How to Screen Print Images onto Clothing

Custom decorated t-shirts

Screen printing and embroidery done on popular custom apparel products is a really great technique that artists use for getting logos and customized images onto material. The process is fairly easy and inexpensive. While it’s technically something that anyone can do, you’re definitely not going to get as high of quality doing it yourself as you would if you paid a professional. Here is the basic steps.

  1. The first thing you need to do is design the print that you want on the shirt or jacket or whatever piece of material you’re using. Once you decide on a design, it needs to be drawn onto a piece of paper. Coloring and shading is not necessary because it needs to be used as a stencil. If you are doing it yourself, it’s best to keep the logo simple but if you are going to have a qualified professional doing your screen printing, you can be as complicated as you like.

  2. Next, a craft knife is used to cut out the design. If the paper rips, then you will need to draw the design again. Exact cutting and precision is imperative for this step. The surrounding paper is now the stencil. The design needs to, of course, fit on to the material that you have provided. A professional at screen printing could resize the design if it turns out to be too big.

  3. Now, the stencil is put on top of the material that is going to be imprinted. The screen is put on top of the stencil. The mesh of the stencil should be perfectly on top, touching the stencil with the handles facing up. This is important so that no paint leaks.

  4. Take some paint in a spoon and make a line at the top of the screen, which should be the farthest part from you. In order to make the image as even as possible, you need to make sure that you spoon out as much paint as you are going to need to cover the entire stencil. With this method, it’s best just to use one color unless you are a professional and know what you are doing.

  5. For this method, a squeegee is used to push the paint down the mesh to cover the stencil. One, smooth movement should be used in order for the image to look good. Always use vertical strokes so that the paint does not clump or become thicker or thin in different places. Squeegee from top to bottom and then scoop out the excess paint.

  6. You can’t leave everything there to dry or you may ruin your image if everything dries together. You won’t be able to get the screen or stencil off of your material without causing damage. Instead, piece by piece, lift everything off of the material until just the shirt or whatever the material is, is left and then leave it to dry as long as possible. If you are printing on to clothes, then after the image dries, put tracing paper over the design so that you can iron and heat set the image. This will seal it to the shirt to protect it from washing.

This is only one method of screen printing. There are other ways that you can do this, like with an embroidery hoop or printing the design from you computer or even using a different type of screen. As mentioned earlier, you technically can do this yourself but you will never get as good a result as a professional would. If you are trying to print a lot of the same item like uniforms or something like that, then having a professional do it will ensure that every shirt or piece of clothing ends up exactly the same and in the same place. That’s the hardest part is to make sure that even though the image is the same size, that it ends up in the same place on every piece of clothing.

Now that you can see the complications of the process and the potential to mess it up, your best bet is to hire a professional to do it properly the first time. You will probably even save money doing it this way.

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