Hi all! I’m Justine and I’ll be showing you how to screenprint! It’s a lot more simple than you would think and you can customize thrifted clothes with virtually any design! I’m using this rad graphic from Daisy Sheff.
What you need: (All this stuff can be bought from Michaels or Hobby Lobby)
A screen - I have seen people DIY these or you can just buy one, either works
Squeegee and a card (library card/old gift card)
Some important things to know:
Don’t expose the emulsion to sunlight until you are burning your design into it
The front of the screen is the side where it is flat and even
The back of the screen is where it caves in
I like to start with the emulsion and worry about the design after since the emulsion needs time to dry anyways. First things first you either need to be in a room where all the windows are covered, or you can just do this at night. Having your normal household lights on is fine, but you just can’t expose the emulsion to sunlight until you have the design ready. I chose to do this step in my garage at night. Spread a thin layer of emulsion on the flat (front) side of the screen and use the squeegee to spread it side to side and up and down. You can repeat this until the whole screen is covered with an even thin layer. There is no need to put emulsion on the backside because it will seep through. Now on the back or caved inside of the screen, use the same squeegee or card to evenly spread the emulsion that has seeped through the screen.
Leave the screen in a dark place to dry for a few hours
You can cover it with a box
I leaned mine against a wall and just put a big mirror over it and some trash bags to cover the sides
Now for the design! Once you have it picked out you can use Instagram or Picsart or any app and edit it to have a white background and crop it so that the proportions will be to your liking on an 8x11 size piece of paper
Email your image to firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll get a code
Go to FedEx, give them your code, and ask for your design to be printed on transparent paper. They’ll usually help you out if you have sizing questions too or need to format it differently
Just a heads up, if your design is super detailed, I would make it bigger than you think you’ll need it. Initially, I made the logo too small, and had to reprint it larger, because some of the details did not show up right when burning it into the emulsion.
Next, you’ll tape the image to the screen. (Make sure you are still doing this part in a room where no natural sunlight is hitting the screen). When you print on the screen, the shirt will be lying flat on the ground, the flat side of the screen will be on top of it, and the concave side will be facing you, so make sure that your image is facing the right way. With the concave side of the screen facing you, tape down the edges of your image. If it is inverted you can just tape the image to the flat side of the screen.
Keep your screen covered from the light, and bring it outside into the sun. Set a timer for 30 seconds and uncover the screen. Make sure that there are no shadows on the screen
After 30 seconds, cover the screen again and bring it into a room with no natural light and remove the taped on design
Using a sponge, rinse the screen with water and gently scrub it. I usually just scrub it a few times to loosen the emulsion and the rest should come off easily by spraying it with water. Your design should rub off and you should be able to see clearly through the screen.
Leave it to dry in the dark for a few hours.
Now you can put your screen indirect light and don’t have to worry about printing in a dark room.
Get your paint and a squeegee or card. Lay your shirt down and place the screen over the top of it lining up your design where you want it.
Place a small amount of paint on the screen above the design and use the squeegee to evenly spread it over the screen. Repeat until a thin even layer has been spread across the design.
Then just lift up the screen and you’re done!
Make sure you rinse off the paint after you are done printing so it doesn’t dry on the screen.
You can keep the screen and re-use the same design or use the emulsion remover and make another design
Let any clothing items dry completely and wash them inside out with cold water and air dry them to make the designs last longer.
Justine is a marine biology student at UH Manoa & a contributor at withitgirl. She is passionate about sustainability and loves surfing, skating, camping, and scuba diving in her free time.
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