Screen Printing With Vinyl




Introduction: Screen Printing With Vinyl

In this instructable Im going to show you how to screen print without the expensive, time consuming, dark room needing, messy photo emulsion! 

So here is what you need.

1: A vector image to screen print.

2: A blank screen

3: A sign squeegee, or credit card.

4: A vinyl decal or access to a vinyl cutter. 

5: Masking/transfer tape. 

Step 1: The Image to Decal

If you dont have a vinyl cutter (odd are you dont) this is still a useful technique as most high-street Printers/sign-makers/universities will have one, and more importantly if you proved them with the image will make you a decal up for very little as it will probably fit onto a scrap of sign vinyl....  but what ever they charge it will be considerably less then getting a screen made up! 

1: Find the image you want to screen print, and if necessary convert to a vector image. 
(It will need to be vector due to the vinyl cutting stage only working with vectored images.)

2: Cut the image, or get it cut for you!  
(its very important that you ask for it to be a negative of the image, or if your weeding the vinyl yourself you need to weed the line-work from the vinyl)

Step 2: Setting Up the Screen

Once you have you vinyl decal sticker, your ready to apply it to your screen. 

Your decal will have a wax paper backing sheet and a transfer tape front, you need to peel off the wax backing sheet to expose the sticky vinyl. 

Place the decal sticky side down on the screen and rub it all over with a credit card or sign squeegee.

Now peel off the layer of transfer tape to expose the no sticky side of your vinyl decal.  

Step 3: Mask and Print!

Now you have your vinyl decal stuck down to the screen you just need to mask off the rest of the screen and your ready to go! 

you can easy remove the vinyl with a little white spirit, and reuse the screen with a new design........this makes it a lot cleaner and more practical for small print runs.

Why not use glow in the dark paint, so i qualify to enter in the Make It Glow contest! ;) 

Now I will take this chance to preempt a couple of question, but if iv missed something just ask below. 

Q: Wont the squeegee jut rip up the vinyl 
A: No, well its not done that to any of my ones, the lubrication of the paint, and the industrial adhesive quality of sign vinyl stop this from happening. (if you were doing heavy detailed work you could always flip the image and stick it to the underside of the screen)

Q: I dont have spare £200+ for a vinyl cutter, just to screen pint 10 T-shrits!
A: Any sign printers should do you a vinyl decal for less the the price of a blank Tshirt! (compare that to the price of getting a photo emulsion screen made up!)

Q: Is it true you have many leather-bound books and your apartment smells of rich mahogany?
A: Yes.



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    25 Discussions

    I have cut a text mask using my Cameo 3.0, weeded it to remove lettering leaving the background, added transfer tape . . . So far so good but I can't get the vinyl to adhere to the screen so when pulling off the transfer tape, the whole thing comes off, anyone got any idea of what am I doing wrong please?

    1 reply

    Hello Keith,

    Unfortunately not all vinyl is equal when it come to adhesion, could be worth trying another brand.

    So I have been screen printing for a year now and I have been using this method for about 5 months, but the bad thing I noticed is that the stencial peels off after three days and i want to keep reusing it for my logos but I'm always needing to make new screens and with the paint mixing with the glue from the vinyl it's not a good idea to re use with all the glue gunk in the screen holes... even the pressure washer can't remove that gunk... so I'm going to use 90m super adheasive spray to try and stick the vinyl better to the screen to hold it on permanent. .. has any one else experience this? And had to find a solution ?

    I screen print as a side business and I sometimes use vinyl for short runs of lettering. You want to put the vinyl on the side of the screen that touches the shirt, not the side that you use the squeegee on. You run the risk of the squeegee getting caught on a piece of vinyl and pulling it from the screen ruining your image. When the vinyl is on the shirt side, it will act as a gasket leaving an ink deposit the height of the vinyl. I'm not saying the way it's done in the 'ible is wrong. I'm just saying that you will be able to produce more shirts with less of a risk of ruining your vinyl stencil.

    4 replies

    Thanks for the tip, I did try it that way, but got a bit of bleed.

    But that was when I was using the cheap vinyl, so will defiantly give it a go now I got sign vinyl.

    dear if you have vinyl decal cut on ploter then you dont need it to screen print it can directly stick the decal on copper clad.remove the unwanted portion and etch it in will get nice pcb or any image .

    I suggest you use only Hi Preformance vinyls.
    Avery's A 7--A9 are only 2 mil thick, have a aggressive glue & are rated very conformable.
    if you need stiffer (2.5 --3mil) use the A 4 up to A 6 series. all manufactures have their own version of Hi Perf.
    most any independant Sign shop will sell paper transfer tape and enough vinyl to play with, by the piece. I do for walk ins.
    NOTE: I seldom use the clear transfer tape.
    Luck to all,
    Mr Steve

    i run a sign shop graphica sign studios. avery isnt good for high performance vinyl. i use arlon instead you get a better result

    Wished you had showed this few months ago, will give it go soon. Well explained imstructable. Keep Sharing :)

    I have used that vinyl method as a stencil to lay down drawing fluid instead of free-handing the design, then proceeded normally with the rest of the drawing fluid method to produce a robust washable screen that can be stored for months, and used repeatedly on demand. I just use Speedball's drawing fluid & screen filler.

    13, 3:24 PM.jpg

    if some one needs a design cut on a vinyl cutter let me know i will make and ship the decal 4 some mula :) , send me a email, thanks this is a decal i made for a t shirt


    Do you have a pic of something you inked that shows your handiwork? I would love to see a shirt or paper showing your screening.

    As a sign maker since '92.
    I catell you the easy way to release Hi or Lo tack transfer paper is simple ,just ! wet it
    it is a latax glue, so water soulable.:-)

    1 reply

    How do you know what my apartment smells like?! That's creepy.

    I would love to see a photo of something that's been screen printed this way. This technique looks very nice, but I'm always curious what the finished product looks like!

    3 replies

    I use this technique but have trouble with the transfer to the screen because I do not have a low tack transfer tape. Here is a picture of the results I have had. I find that the sticker is only good for about 5 prints before I start to get color bleed under the edges. So like the author says good for small runs.


    Why not spray adhesive after the sticker wears down? You let it sit and dry for a little time before you put adhesive on the shirt and that way the glue doesn't stay on the shirt. Do they have vinyl printers at Kinko's or someplace like that?

    Iv not had trouble with color bleed yet, but iv been printing onto aluminum enclosures in batches of 5-10.

    regards low tack transfer tape, I find the old school paper based stuff is a lot better then the clear for this process.

    really nice results TinkeringProductions !

    This is an interesting option, and I would imagine that it is easy to get consistent results this way. It could actually be a little more durable than the emulsion method, those screens don't last forever either.

    I have done several small-run T-shirts and I wonder if you have tried any registered (multi-color) designs? I've only done one-color so far, looking to branch out.