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.
Step 1: Designing a Good Stencil
The first step to making a stencil is choosing a design. We're going to be making the stencil by hand. You want a design that won't be impossible to make into a stencil. Basically, if it's too much work to trace it with a pencil, it's way too much work to print using this method.
Also, think about islands. (Not tropical islands, but islands in your design.) For example, the letter "A" has one island: the white triangle on top. The letter "B" has two. C has none. It's much easier to print a V than an A, but don't be too discouraged. Islands aren't impossible as long as you keep the number of them down and the size of them up. A couple A's the size of CD's isn't bad at all. "AAAAA" the size you're seeing them on your screen isn’t going to happen. If you have the need for very small islands, the advantages this method has over photo emulsion start to disappear. As you get better at this method, you can make islands smaller and use more of them, but if you want to make small text, or detailed lines, learn to use photo emulsion eventually.
You can only print one solid color at a time. In this case, I'm printing the Instructables robot on to a grey shirt. I'm using gray as the background to save me a step, since gray is a color in the design. You don't have to do this, but it saves ink and time. Why not?
For this design, I'm using black as the base coat. This means that every other color will be printed on top of the black ink, not the shirt itself. (Except the gray, since the shirt is gray, but that doesn’t count since it’s not ink.) I will demonstrate how to make the first stencil, but every other stencil is made the same way.
NOTE: Don't use black as the base coat. Use colors, and then put black on top. It looks much better.