Saturday, 2 July 2011

DIY | Silk Screen Printed Tees

This week James and I did some more screen printing. We've been doing a lot lately, designing and screen printing our own tees just for a bit of fun! It's really neat cos you can basically come up with any design you like, print it on any sort of fabric and it means that noone will ever have exactly the same t-shirt as you. It's really easy - all you need to do is understand and follow the process!

These are some photos and a quick rundown of how it's done (or at least our way of doing it), hopefully you get the jist of it! If you want a more detailed step-by-step process, there are lots of good YouTube videos and tutorials on the net.

I've been making our own tees to fit using black cotton knit fabric but you can also buy a basic tee or just print on something that you already have. For this one, I made a black tee for James, he designed the prints, and we screen printed together.

1. Make a basic tee. This one was cut from a pattern that I drafted using one of James' tees that he had. Using a sewing machine and overlocker, I overlocked all seams and finished the edges with some top-stitching detail to give a neat but raw-edge look.

2. Design and prepare the artwork. James came up with a few designs on his computer while we were lounging at Caramel Cafe one Saturday afternoon. Then we headed to a print shop and got them printed out onto transparency film. As we're printing white ink on a black t-shirt, we've printed negative images.

3. Prepare the screens. You'll need a silk screen that is big enough to fit your image. We used a large A2 sized screen to do three images at once. Mix the emulsion and sensitizer together. Using a squeegee (i think you're supposed to use a scoop but a squeegee works), smoothe a thin even coat of emulsion over the screen. Leave the screen in a dark place to dry overnight.

4. Expose the image. When the screen is dry, place the transparency onto the screen and a perpex sheet on top to keep the image flat against the screen. Place black material underneath the screen to stop light from exposing parts of the image from underneath. Expose the screen to light for about a minute. In this time, the emulsion will harden in areas that are exposed to light.

5. Wash the screen out. After you have exposed the image, remove the glass and transparency and rinse the screen out using a spray shower nozzle. The parts of emulsion that weren't exposed to light should wash away cleanly leaving a stencil of the image. Sometimes you might need to use your nail to scratch away stubborn bits. Let the screen completely dry before printing.

6. Prepare the screen for printing. Tape around the edge of the screen to prevent ink from seeping through any gaps. As we prepared three designs on the one screen, we also had to cover the other images up. Position the screen over the tee and using a measuring tape and chalk pencil, mark on the screen and tee where you want the image to line up.

7. Print the image. On the screen, put ink along the edge of one end of the image (it doesn't matter if you use too much cos you put it back in the tub after). Using a squeegee and with the screen raised off any surface, 'flood' the image with ink using firm pressure. This loads the ink onto the back of the image so that it can be easily transferred onto the tee. Place the screen onto the tee and pass the squeegee over the image, applying even and strong pressure to pass the ink through the screen. You only need to run the squeegee over the image once and wah-lah! Done!

8. Rinse all the ink out of the screen, let it dry completely and you're ready to print another!

So that's basically the process we follow. Think you can do this? Why not give it a go? Let your creative juices run wild and create something that is totally you!

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