Let's not waste any time. I'm a self-taught hack, so I'm
sure any pro will spot my mistakes. Rest assured though,
my method will produce a nice screened shirt.
I made my first silk-screen, in 1976, in junior high; I
think it was a Motocross image or the Zig-Zag man…can’t
remember now, but 5 years later I needed to make t-shirts
and I had forgotten everything I had learned in shop. With
no world wide web at my finger tips, I had no choice but
to visit Midwest Graphics. While purchasing supplies I did
a quick read through of a manual I couldn’t afford.
Now, more then 20 years later, and a visit back to Midwest
Graphics. I’m cranking out new designs from an old
Before I dive in on how to make your own silk screens, I'd
like to talk about the fine art of stenciling. This is the
easiest way to create a design on a shirt, and all you need
is cardboard, an exact-o knife, and some spray paint. Stenciling
can look just as nice with a good design.
1. Print or draw your design.
2. Tape it onto a piece of heavy cardboard.
(Corrugated boxes will work, but they’re not the best
choice. You could use the back of a notepad or cake box,
3. Cut away the positive space from your
design – this is where you want paint to show. (Leave
ample support between these cut out pieces, or your stencil
will break apart during the spray painting.)
4. Lay a shirt out flat, place the stencil
on the shirt, take your favorite color spray paint and let
it rip. You can use multiple stencils for additional colors.
While stenciled designs can look great, they are limited.
Designs tend to be blockier, insuring the stencil doesn’t
fall apart. For fine detailed stuff we'll need to silk screen.
The basic materials you need in silk screening are: The
frame, the silk, a blocking material/emulsion, ink, and
a squeegee. Let's start with the frame. A frame is simply
four pieces of wood that have been, glued, screwed, stapled,
or nailed together. You can use wood as small as 1"
x 1", to something around the 1.5" x 1.5"
Next you have to stretch the silk around the frame. The
best way is to use a grooved frame and a piece of cord,
fastening the material by pushing it into the groove with
the cord. Don't start in the corner of the frame, I seem
to get tighter screens when I start in the middle and work
my way around. Insert the cord over the material, but only
push half way down. After you've completed all four sides,
make a second pass, pushing the cord all the way down into
the groove, to tighten up loose areas. If that sounds like
too much work, break out the stapler and staple it around
the frame. What, no stapler? Use duct tape, but pull hard
to keep the screen tight. Now take your finger and whack
the screen. Does it feel tight and make a sound? If not,
try again and pull tighter.
With the silk stretched to the frame, it's time to get that
design onto the screen. A friend reminded me that you could
actually paint on the screen using a material called Block-Out.
You'll need a steady hand to try this. Take your design
and lay it on a table, place the framed screen on the design
with the well side up. Use a magic marker to trace your
design on to the screen. Now the hard part, you'll need
to hand paint Block-Out everywhere you do not want ink to
Block painting is the cheapest process, but also the crudest.
The next is a process using Rubylith. Rubylith is a film
that you cut, and by removing