How to Screen Print T-shirts at Home
Tips and Instructions for screen printing shirts at home
Screen printing T-shirts can be a lot of fun, but seems like a hard-reached goal for many, especially when the costs of materials and equipment are factored in. Just setting up to print for fun (let alone to make a profit) can cost a lot of money (thousands, even) if not planned right. The tips and instructions on these pages will help you screen print quality T-shirts on a limited budget.
Table of Contents:
Materials and Equipment
Choosing a Screen (mesh counts)
Burning a Screen (getting your image on a screen)
Screen Printing Inks
Printing a T-shirt
Multi-color T-shirt designs
Curing (making the ink permanent)
Materials Needed For Screen Printing
So what do you need to get started? Below you'll find four columns. The first column lists the tasks you'll be doing, but don't worry for now if you don't know the significance of each one- that will come later. The second column mentions only the bare essentials you'd need to print your first T-shirt- Only go with this "Bare Bones" column if that's all you can afford! The third column adds several more items that will make printing T-shirts more effective, but still keeping the operations cheap. This is a recommended place to start. The fourth column lists the items you'd want for an ideal home or small business set-up. There could very well be an additional column or two, detailing what you'd need to go big time, but let's stick with a DIY setup.
Task or Item
|Bare Bones||Good Starter List||Intermediate DIY Setup|
|Shirts||Blank T-shirts from local store||Blank T-shirts from local store or online vendor (bought wholesale if possible)||Blank T-shirts from online vendor (bought wholesale)|
|General||1 or 4 color printing press||4-color printing press||4-color printing press|
|General||1-4 Screens per image (stretched)||1-4 Screens per image (stretched)||1-4 Screens per image (stretched)|
|Image creation||Pencil, pen, paper, window||Pencil, pens, paper, window or light table||Pencil, pens, paper, light table, Photoshop or similar software|
|Image Transfer||Transparency, permanent marker||Transparency (printed at copy center) or specialty inkjet transparencies||Specialty inkjet transparencies.|
|Image Burning||Emulsion, clear tape, glass, sunlight||Emulsion, scoop coater, fan, clear tape, glass, heat lamp, 500 watt photoflood bulb, black fabric, wood||Emulsion, scoop coater, fan, clear tape, homemade exposure unit, black fabric, wood|
|Washout||Shower||Shower or utility sink with hose, sponge||Utility sink with hose, sponge, back lighting|
|Printing||Packing tape, squeegee, spray fixitive, ink||Screen printing tape, squeegees (4+), platen glue, ink, soft additive for ink||Screen printing tape, squeegees (4+), platen glue, ink, soft additive for ink|
|Flash Curing||Heat Gun||Heat Gun, Digital Thermometer||Flash Dryer, Digital Thermometer|
|Full Curing||Heat gun (not recommended!)||Oven, cookie sheets, Digital Thermometer||Conveyer dryer|
|Cleaning||Rags, turpentine||Rags, screen opener||Rags, screen opener|
|Screen Reclaiming||Hose w/ attachment, scrub brush, bleach, tray, plastic, rubber gloves||Hose w/ attachment, scrub brush, bleach, tray, plastic, haze remover, rubber gloves||Hose w/ attachment or power washer, scrub brush, emulsion remover, haze remover, rubber gloves|
Recommended products from above lists:
Flash Dryer A good Flash Dryer can cost hundreds of dollars. This BestEquip Flash Dryer 18" x 18" costs about a third of what you might otherwise pay. So far I'm very happy with how effective it is. The heat flow is even. I suggest upgrading to the one with the temperature display. One WARNING, however: The price is VERY cheap, and though it functions well, I feel the legs aren't very strong. I've reinforced mine a bit.
Digital Thermometer When using a flash dryer for a soft or final cure, you'll want to be sure you've reached 320 degrees F, and a laser thermometer is the easiest way to be confident. Prices have gone way down on these, and this Etekcity Lasergrip Digital Thermometeris a very affordable but highly rated option.