Picture of Easier Screen Printing
A year or so ago, I wanted to get into screen printing, so I bought (aka my mom gave me) a Speedball starter set. It came with a screen, ink, and even everything photo emulsion. I thought I had it made.

I didn't. I couldn't get anything to look good, no matter how hard I tried. The ink either bled like crazy or didn't go through the screen. And forget photo emulsion, that was way too hard.

The next summer, someone taught me a really easy way to silkscreen on to paper. Since then, I have developed that technique and I'm going to show share with you what I know. Because let's be honest, you can never have too many silkscreening tutorials.

First off, what is silkscreening?

Basically, the action is like spreading butter on toast, but you're spreading ink across a screen, and with a "squeegee" instead of a butter knife. Along the way across the screen, the ink goes through little tiny holes and sticks to what you're printing on.

That's really the easiest way to put it.

You control what the image looks like by putting a stencil between the screen and the material you're printing on. In this case, we're printing on a T-shirt. The ink only affects the section of the shirt that isn't covered by the stencil. To make a complicated image, people usually put photo emulsion on the screen that makes a stencil using light. We're not doing that. That's way too hard for a beginner like you and I don't even know how to do it right. We're going a little more hands on.

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I know this is pretty old, but I've been searching around and I had a question. Is the screen really necessary? For example, if i just had, say, a sticker that was the shape of a cut out heart, could I just use screen printing ink and either squeegee or stipple that on? I don't see the point in the screen part.

Hi! I thought I would attempt to give you an answer, understanding that I've just started screen printing as a hobby.

From what I've seen, the screen allows, or forces, a controlled amount of ink/paint through onto the surface. The higher the thread count on the screen, the more controlled the ink is. A simple stencil can certainly be done without a screen, but if you want to use/have a detailed image, but with only a few colors, the screen print method gives you the best results. That's how professional printers can get such high-quality, precise images. Plus, since the screen limits the amount of ink/paint used, it will dry faster in between applications than if you used a paint brush and stencils.

I hope that was fairly accurate, that's what I have observed in my limited experience.

That makes sense, thank you so much! I didn't even think about too much ink being laid onto the fabric. =p

Twosoc1 year ago
Hi, great instructable.

If you want to do a permanent screen without the photo emulsion try painting the screen with emulsion paint (latex paint) in negative, its flexible and waterproof when dry and should hold a sharp edge when the template is stuck down properly. I'd use spray mount to really stick the negative image to the screen (but still be peelable) and make sure the brush direction is from the paper to the screen so you don't get it going under the stencil.

With a bit of practice you can get a really sharp edge. Let it dry for a bit then peel off and you should have a permanent screen without the need to fiddle with the islands everytime you want to print.

An extra step is to make a frame that the screenprint frame will sit just inside of, and not wobble about too much and If you do a screen for each layer of colour then they'll always register each time.
That shirt looks great. I know this is old, but I was looking for confirmation that you don't need to use photo emulsion to get good looking screen prints on shirts. You use paper, so I assume I'll be fine using transparency stencils (I think they will last a little longer).

My real question (and my first experiment) is how it will look if I add 2 colors to the well and pull them through: will I get a nice mixture and variety of color, or will it come out junky...
Super Cameraman (author)  rmichaels2131 year ago
Photo emulsion will allow you to make more complicated designs because you aren't physically cutting anything. But if you're using a plastic transparency, you should be fine. The printing result will be the same as if you were using emulsion, the design will just probably be simpler. As far as printing on two colors, you'll be fine as long as you let the first color dry before starting the other color! Good luck!
razorwinged2 years ago
hi! i just wanted to let you know that because i like this instructable so much, i have added it to my silkscreen guide...

thanks for sharing your ideas!
give yourself a bit more credit. i think this looks great. overprinting the other colors on the black lets them stand out better and also gives them a great distressed look. i am also super impressed that you are using Flash to draw with. if you can, buy Illustrator. i think you will love it. awesome job!!
Use the Tulip slick fabric ink in wal mart, dry's a lil hard but wash inside out and you should be good. have a lil container to hold the extra off your screen.
frollard4 years ago
The only screen printing I've done was with emulsion, single colour -- I loved it, but I DID have a transparency printer, vac-light-table, and proper dark-room to work with the emulsion. I was always awful at the stenciling version -- GREAT writeup with clear instructions!
scoochmaroo4 years ago
I have no skill or patience for silk screening. I also started with the speedball kit. I recently picked up a speedball lino but kit, and it seems to be awful too. Now I'm beginning to think it's not just me!
Super Cameraman (author)  scoochmaroo4 years ago
it appears speedball kits are a good way to get ALMOST everything you need to get started in something. except instructions. and some key part like... ink that isn't some terrible color? (it came with metallic silver, red, and blue. that's just gross.)
Yeah, my ink is the major problem.
Super Cameraman (author)  scoochmaroo4 years ago

this is a great starter kit, and it's a pretty good price too. If you can mix colors, you can make any color you want.
Schmidtn4 years ago
I don't screen print, but I do dye disc golf discs, which is similar.

Suggestion: Have you tried using GLAD Press'n Seal instead of scotch tape to transfer over your island pieces? It wont peel up your paper like scotch tape sometimes does. They also make something called application tape, but Press'n Seal works almost just as good and is easy to find.

Question: How the heck do you get your round cuts so smooth?! I jokingly hate your skill; those compound curves are hard to cut! Good on you!
Super Cameraman (author)  Schmidtn4 years ago
Really good suggestions! The instructables community never ceases to amaze me.

About the cuts... I will tell you, many knife tips died during the making of this instructable!
frenzy4 years ago
This is pretty impressive for just using stencils. Most people use photo-emulsion silk screening for detailed work.
dchall84 years ago
Thank you for posting this. I'm like you...there can never be too many I'bles on screen printing. I'm still looking for a relatively easy and inexpensive way to turn difficult images into a screen.  I like the photo resist idea but it is expensive and the chemicals are on the hazardous side.  I was very successful painting Elmer's glue onto the screen using a black and white image, but that was very tedious.  You have presented another way of looking at an old idea.  Many people suggest using contact paper (sticky on one side) and a mask for the stencil.  By combining the ideas, you could make a series of registered stencils using your technique, paint a mask for each one on a different screen, let that paint dry, and use those screens to make the final image.  Acrylic paint will dry quickly and create a permanent mask. 

Making the screens using your example
1.  Using freezer paper or contact paper in an INKJET printer, print one copy of the robot for each color in the final image. Yours would have orange, red, blue, white, and black. 
2.  Cut out the entire robot (anything you want to be orange background) on one page.  Cut out the tiny detailed colors on the other pages.  In your example it would be red (head detail), white (finger and foot detail), and blue (button/lights detail). 
3.  Stick the robot onto the first screen.
4.  Spray paint the screen with black (or heavily pigmented) acrylic paint (Rustoleum spray?) and let that dry.
5.  Peel off the paper. 
6.  Repeat for the various colors.  If you printed them all at the same time, registration should be easy. 

What you have left is the outline of the robot and the holes.  The black paint fills the holes in the screen creating a mask.  Your next screen might have only the eyes, and so on.  To make the final black lines, you could do that by hand with a Sharpie or black paint on a brush/sponge. 

If you are only going to make one shirt, then you could simply stick the negative image (as a mask) to the shirt with the sticky paper and spray paint through the mask with orange acrylic spray paint.  This method skips the screen and all the clean up.  If you are good with an airbrush, this could be very interesting. 

Any acrylic paint from the hardware store will work.  Let them mix your colors for you.  All you have to do is pick a paint chip from the display and pick your white paint. 

Along the lines of making your a better I'ble, if you had listed the tools and materials you need in step 2 the reader would not have to flip back and forth looking to find what you are talking about. 
fizo4 years ago
i love screenprinting :)
nice feeling to wear a t shirt which is handmade :)