Screenprint a Leather Warriors Vest




About: Robb was once an Artist-in-Residence at Autodesk's Pier 9. He went to Carnegie Mellon to study Art. He mostly does tangible artifacts that are often complex. He can be reached at

I wanted a vest from the 1979 movie The Warriors, so I decided to make one out of leather and screen print the design.

IMDb page:

20"x24" Screen 110 mesh or equivelent (12XX)
Ink (Black, Red, Yellow, White)
Photoemulsion (I used Speedball Diazo)
6 Inkjet Transparencies
Leather lace

Step 1: Trace Design

I found several photo's of the vest from the movie and photoshopped them to have only 4 colors. I then used MagicVector to convert it to vector and tweaked the result in illustrator.

i have included the JPG and the vectors as SVG, AI, and PDF

Step 2: Seperations and Arrangement

i wanted to fit all of the components on one screen to save emulsion, so is separated each component in illustrator and laid them out in a file the size of my screen(20"x24"). i had a little space left over so i put the movie's logo on the page as well.

the WARRIORS text is 3 colors: white background, red text, and a black outline on the text
the winged skull is 5 colors, but i used 4: Black, White, Red, and 2 shades of yellow, but i put in stripe halftones to act as the darker yellow.

i included a JPG, a PDF, and an AI (don't print the jpg, it will have bad edges)

Step 3: Printing Transparency

Acrobat Reader and Illustrator has an option for printing things bigger than Letter.

Illustrator: (see Image)
File>Print>General>Tile>Imageable Areas
you can then drag the box around to use the least amount of Transparency. keep in mind that setting the orientation to portrait or landscape may help you out.

Acrobat Reader: (no image)
File>Print>Page Scaling>Tile All Pages

once you've printed your transparencies(i had 6) you can tape them together with clear pacaging tape or similar.

Step 4: Coating and Exposing Screen

an excellent instructable on Photo Emulsion screen printing.
exact process i followed.

once i coated, exposed, and washed my screen, it came out messy around the edges. i fixed it with masking tape. keepin mind it will take longer to expose a bigger screen as the light bulb will be further away. mine took about 40 minutes@150W but don't hold me to that.

Step 5: Ink

i used all water based ink. my mesh was 160 which i really regret as the white got stuck and ruined one of the vests. i recommend using a 110 screen.

Step 6: Printing

Registration(alignment) was tricky becuase there are so many componets and i don't have any hinges. what i did was
-trace the outline of the screen's frame on your table
-trace the outline of the screen on the transparency as you exposed it(seen in picture)
-line up rectangle on transparency with rectangle on table
-place vest under transparency with the desired componet in the desired place while maintain rectangle alignment
-remove transparency from the vest
-align screen to rectangle on table without moving vest at all
-print component of design on vest(mask undesired components with 3m masking tape)
-repeat until finished

so, as long as your carefully aligning, you can get perfect alignmet this way.
It worked great for me, all of the components were within 1/16th of an inch.

I dried my vests with a heat gun in between prints.

Step 7: Cut/Sew Vests

my vests were pre-cut and punched, so i just sewed the back to the lapels with leather lace and i was done.

Step 8: Finish!

look awesome.



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    27 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    dude that is awful close to an HA colors..... Youd only be lucky if one took it cause if an outlaw mistook that here in IL youd be dead before questions are answered. Other wise nice job.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Don't look much like  HA colors at all, Warlocks or Misfits maybe.

    Though the vest does look like MC colors, so you may need to be aware of where you are wearing it.  Some clubs don't take kindly to another groups colors being worn in there turf, particularly the 1%ers.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I would worry about it if it had M/C or 1% on it, but it doesn't. Could be easily mistaken though! Definitely worthwhile to be careful where you wear the thing.
    It's really nicely done, though! I appreciate the work that went into it.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm confused. So I need to be careful in Arizona around Hell's Angels? I think I'd be careful anyway. You had a vest and they stole it from you and destroyed it? Because the vest is similar?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Not only can they take it and destroy it. They will beat the #%@! out of you if they are nice, but if they had a bad day they will off you. I can assure you it is not a joke to wear colors in somebody's territory.


    9 years ago on Step 8

     Hey i was curious on how long that stayed on? i did  belt with water based textile ink and it seams to be coming off, not right away but when i touch it and just rub it a little bit, it starts to come off.  i don't have a heat gun just a hair dryer and a iron, it dry's really fast and looks great and like it on there but it doesn't seam to have sustainability . any ideas ?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 8

    the ink has been saying on my vest, mostly i think because i only wear it a few times a year. water based ink is pretty worthless, it eventually comes off whatever you put it on. Plastisol textile inks are oil-based and stick around forever. however they require a heat gun and harsh chemicals to clean up.

    an easier option would be to spray the piece with some sort of matte spray coating. I've had some luck with that when painting belts.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty sick dude. I made a vest about 6 years ago now but I used felt for the logo on the back and sewed it on. It's always badass to wear to a halloween costume party!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Warriors!...COME OUT AN PLAYAAAY! some one was gunna say it i just figured id get it out of the way cool idea be fun to go to a convention w a group as the warriors

    2 replies

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice But I have to object on the mistake of the lighter vest, where as the mistake gives the appearance of wear (used) an it looks neat. good job

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The lighter one is more like a mastery of the process, I have made mistakes that add new dimensions to an old process . The darker one is more like machine made, and while both are very good I will still go with my choice for the reasons already given....