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.

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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.

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    15 Discussions


    2 years ago

    if using nylons, do you use a single thickness, or double? Also, is mod podge waterproof enough when dry to reuse the screen? Thanks!


    3 years ago

    Cool Idea! Thsi sis a great way to get started on screen printing.

    I am now using a different method, by printing a reverse image on printer paper, ironing it onto a tee, then using "Stained by Sharpie " fabric paint markers to go over the outline of the line art, then I either paint (fill in areas) with craft paint mixed with textile medium in colors or use the same paint markers to color in. Regular Sharpies for paper fade in the wash. The "Painted" ones do better. I iron the shiny side of freezer paper on the inside of the tee to stabilize the fabric before drawing or painting. keep the fabric from moving.

    PattyP17Anna Logg

    Reply 3 years ago

    He is making a sort of "stencil" with the embroidery hoop, the pantyhose and the glue. They make a one piece unit that he lays over the shirt before painting. The glue stays on the stencil after the shirt is painted through the open areas of the hoop and fabric where there is no glue. He lifts the whole hoop, nylon and glue combination off the shirt after painting.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Cool! I would imagine that using a VERY soft, slightly blunt pencil for your tracing would be helpful in preventing rips in the nylons. Would a marker run with the paint, d'you think?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    They make markers for sewing that fade in 24 hours. One could trace right before painting in the glue. Some of the markers of the same type only come out once they get wet, but all must be tested to see if they will leave a stain.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I think the holes in tulle are still too big to get crisp lines. The bigger the holes in the "netting" or sheer fabric, the less clean an edge one can make. But you might just do a quick test project on a scrap piece of tulle and a piece of old white fabric. I was think more like chiffon. It's polyester and more fine than tulle. It's very thin, but closely woven. You could use an old very thin scarf if you have such. Pantyhose (often called "nylons" after the old style nylon hose people used to wear back in the 50's) are delicate and so easy to damage. Silk screening was done with thin silk, and is now done with a thin nylon fabric.

    I Googled and found that a fabric mesh of 110 to 160 (threads per inch) works best for fabric, and one needs a higher count for paper to make crisp thin lines. so cheap pantyhose, an old very thin scarf, very thin drapery fabric. Just look around for any very thin fabric that is closely woven with a relatively tight weave.


    11 years ago on Step 6

    excellent! great job have to try this. thank you for sharing!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Love this screen printing technique - I do it the same way myself ;-)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I am sure Ingela found the other Instructable on this topic. I think it would at least be the polite thing to do to acknowledge the fact that you did your research first and still thought you should post another Instructable because you have something to add.

    I did this based on the earlier version. For an image I took a picture and created a black and white image. Getting that right was the hardest part of the project, and it still came out wrong. Have patience and step back from the final image to make sure there are no problems. I tinted my Mod Podge with food coloring so I could see it. My table top was white and white Mod Podge was just too hard to see. I used inexpensive acrylic house paint (custom color from Home Depot) instead of the expensive Speedball paints. Acrylic house paint Never comes off a shirt. For a sheer material I got some cheap, not stretchy, lace at Wal-Mart. It was reasonably sturdy to transfer the design. To spread the paint quickly and evenly across the stencil I dumped a load of paint and spread it with an old credit card. As I recall all these hints came from Threadbanger's Instructable and the comments.

    You can reuse the stencil if you clean the paint out quickly. You can make several prints at one time, but the paint (or ink) will start to dry and fill the holes, so keep the process moving and be ready with a hose to blow the paint out as soon as you are finished. If the paint dries, it is permanent. For that matter, you could probably use acrylic paint instead of Mod Podge to create the original stencil.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Nice idea - can you re-use the screen at all, or is this strictly a one-off process?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    What a cool technique! And much easier than typical silkscreening...


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wowzerz, that's awesome! It came out great too, and that's pretty funny. (The shirt, of course). Great job, hopefully I can do this!