One Time Use Screen Printing. (Ghetto Screen Printing)




About: I eat too many chicken nuggets. I never sleep. I do a podcast.

This is a guide for people who wish to make professional looking screen printed items without shelling out the cash for a bunch of screens. It gets expensive, and I'm hoping that there are other creative dorks out there that are just as "thrifty as I am. By thrifty, I mean awesome, and by awesome, I mean cheap.

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Step 1: Gather Your Materials.

You're going to need...

1. A blank screen. You can either make your own out of an old picture frame and some fabric from a fabric store, or just buy a blank one at an art store. I'd tell you how to make one, but this is about the printing itself.

2. A picture of something you'd like on a shirt. The easier to trace and cut out, the less hassle you've got to go through when you place it on the shirt, or, you could just draw it directly onto the contact paper.

3. An x-acto knife, or any other hobby type of knife.

4. A sharpie marker, to trace your picture or to draw on the contact paper.

5. A roll of contact paper. This is what you'll be tracing or drawing said picture on to.

6. A screen printing ink of your choice. Also, if you'd like, you can use those weird tulip slick paints. Not the glitter kind, those will screw your screen up.

7. An ink squeegee.

8. I also get a sheet of news paper to put between the shirt layers.

9. A shirt or whatever else you'd like to print on. I've done shoes, handbags, hats, and other stuff. For those non-shirt items, that's where the paintbrush comes into play. It's awfully hard to use a big screen on weird shaped objects.

Step 2: The Tracing, Cutting, and Contact Papering.

1. Trace or draw your item onto the contact paper. Slick side up, please.

For those of you under 50, contact paper was used many moons ago to line the insides of drawers or something. Cavemen also used the heavy rolls to club unsuspecting women to drag back to their caves.

You can purchase a roll of it in the kitchen type of isle at Walmart for like, 4 bucks. You get A LOT of this stuff. I use clear, because I trace stuff. They've got white if you're more of an artist and you don't want stuff showing through.


2. After your design is traced or drawn, cut it out using the x-acto knife. The more simple the design, the easier time you're going to have. Sure it's possible to use islands and stuff, but it's all about how comfortable you are. It gets easier in time, I promise.

3. Peel the contact paper away from the backing.

4. Place it sticky side down on your t-shirt. Lining it up and getting it perfectly flat is annoying sometimes. I recommend ironing your shirt beforehand.

5. Place the screen over the contact papered shirt.

6. Put on your color medium of choice. Squeegee the ink on.

7. Make sure you pressed it through good. You can peel off the screen and look at what spots you might have missed, and put the screen back on. Since the contact paper doesn't move, it doesn't really matter if you get the screen back on the shirt off centered. I leave extra contact paper around so I don't have any ink mishaps like missing the contact paper. You'll see what I mean in the picture.

Step 3: You're Pretty Much Finished.

After you squeegee your ink, take off the screen and go wash it. The last thing you want is a screen ruined from ink drying up.

You can wait a few minutes for the ink to dry, and then peel off ALL of the contact paper.

You'll be left with a perfect representation of what you drew or copied and printed.

After the ink dries, put a sheet of news paper over the shirt and iron it for about 5 minutes, then flip the shirt inside out and iron the back.

If you used tulip slick paints instead, you don't have to iron it. Just let it dry.

So that's the end. You're finished. You now know the ancient art of ghetto screen printing and optimizing the "more bang for your buck" policy.

Step 4: A Few Other Things I've Done Using This Method.

This is just basically me placating my own ego with these amazing shirts I've made.

Nah, not really. It's more or less to show you all what can be done with time, effort, and an over active imagination.

Thanks for reading.

I might throw up an instructable on how to make your own ghetto screen soon, so be on the look out.

The first image is a Misfits shirt I made with a grill. I don't like the Misfits, but I do like to make fun of things. Ghetto and punk rock don't really go together. It took me about 2 hours to glue on all of those stones.

The second one is a t-rex breathing hearts. It's ridiculous.

The third one was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe. I just now noticed that I forgot her mole. It was more of a test to see how the magenta would look on a black shirt. It shows up horrible. I should have mixed it with white.

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    43 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 3

    We did something similar in my college fibers class, but rather than sticking the contact paper directly to the garment, we stuck it to the backs of our screens. Add some masking tape around the edges to make sure the contact paper stays put and that you don't get any weird ink leaks around the edges of the frame. If you do this technique then you can print more than one image without having to trace and cut each time. Just print as many as you'd like, then peel off the tape and contact paper and give your screen a good washing.


    5 years ago

    cool idea. I hate not sleeping. aaaarrrggghhh


    9 years ago on Introduction

    What kind of fabric are you using? I tried using organza and my contact paper wouldn't stick to it...


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I wonder if you stuck your contact paper to a screen or sheer fabric, and then duct taped it to a frame, if you couldn't get several inks from it? I like your contact paper idea because it's cheaper and more accessible to me then buying a heat gun and begging for sign vinyl.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The screen cloth HAS to be strecthed tightly on the frame to prevent "creeping" [shift of the "open" / printing area] of the stencil pattern while pulling the squeegee [to press the ink through the screen].

    You will have great difficulty preventing "wrinkles" in the screen cloth in attempting to apply your stencil to loose screen material.  Also...

    IF you ty to tightly enough stretch the screen [with the already applied stencil] to apply it to a frame, then more than likely there will be lots of cracking and/or tearing of your stencil which will result in ink getting through the cracxks and ruining your printed image.

    Therefore, the screen should be applied/stretched to a frame BEFORE application of a stecil, ensuring the best chance of a quality print representing the master you used to make the stencil.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    So is this like stenciling? Can you just put the contact paper on the screen? Like the idea. I was looking for a cheap and easy way to do this. thanks for the Instructable!

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, sort of like a stencil, but you can't really stick the contact paper to the screen though because the contact paper isn't strong enough to hold up against the pressure from the ink squeegee, and it would rip. So, if you stick it to your shirt, it prevents movement while you squeegee the ink, and you can also pull off the screen to see where you might need to go over again, and you won't have to worry about getting it lined up perfectly, because the contact paper never moves. I hope that helps!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    UNLESS the "shirt," or other item to be printed is strecthed VERY TIGHT BEFORE attaching the stencil, then the whole thing will stretch and move during squeegee application of the ink.  IF THAT happens, then the printed image will be deformed, ruining the print.

    Also, by putting the stencil ON TOP of either the shirt OR the screen will expose it to direct contact of the squeegee, which will "hang" on the tiny corners or edges of the stencil, resulting in "peeling-up" of the delicate corners, points, or edges, also ruining the printed image.

    Always, the stencil MUST be beneath [on the underside] the screen cloth which "protects" the stencil from the ravages of wear from the squeegee.  If the stencil is below, then the squeegee CANNOT "catch" a corner, or an edge, of the stencil.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I have to tell you that I have been using the process of contact paper stuck to the BOTTOM of the screen for years as have hundreds or thousands of silk screen artists. The squeegee never touches it. You can print tons of shirts and afterward peel off the contact paper and wash it and use it again - it doesn't have to be sticky because as soon as you run paint across it again it it sticks to the screen just like newsprint does when you use that the same way - I too think you should re - do your instructable to reflect this. Besides that you would love the technique as you can spend much more time on cutting because you know you are not using it only one time. Great job.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    lol. Nice instructable.


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I was thinking about trying this(1st timer). what's the best type of ink to use? Is there anything that would give it a shiny vinyl look?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What is the advantage to screenprinting rather than just stenciling ? Just wondering, since, its more work, assumed there must be one I just don't know about ! LOL

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Screenprinting, also known as silkprinting, lasts longer and looks better. Stenciling, people usually use spray paint that's a big NO-NO. Just do this if you're planning to make a lot, you'll get your money's worth. Also, if you sell them, you can get more stuff, to sell more shirts.


    11 years ago on Step 4

    "bling bling" what is that on the teeth... is it stitched in? please elaborate as I would love to do something kind of like this!!

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Step 3

    Try applyling the contact paper directly to the screen(just remember to flip your image). This way you can do many prints of the same design. When you're done peel off the contact paper and wash your screen. Make sure you clean it right away and you should be able to use the same screen many times.