it tightened up my screen even more. Once the glue dries, its time to print.
First I stretched my tee onto a piece of cardboard and used clamps to hold it tightly in place.
Then I laid my screen down on top of my tee, centering and positioning it where I wanted the transfer to occur. I grabbed a few weighty bottles of liquid (cooking oil and some cleanser :) that were handy, to weigh down the screen, to make sure that it was flush against the material of the tee.
Again, with traditional screen printing, you would run a bead of ink across the top of your image and then use a squeegee to drag the ink across the screen. I wasn't sure if that technique would work on my screen, so I used a foam brush to stipple, dab and paint the ink onto the screen.
Once I was sure that I had covered the entire image, I peeled off the screen and brought it into the shower to wash off the excess ink before drying, so that the screen can be used again.
A couple of areas were light so I took a paintbrush and painted a little extra ink in those areas.
I let it dry for a few hours, and then ironed it on med-high heat for about 3 minutes as per the instructions on the ink. If you don't heat-set the ink, it can fade or wash off.
Here we have it, the Jenny Greentee :)
I think I want to do a couple of additional screens to go on this tee, maybe some green printed seaweed. Once I finalize the design, I'll post an image and probably list it for sale on Etsy. Now go forth and be printy!!


Shelley Noble said...

Nicely done, Captain!

gl. said...

i've seen that trick! i love it. you make it look good! :)

UbaTuber said...

Thanks, Ladies :)

people in gorillasuits said...

This is what I am looking for at the moment. What were your experiences with Cafe Press and did you make any other experiences with such companies ?! Nice shirt !!!

UbaTuber said...

I dont have any personal experience with CP but I've heard from a couple of peole who weren't too impressed with the quality of their tee's. Mike "Strider" has tried zazzle.com but his shirt came in with no image on it, if I remember right, not sure whether he ever tried to order another one...I would rather print them myself cause Im a bit of a control freak :) Then again I dont expect to be overwhelmed with orders :P For mass producing, you could take a look at customink.com, I've heard good things about their customer service...

mefull said...

That's the great thing about screen printing, its not that hard and it doesn't take much to get it going.
And dang it if you can't print on just about anything.

It turned out great jeffery


swegge said...

Great article. Keep writing and shower your readers with such useful information. Keep it Up!!!

Screen print