Have a silk screen printing set up but don't want to go through all the work of mixing chemicals that are photosensitive and stain everything?
Want to just get it done in an hour?
Do you have a silhouette cutter?
Find yourself a design, a cotton fabric you want printed, and some butcher paper. Load up your cutter and warm up your iron. Lets do this!
Step 1: Chose a Design and Start Cutting
This could be done with any design cutter similar to the Silhouette machines. For this shirt we are using a Silhouette Portrait. Follow the directions for your cutter. When choosing a design remember that you want at least 2mm clearance where the ink is supposed to be printed. Lines much smaller than that will not take ink properly.
Cut a piece of butcher paper the size of your cutters mat. Butchers paper is a heavy weight food prep material like parchment paper, but it has a poly side to keep airflow to a minimum. This poly side is important. For this it will keep the paper from leaking ink into the blocked off areas of the fabric.
Step 2: Iron Your Template to the Silk Screen
Take your design and put it poly side down onto your screen. Run a hot iron over it quickly to attach it. Even though the screen is silk it can take high heat for short periods so keep the iron hot and moving. A cool iron, or iron set to a "silk" setting will not melt the poly fast enough, requiring more passes. The more times you pass the design with the iron before it sets the higher chance you have of disfiguring your design. You only get one shot. If you peel the paper up it will not melt back down securely.
SAFETY NOTE: Watch those fingers. I burned myself more than a few times in the process of this project. Melted fingernails do not smell good and burns don't heal quickly.
For the final version of this print we ended up ironing the paper to the shirt side of the screen. When the screen was placed the poly side was up toward the ink but on the opposite side so the scrapers would not peel it off.
Step 3: Tape and Print
Tape down your design. We used a plasticized packing tape for this application as it does not soak up ink and it holds up to the scraping. Tape the design on both sides of the silk, we don't want it slipping.
Once you have your design secured, your shirt or other fabric in place, and your printing rig set up it is time to ink.
Spread the ink evenly in a thin layer over the entire design. The ink should be no less than 1mm deep, too little and you will get dry spots on your print. If your ink is too think, more than 3-4mm, it can be pushed through the paper and pool in places you didn't want ink. Total uniformity is not paramount but general attention to detail will yield a better result.
Step 4: Carefully Finish
Peel up the screen slowly, evenly, and carefully. Moving too fast or unevenly can ruin the design. Don't touch the ink, it is wet and will get everywhere. If possible get someone else with clean hands to help you pull it off the printing rig and hang it up.
Let your shirt or fabric dry for about 24 hours or according to the directions on your ink container. After that it is ready to washed and worn! Now you have a completely unique shirt!
Note: Clearly ours did not turn out 100% perfect, we've got some splotchy lines, but we've perfected the method. Learn from our mistakes and your efforts will be rewarded!