Introduction: At Home Silk Screening on the Cheap!

Silk screening can be fun, but it can also end up costing you a fortune. If you want to print your own clothes and bags, but are a poor starving student like I am, this is an easy and cost efficient way to add images to your clothes.

Step 1: Getting Started

Although there are a handful of things that you do need for this activity, most of them are everyday items that can be found around the house.

What you will need:
- Black and white image (printed or drawn)
- The t-shirt (can also be used on a bag, pants, whatever your heart desires)
- Fabric screen printing ink (I used a brand called speedball. Highly recommended and not a mission to find. Available at fabric and craft stores)
- A thick glue (mod podge is my favourite and is cheap and available everywhere)
- Embroidery hoop ($2.05 at Fabricland)
- A sheer material (I used an old pair of nylons that had a run in them)
- Pencil
- Paintbrushes (various sized depending on how detailed your image is).

Step 2: Finding an Image

Find an image that you would like to use.

Remember that you are going to be tracing this image down the line, so if it is your first time doing this, you may want to chose an image with less detail.

Open it in Photoshop/MS Paint and convert the file to a black and white image.
When you've drained the photo of any colour, print it out and let's get started.

Step 3: The Fun Never Stops

Take the sheer fabric that you have found, as well as the embroidery hoop that you purchased for cheap. Stretch the fabric as tight as you can across the embroidery hoop, but it is delicate, so be careful to not stretch it too hard.

Once you have completed said task, take the image you have printed out (or drawn if you have a steady hand). Place the embroidery hoop face down against the image, so that the fabric is directly against your drawing, and using a pencil, gently trace the image onto your fabric. Remember, gently tracing is vital. I have known from experience that if you are using old nylons, the fabric can rip very easily.

When you are done tracing, even though you traced GENTLY, you should still be able to see a clear outline of the image you are drawing.

Step 4: Before You Start Painting on Your T-shirt

Take your mod podge (or your white glue of choice) and fill up the areas of your image that you DO NOT WANT TO BE PAINTED. This is sometimes tricky for first timers to grasp, but it is vital in the completion of your t-shirt.

Again, fill in the areas that you do not want to appear on your t-shirt. See images to better understand.

Start with the areas closest to where you want the black ink to appear (image 1) and work your way out until you have enough of a border so as not to have paint drip into areas where you do not want to paint (image 2).

Step 5: Painting Onto Your Shirt

Once you have made sure that the glue has completely dried, place the embroidery hoop face down on the t-shirt and slowly start inking the t-shirt. Make sure that it looks like it is fully set in, but don't feel that you need to apply too many coats to achieve a good quality image. It also might be helpful to place a piece of cardboard between the front and the back of your shirt, so that the ink does not bleed through the material.

When you feel that you are done, slowly peel off the embroidery hoop so as not to smudge the image you've just pained.

At this point, refer to the ink paint you are using in order to determine how long you must wait for it to dry. Waiting times vary from ink to ink.


At this point, your t-shirt should be ready to wear.

Put it on when you go out and show off how good of quality a t-shirt can be, even when not using expensive silk screening machines.