There are a ton of ways to screen print on the cheap, and with little materials to purchase. This guide is just the method I used, given the material I had on hand. The end result looks very handmade, and each shirt will have some character! The total cost to me for one print was under $10. Most of the cost was for the ink, which can probably be substituted out. And the best part is it only takes an afternoon.
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Step 1: Materials
The materials are simple:
- Frame: This can really be anything. Embroidery hoops, some stiff cardboard, or a bucket with a hole in it. I found a picture frame on clearance for $.75! It is plastic, so washing the ink doesn't do anything real bad to it, and it may hold up longer then cardboard. ($.75)
- The Screen: The most important part. Anything that the ink you are trying to use will ooze through. I used a friends worn out nylon stockings. When it gets stretched a bit it all works out. (Free!)
- The Ink: I had some Fabric Screen Printing Ink left over from another shirt project, so I used it. Some kind of latex paint or something similar will probably work too. ($7)
- The Blocker: This is what you put on the screen, to block the parts you don't want ink to go through. Most screen printing uses a photo transfer technique which uses some chemicals, and light and more things to buy specialized. Using the paint I had on hand saved me some money here. I used some white acrylic paint I had on hand. Elmers glue, wood glue, maybe pieces of paper if you work it right will do the job. ($2 (I think) for a small amount)
Step 2: Make the Frame
First I cut out a piece of stocking that I guessed would be the right size. It turned out to be close.
This next bit gets tricky. The nylon stockings did not want to stay stretched so taping it was a bit of a problem. The tape in the picture is not duck tape, though I wish it was. Something really sticky will be best. After wrestling it a bit, it stayed on.
Step 3: Transfer the Image.
This step was the most time consuming. I just painted all the areas I did NOT want to show up on the shirt. I placed the screen over the glass that came out of my picture frame, so the paint would easily come off. It did stick to the glass, but a gentle touch did the trick.
The only note is to take your time to be tedious. Go to the edges (although you could just tape this over). Also make sure that there is solid coat of whatever you are using. There are two pictures associated with this step which look very similar, but in one the white looks a lot better (the second coat to close holes). Try holding it up to the light to see of the light peeks through anywhere to see where to touch up.
I did notice that as the paint dried, the nylon did start to run in a few places. But some reinforcing ducktape helped because the run was near the edge of the frame.
Step 4: Screen the Shirt!
This is the fun part. I regret that some of good pictures of the process were lost.
Before this step I reinforced the frame with some ducktape. It stayed together much easier.
To actually screen the shirt, scoop some ink into a line at the top of the screen. Then using some kind of squeegee (folded paper and aluminum foil?) spread the ink over the whole thing. I have no tips for how to make sure you have enough, because that depends on the screen, ink, and all that. I would say that using a color dissimilar to the color of the screen might be useful so you can tell what you've covered already.
Let it dry, and make sure the ink sets right. The ironing instructions the bottle were useful as it dried the ink really good, so once through the wash changed very little of the final print.