T shirts? Tote bags? Get creative and screen print them at home. It's super fun, safe to do and easy to clean up.
In this 'how to' we'll go through the basic steps of screen printing on t shirts & fabric, using our 'T shirts & fabric - screen printing at home stencil kit'
A stencil kit is a the easiest way to get started in screen printing and is a great activity to do at home. You can print on to old clothes, new clothes, whatever! We're printing on to a tote bag, but the process is exactly the same for printing on to t shirts, tea towels, bed sheets and more!
All we used was a screen, a squeegee and a tub of ink. The stencil we made out of freezer paper, but you could use paper / card.
We can break the process down in to some simple steps:
1. Make a stencil
In this case we're going to trace an image we printed off the computer. We're drawing on to freezer paper, which we'll then cut up and use as the stencil. We've plenty of free stencils including this one in our digital downloads.
2. Cut out the stencil.
We're using a stanley knife, a craft knife is ideal, scissors will also work! In this case we're cutting out a simple palm tree island shape. It's a lot like folding a piece of paper and cutting it up to make snowflakes - this part can be as simple or as complicated as you make it.
3. The stencil.
It's as simple as it looks. It's a shape cut out of paper. Make it as complex as you like, but we'd recommend starting with a simple shape, the outline of an animal, a number, whatever - but really you can be as creative as you like here!
We've kept it pretty rough, it's fast, it's simple, it's like a kid did it with some adult supervision!
4. Place the stencil over whatever you're printing on to, in this case it's a tote bag, then place the screen over the stencil.
You can tape the stencil to the screen if you like, but you do not need to, the ink will hold it in place. We're using hinges, but they aren't essential, just hold the screen in place when you come to print.
You can tape up the edges of the screen if the stencil doesn't cover the area where the ink will go. In this case we're just going to leave it, keep it simple. Masking tape it good for this.
5. Add the ink!
Our waterbased screen printing ink is ideal for using at home. It's easy to clean up with warm soapy water and is drain safe. It also comes off your hands easily with a bit of soap!
6. Pull the squeegee towards you.
This will make the ink pass through the screen. Knowing how much pressure to use, wether to pull just once or repeat will take a few goes - this is the fun part!
7. Lift the screen off the tote bag (or whatever you've printed on to).
There's the magic! One hand screen printed tote!
In this case we didn't tape the stencil to the screen, the first pass of ink holds the stencil in place.
There we have it, a hand screen printed tote bag.
Time to lay up a fresh bag or tee and repeat the process!
9. Clean up the screen and squeegee.
Bin the stencil and clean the squeegee and screen up with warm soapy water. You might find the mesh on the screen stays a bit stained, especially with black ink but that's ok, as long as they holes in the mesh are clear of ink the screen will be perfectly good to use time and time again.
10. Let your prints dry.
Lets your screen prints air dry before touching the ink / popping them in the post!
If you've printed anything that will get washed, like a t shirt, you'll need to make it wash safe by heat curing it. It's easy to do with an iron. See our 'How to heat fix your print with an iron' guide.
That's screen printing with stencils complete!
Hopefully that's busted a few myths! It is that it's easier than you might think, it isn't as messy as you might think and if it does get messy, it's easy to clean up!.
We've got a more complex screen printing with stencils guide for those looking to tackle more complex stencils.
What did we use?
We also used our epic Super Opaque white ink, which is the ideal choice for prints on darker coloured garments / t shirts / fabrics.