DIY Screen Printing: Easy, Detailed & Inexpensive!





Introduction: DIY Screen Printing: Easy, Detailed & Inexpensive!

You can make your own unique, detailed, screen-printed shirt at home with a few simple materials! This method uses Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler to easily create your detailed design on a screen. There are other cheap methods you can use for screen-printing, however I really like this method because it allows you to create more detailed designs than you would using Mod Podge to paint on a screen and it's much easier than using an exacto knife to cut out fine details from contact paper. Also, it's less expensive than purchasing screen-printing frames from art stores, which are usually $15 & up.

If you'd like to see some finished products or view my other tutorials, check out my etsy shop blog , or follow me on twitter ! Also, your constructive feedback on this tutorial is greatly appreciated!  Thanks for looking and message me with any questions!

Step 1: Materials

You need a few inexpensive materials which can be found at art stores & most craft stores.

- embroidery hoop (only about $2 for a basic hoop, available at craft stores)
- mesh material (nylon, polyester, silk - something with tiny holes that can serve as a fine screen)
- Drawing Fluid (I use Speedball, available at most art stores)
- small paintbrush
- newspaper
- Screen Filler (I use Speedball, available at most art stores)
- plastic spoon
- screenprinting ink
- squeegie
- shirt or bag to print on

Step 2: Assemble Your Screen

Take your mesh material and place inside embroidery hoop. Tighten hoop. Stretch material evenly across hoop and tighten hoop again. Should be tight or your material will shift and you won't have a clear print.

Step 3: Draw Your Design!

This is the fun part! Flip hoop over so that the screen is facing up. Shake your Drawing Fluid bottle. Using your paintbrush and drawing fluid, draw a design onto screen. (This Drawing Fluid will be washed out later after the Screen Filler is applied.) Make sure your brush strokes aren't TOO thin or the design will not be clear. Allow to dry fully (about an hour, or if you're impatient, speed the process along w/ your hairdryer)
*If you would like to be more careful when drawing your design onto the screen, you can draw your design onto paper using a marker first, then tape drawing to underside of screen and trace the design with drawing fluid.

Step 4: Apply Screen Filler

Place newspaper under screen to avoid making a mess. Shake your Screen Filler bottle. Spoon a couple tablespoons of Screen Filler onto top of screen (same side as the Drawing Fluid). Using squeegie, drag Screen Filler at a 45 degree angle from top to bottom of screen. Repeat a few times (2-4x) until you cover the whole screen. Do NOT do this more than a few times because it will become difficult to wash out the Drawing Fluid. (This Screen Filler will remain on the screen, and the Drawing Fluid will later be washed out.)  Check the underside of the screen to make sure the Screen Filler isn't seeping through. If it is, don't worry, just use your squeegie to scrape off excess Screen Filler. (And next time, use a finer mesh material with smaller holes). 

Allow to dry fully for a few hours or overnight (again, impatient folks can bust out the hairdryer). Should be completely dry to touch.

Step 5: Rinse Out Drawing Fluid

When screen is dry, rinse screen w/ water (use shower head if possible) to remove drawing fluid from screen. (This is where the ink will pass through the screen to create your image on your shirt or bag.) The Screen Filler should remain on the screen. It will block ink from passing through the areas that are not part of your drawing/design. Allow to fully dry again!

Step 6: Test Your Screenprint

Place your screen onto test paper/material and place a few spoonfuls of screen-printing ink onto the top of your screen. Hold screen down firmly in place with one hand.  Using pressure with the other hand, drag squeegie at a 45 degree angle across screen to distribute the ink. Flip squeegie over and drag squeegie upwards. Do this about 3 times. Once you have made a satisfactory test print...

Step 7: Screenprint!

Print on a t-shirt, tote bag, pillow case, cardstock..anywhere! Have fun with different ink colors, too! You can print for around 15-20 minutes at a time, making sure the ink doesn't dry in the screen by "flooding" the screen between prints. To flood the screen, drag ink across screen using your squeegie WITHOUT applying pressure. This will distribute ink into the screen holes so the ink doesn't dry up too quickly.To clean up, simply scrape excess ink off screen with squeegie and rinse screen. Let screen dry and reuse later! You may have to stretch and tighten screen across embroidery hoop before your next printing session. 

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.  If you'd like to check out my etsy store or blog, please do... I love visitors!



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    50 Discussions

    This looks like a great idea! I was wondering if it is possible to remove the mesh from the hoop, after the screen filler has been applied, but before printing the design? I'm hoping to do this activity with a number of students and we would need to share the hoops - would the image be damaged if it was switched between hoops over a couple of days before finishing printing?

    Very easy to understand, this is awesome.Good work.


    What do you recommend for cleaning the screen after? I know for a fact that Screen filler is really hard to clean out....

    1 reply

    Since I spent 3 hours lettering and the screen filler just washed 1/4 of it away, I would like to know this answer as well.

    Five Important Notes for printing with fabric inks:

    1. The screen frame is usually detached from the base and used alone. Usually two (2) people should work on the printing process – one holding the screen frame tightly against the fabric, and the other doing the printing.
    2. On articles like T-shirts, a piece of foamboard, cardboard or paper must be put inside each garment to act as a barrier.
    3. To improve the lubricity (slipperiness) of the ink, you may add the Transparent Base. To slow drying or to prevent screen clogging, add the Retarder Base (1-2 tbs. to 8 oz. of ink).
    4. Wash-up of screens and tools must be done immediately after use. If they are allowed to dry on your screen or tools, they are difficult or impossible to remove.
    5. After the fabric ink dries on the fabric, set a household iron at the highest dry heat (no steam) that will not scorch the fabric and with a cloth or paper between the iron and printed material, iron on each side for 3 – 5 minutes. This will make the ink withstand repeated washings.

    This is fabulous! Very clear and easy to understand - thank you!

    Very helpful! and easy to understand, thanks a lot ! :)

    I had no idea it could be THAT easy! Screen printing has always seemed like some mystical and expensive process.

    I've got a kit. I'm giving it a shot.

    I left a comment about a year ago that I was going to try this with summer camp kids...I did, and they loved it! They drew their designs on the screen fabric (some traced computer-printed stencils) and painted the drawing fluid by themselves, and even put the screen filler over it without help. We used small hard plastic cards (like credit card slugs) to put the screenprinting ink on, which worked beautifully. I'm doing it again this summer--we have lots of materials left over.

    Plus I got to make myself some shirts with the kids' designs, which were very cute and funny! Thanks again for the instructable.

    You can make a DIY rectangular screen too. go to Ross or Ikea and buy the cheapest wood rectangular photo frame that has no embelishments on the front. remove the glass and backing. stretch the screen/mesh fabric over the bare rectangular screen and use a staple gun to secure in place on the edges of the frame (do not staple on the side that will lay flat when you screen print). cover with duct tape before beginning the drawing fluid step.

    I want to screen print a pair of tights. Is this possible with this method?

    1 reply

    hi, i am just getting into this, so you are using a smaller squeegie than you print, which i guess means you have to pull ink a few times... so how do you stop it from bleeding.
    i have had results bleed or some areas not have ink even with a squeegie that is bigger than my printing area??
    also i have a screen but there seems to be a lot of instructions that say i have to tape the edges?? can i skip that? it looks like you get around it.
    can't wait for the reply, i have been put off trying again as my first to printing attempts have not worked (one invovling cleaning filler out, so i am going to read over your steps for that too)

    1 reply

    hi! since the frame is round, i use a smaller squeegie to make it easier. i usually only pull ink 3-4 times and if the screen is tight, and the ink is not runny, it shouldn't bleed.

    also, since the screen is round, i didn't tape it. i do tape screens when i buy rectangular screens. if you have the $, i'd buy a screen from the store since they are stronger and tighter; if not, then this is a good cheap alternative.

    Yes, you have to use 'screenprinting' ink. Other inks may dry in the screen holes or ruin your screen! Have fun!

    Thank you so much, this is exactly what I need! Looks to be so much easier than I thought it was going to be!

    Just one question as this will be my first attempt doing this myself, what kind of paint do you use? Does it have to say specifically "Screen Printing Ink", or will any kind of fabric type paint work? Basically I'm looking for what would be the most inexpensive paint but that would still wash and wear well. I see only one store listed in my city on Speedball's website, so I'm hoping I have more options than them LOL.

    Another question, and I completely understand if you are not wanting to share, but I was wondering if you have a preference as to where you get good quality shirts and other things to print on, but at a good price? I've been on the search for a while but feel overwhelmed by the choices and not knowing who is really good with supplying these things.

    wow this is probably the most helpful one ive seen thanks alot :D