Silk screen printing can seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually easier than it looks.  You can set up your own home screen printing quickly and inexpensively.  Understanding the fundamental principles will help you get started.  Screen printing is similar to stenciling.  If you’ve stenciled something before, you’ll be a step ahead.  If you haven’t, it’s not too difficult.  The most important thing to understand when stenciling is to keep your image still while you paint.  With that understanding, you can get started by finding the image you want to print on fabric.  Make it the size you want and just print it out.  From the printed image, these tips will help you create your own screen print on a shirt, skirt, or other fabric.

Fabric Stretching

An inexpensive way to begin is by purchasing a large embroidery hoop that you can use to stretch the fabric.  You need a thin fabric, such as a woven mesh, because the thinner the fabric used, the better.  As an alternative to woven mesh material, you could use old nylon hose or some old sheer drapes.  You begin by stretching the fabric over the smaller embroidery hoop and securing it with the larger hoop.  There is a screw to allow for adjustments, and once you have secured the fabric in the hoops, make sure it is pulled evenly tight.  As an alternative to the embroidery hoop, you can use an old picture frame.  The idea is to get the fabric evenly tight so that you can trace the image onto the fabric.

Image Placement

Place the image on a sturdy surface and put the hoop or frame with the fabric face side down on top of the picture.  To keep it from moving around, it helps to tape the image to the frame or fabric.  By using a pencil, trace the image onto the fabric dark enough that you can easily see the edges.

Prepping the Image for Transfer

You will need some water resistant glue, such as Mod Podge, which is great because it dries clear.  Using a small paint brush, paint the negative space inside and outside of the image, and allow it to dry completely.  You will need to use your patience for this part because it can be tedious.  When it’s dry, the fabric becomes stiff around the traced image, which creates the transfer.

Fabric Preparation

Get a square of cardboard that will allow for some room around your image and place the fabric over it so that the ink won’t bleed through.  If you are screen printing a T-shirt, put the cardboard inside the shirt in the area you plan to print.  When you have the fabric prepped, place the screen on the fabric where you want to screen print the image.  Note, the image on the hoop will be placed upside down on the fabric.  It’s best to secure it in place with some weight on either side to keep it in place.

Screen Printing

Now you are ready to screen print your image on the fabric.  Take your fabric ink and put a couple of “glops” on the fabric in the center.  Cutting a piece of cardboard to fit in your hand comfortably, and then use it to spread the ink around and make certain the entire image is covered. After the image is covered, slowly remove the screen from the fabric.  Note: peel the screen off in one direction with a slow and even motion.  Once removed, be sure to rinse the ink off the screen before it dries.

Setting the Print

Allow the screen printed fabric to dry completely before moving it, and when it’s dry, get out your iron.  Adjust the iron on a medium to high heat setting, place a piece of paper over the screen print, and iron it for two to three minutes in a circular motion.  If your iron has a steam option, do not use the option for this project because it can melt your design and may leave behind paper residue on the image.  If you followed these directions, you have just created your first print!  Now you can enjoy DIY screen printing.