Starting a T-Shirt Business: Screenprinter Showcase // Tom Rainey
Recently, friend of the brand Tom Rainey approached us with one simple question, how easy is it to start a clothing brand having only screen printed a few times? Our answer was simple; easy!  The best thing about Screen Printing is it's universal - anyone from anywhere can try it, there is no entry barrier. 

When asked if he
 had any experience in screen printing before he replied " Other than making stencils and tagging my mum's dustbin, I had no experience."

Meet Tom 👋

Meet Tom, a fellow creative and all round talented individual from Poundsgate - not far from our Hunt The Moon HQ on Dartmoor! After being given a book on Banksy when Tom was a teenager, he had always loved making stencils.
"At some point I thought I'd become a saucy fashion designer and start my own brand, but that didn't really happen until I was offshore last year working and decided to research how to screen print. After coming up with a basic plan, and ordering a few bits online, I went home and was completely coincidentally given a voucher to learn to screen print at a studio in ashburton!"
Tom found the studio experience fascinating as he realised how easy it was to print on a semi-professional level, from exposing screens relatively quickly to being able to reproduce a piece of artwork multiple times on varying media.

Getting Started 🌙

To best help Tom along his screen printing journey we asked what form of screen printing he was interested in taking up; stencils, vinyls, custom screen exposures...there's lots of creative ways to screen print! 

After having previously worked with stencils, Tom was keen to try out the custom screen exposure route. So we hooked him up with our Ultimate Screen Printing KitInkjet Transparency Film and garments to print on. For screens, Tom used A3 43T screens for the prints as he found it was the perfect mesh count for the process. Tom ended up buying a bunch of other gear but realistically, you could very much start off just a kit and something to print on.



The Setup 🏡

Tom managed to utilise his living room where he has his L shaped workstation that has his PC and printer on one side to design and print the acetates, and then to the left his T Shirt press and poster print area with hinges screwed into the bench. That's the beauty of screen printing, you don't need a massive studio, just a space for screen printing and a washroom.
As Tom is exposing his own screens, he created his own light sealed box in his hallway to dry his screens and lay up the emulsion. "I can completely seal the hallway off from the light too and use a red lit head torch to work with the screens once they are prepped for exposure."
For wash up Tom has been using his bathroom, whether that's washing emulsion out after exposing or cleaning ink from the screens and tools. 
On reflection, when asked about building his setup Tom told us:

"The start was a huge head challenge to work out. Where was I going to build the workstations such as the printing desk, the box to dry my screens after they have been degreased or emulsioned and where I would lay up the screens with emulsion or wash them out after printing... There were so many things to think about. I ended up sourcing the glass, the foam to back the screens, a holster to hold the screens when I recycled them with the jetwasher - another thing I sourced. However, the majority of it I made myself, except the glass which I stole from my greenhouse (and am yet to replace)."

The Design Process ✍️

Most of Toms designs are associated with a trip he carried out with a friend across the North Atlantic. The sites they saw, the experiences they had and the stories that came from that trip. 

"The designing aspect has been great - I use a combination of hand drawn designs and illustrator. The final design is always in illustrator, but sometimes I will start with a hand drawing that I'll then image trace or manually trace over in illustrator." 
It's not all easy sailing though. 
"The most catastrophic mistake I have made is when I recently tested making a four colour print for my friend's wedding present. I had exported the four layers from illustrator in colour and pdf'd them, not realising that when I printed them on acetate for exposing on the screens that they weren't in rich black, and thus ruined 2 of my 4 x pre prepped screens. Thankfully Hunt the Moon absolutely saved me and I was able to get my print complete that day for the wedding which I was travelling to that evening!"

The Exposing Process

Having printed the artwork onto the  Inkjet Transparency Film, it was now a matter of exposing the screen. This part of the process can seem daunting, as Tom mentions below, but it's very much trial and error! It all works out in the end. 
"There were countless challenges, mostly when it came to laying on the emulsion on the screens. Many times I degreased the screens, let them dry overnight and then started the emulsion process but made a HUGE drip or run. I would have to go right back to the beginning and wash off, degrease and dry again. I once blasted a screen to pieces with the jet washer after being too jacked on coffee and being intent on trying to get a large dried blob of emulsion out."

The Results 📸

In only a space of a few weeks, the results speak for themselves! Tom has come a super long way, he has now printed a four colour print and two tees from his North Atlantic travels; one being about the Kelvin seamount we got stuck above and named "Hell's Kitchen", and the other being the Hurricane that hit us. 

Tom even went a step further and created some amazing packaging tags:



"When it came to the packaging, I made a tag that goes with each garment explaining the meaning behind each story, attached to the neck loop with old kitesurfing line that I have plenty of. I then put them into a self sealing glassine tissue bag, and that goes into a paper bag to post in. The tees and packaging are all ethically and environmentally positive products and I want to limit my carbon output as much as possible and use recycled products as much as possible."
From little experience of screen printing to starting a t shirt business, what's your experience been like?
"90% fun, 10% severe frustration and stress! I adore the designing, workflow and process in turning an idea in your head into a screen that can deliver ink onto paper or fabric that you can hold."

What advice would you give to people starting out? ✨

"The start seems like an unachievable mountain to summit with the amount of equipment you need, but once you have gotten over this and have your gear, then it's a hugely rewarding learning experience and once mastered, can enable you to produce your own designs to either wear or print. You will never want to buy someone else's t shirt design again and will no longer buy birthday cards. The future is in-house!"

The River of Mirrors is a film that my friends Joe Rea-Dickens and Joe Fender have created. I pitched to them the idea of making t-shirts for them to sell at the premiere and they came back with a request for 42, in 2 days! I rapidly got to it and came up with a workflow that enabled me to get them done on time.

Like most things, it comes down to repeating the process over and over again and learning from all the shortfalls and mistakes you make. I distinctly remember watching Ewart from Hunt The Moon lay up a screen with emulsion in such a perfect way and saying to him, "how do you do it so easily?", to which he answered, "I have done 1000's of them". That's all it is; repeating the process time and time again and working out the exact movement and the perfect prep. 
Be sure to follow Tom and his screen printing journeys on Instagram.

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