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I also think that screen printing BLACK INK on a white shirt is probably not the way to go on your first print! This year's design with WHITE INK on dark orange seemed so much less stressful!
Since our design as some pretty intricate details, we choose to create our screen using the photo emulsion. The kit also comes with the drawing fluid and screen filler that you can use to hand paint your screen if you have a simpler design.
The instructions that come with the kit are extensive--and for good reason! They are well-written and easy to follow (provided you read them). Understand that you're probably not going to get the kit and print tshirts in the same day. Preparing the screen takes a little time.
First step is mixing the photo emulsion and spreading it nicely on the screen. You want a thin layer that fills the screen evenly and doesn't have any globs or drops. This isn't as easy as it sounds--since you're spreading a liquid over a porous screen, the green goop kinda ends up everywhere. Do this over the sink.
The photo emulsion is light sensitive once it dries, so it needs to be kept in a dark space until you're ready to expose it with your transparency. I put ours inside a empty dresser drawer in the girls bathroom and then taped that drawer shut with half a roll of duct tape (along with some sharpied words-of-warning for anyone who dare open it).
The Speedball instruction book suggest putting the wet screen inside a black garbage bag if you can't find a dark closet or room. I wouldn't recommend that. We tried that the first year and ended up having to redo the screen when the emulsion dried with plastic stuck all-bunched up next to it.
I had our design printed on transparency by Office Depot because the inkjet in the office makes a smudgy mess when printing on film. Plus, then you don't have to buy a whole box of transparency papers.
Next step, is making a sandwich. This sandwich is made with the screen on the bottom, the transparency in the middle, and a piece of glass on top to hold everything in place. Then, the whole sandwich is carefully placed outside onto a black sheet of paper. The paper's important so that the light doesn't reflect off the sidewalk and expose the underside of the screen. (Tip: We took our glass out of a picture frame. From the dollar store.)
The sun hardens the photo emulsion where the transparency ISN'T. Where there is ink on the transparency, the screen will later rinse clean. I recommend checking the exposure time table in the instructions. And then adding just a few more seconds. A slightly over-exposed screen can be salvaged with a little extra elbow grease. A slightly under-exposed screen just washes down the drain!
I know it seems like a lot of work up to this point, but I promise with was downhill from here. And I was able to print about 30 shirts in under an hour (for under $100) so it's all worth it.
Once the screen was rinsed and dried (and cured briefly in the sun again), I was ready to print.
I glued four pennies to the corners of my screen so that it would sit slightly above my t-shirt. You can see that I didn't attach them last year (see video below) and spent the a great deal of time trying to get them lined up with the frame for each print. Duh. #thingsyoulearnthesecondtime
Make a practice print on paper first. Heck, make LOTS of practice prints. Screenprinting is an ART. With practice, you'll get a feel for how much ink and how much pressure.
Here's me printing four shirts for this year. You'll notice I don't put any cardboard or anything inside the shirt. I did that the first year and then realized that the ink wasn't bleeding through and the extra step was causing finger prints and smudges.
If you need a bunch of matching shirts and you want to save a little money with a DIY, I highly recommend you try screen printing your own! The screens can be saved for future printing of the same designed or completely cleaned and reused with a new design. (Any budding entrepreneurs who are interested in a design and printing biz...this would be make a great gift!)
More DIY-ing Fun:
Content inspired by the artists and art created in our studio.
Orange Easel began as a small art studio in my basement and continues to grow and serve our community. Read more about our story here.