Screenprinting Ink + Vinyl Stencils = Cheap, Custom Shirts!




About: Undergraduate Class of 2017 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Major: Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering); Minor: Course 21A (Anthropology).

No screenprinting screens, expensive chemicals, or complicated set-up!

This method lets you print one (1) custom design on a shirt/piece of clothing, as the vinyl stencil is single-use. This is a great quick-and-effective method for when you want a one-of-a-kind piece, unique to you.

Step 1: What You'll Need

1. An article of clothing you want to print on. Cotton, linen, polyester, and other common fabrics work best.

2. Screenprinting ink in the color of your choice.

3. A craft knife

4. A ruler

5. A sponge brush

6. A length of adhesive-backed vinyl. Can be bought fairly cheaply online.

7. A cutting mat/board.

8. A design you want to print!

Step 2: Creating the Stencil: Guide Lines

Tape down a piece of the vinyl to the cutting mat. To help you create your design, use the ruler to draw guide lines, as shown. Here, I've made a grid of equal-sized boxes to ensure even spacing between the letters in my design.

Step 3: Lay Out the Shirt

To prevent the ink from bleeding through to the other side of the shirt, find a scrap piece of cardboard (or just use your cutting mat, like I did) to tuck inside the shirt. Make sure whatever you use is completely flat, or it might distort your design.

Smooth out the area of the shirt where you'll be printing. Peel the adhesive backing off of your completed stencil, then carefully position and stick the stencil onto the shirt.

Step 4: Inking the Stencil

Using the sponge brush, apply the screenprinting ink to the stencil with quick, firm, up-and-down daubs. The amount of ink you use is up to you, but I would recommend starting small and adjusting from there.

Leave the stencil on for ~1 hour. The ink should dry relatively quickly.

Step 5: Remove Stencil and Heat Set the Ink

After the ink has dried, peel off the stencil. At this point, you can add more to your design using a second stencil (like I've done here), or you can go ahead and set the ink.

To heat set the screenprinting ink, flip the shirt inside out, and iron (no steam) the backside of the stenciled area for 1-2 minutes.

And that's about it! Your newly printed shirt/article of clothing is now ready to wear or wash. For best results/ink longevity, machine wash cold on a gentle cycle.

Have fun showing off your unique designs!



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2 Discussions


3 years ago

How many times can you use your vinyl? And is printable vinyl okay? Of all the diy screenprint I really like your idea. :)

Uncle Kudzu

4 years ago on Introduction

Very cool! I've never seen an example of laying out a grid like that - thanks for sharing!