Laser Cut Stencil Bandana

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Introduction: Laser Cut Stencil Bandana

About: Hey there! I'm recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's Industrial Design program and a former Instructables intern. When I'm not working in a studio I enjoy exploring cities by bike and brainstorming...

Silk screening designs onto fabric can be a complicated and messy process. Laser cutting a printing stencil can give similar results without requiring all the chemicals and equipment that screen printing does.

Begin by creating your vector design to be laser cut. I made mine using Illustrator.

Keep in mind that the design will be cut out as a stencil. Every part needs to be attached in some way. "Floating" features need tabs to hold them in place and delicate features may need multiple tabs.

It might be a good idea to keep your design relatively simple. I used a variety of geometric shapes to create my patterns.

Step 1: Cut Stencil

Consider the material you would like to use for your stencil. Ideally it should be water resistant and rigid.

I used 1/8th inch acrylic. Try to keep the stencil thickness as minimal as possible. A thick stencil will be harder to print with because it will be more difficult to get printing media into the cutouts.

If you don't have access to a laser cutter, you can also hand cut stencils on acetate. Print your pattern, lay it under a sheet of acetate and cut through both layers. It's a bit more tedious but it works!

Step 2: Cut Fabric

Prepare your fabric for printing.

First mark out the fabric to be cut. I made my bandanas 22" x 22".

Cut the fabric and finish the edges. I used a surger on my edges, but you can also fold and top stitch the edges for a clean look. If you do this method, remember to include a seam allowance when cutting the fabric.

Step 3: Spray Print

Spray paint is a great cheap way to make prints. Though it will eventually fade when washed.

In a well ventilated area, lay your fabric on a drop cloth or scrap paper. Center and place the stencil over your fabric.

Ensure the stencil is as flat as possible. If it isn't making contact in certain areas you may need to add weights to hold the stencil down.

Spray several even coats of paint over your stencil. For a cleaner print remember to spray straight down on the stencil rather than at an angle. Spraying at an angle can cause a blurry print when paint makes its way under the stencil.

Once the desired amount of paint has been applied, lift your stencil and let the fabric sit to dry before moving.

Step 4: Bleach Print

Bleach printing is a more permanent printing method, though the color options are limited compared to spray paint.

In a well ventilated area, wear gloves and mix a solution of 50 : 50 bleach and water in a spray bottle.

Lay your fabric out on a drop cloth and place the stencil on top of the fabric.

Lightly mist the stencil with the bleach mixture. Don't spray too much, getting the fabric too saturated with liquid will cause the bleach to bleed and distort the print. You may need to occasionally wipe extra bleach off the surface of the stencil so it does not drip onto the fabric.

Bleach takes a few seconds to discolor the fabric, so wait between each pass before applying more bleach.

When the desired color has been reached, remove the stencil and allow the print to dry. (don't fold the fabric or it may leach bleach into itself)

You may want to wash your fabric to remove excess bleach.

Step 5: Test Out Your Designs!

Once your bandanas are finished test them out!

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    If you don't have one yourself, there are lots of companies your can out source your file to who will cut it for your, or look for a local collaborative maker space like tech shop!