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T-Shirt Screen Printing Using Ready-To-Use Materials

Updated on October 11, 2010

T-shirt Printing Colors

Water-based t-shirt printing ink is safe and easy to wash off the mesh and your hands.
Water-based t-shirt printing ink is safe and easy to wash off the mesh and your hands.

Professionals in the t-shirt screen printing industry use custom made screen printing tools and expensive materials that bring high quality results. Of course, these will require a large amount of money as investment.

However, if you are an ordinary hobbyist who wants to give hand-made gifts this Christmas, then a good way is to do your own t-shirt screen printing projects. In fact, t-shirts are not the only gifts you can make using the screen printing method, but you can also design bags, aprons and scarves.

Where To Get Your Screen Printing Materials

Making your own Christmas gifts is easy with ready-made materials available in craft stores and online. You can purchase ready-made stencil films, screen printing ink, squeegees in assorted sizes, and convenient exposure frames.

Stencil films, squeegees and exposure frames are available in Starter Kits. These sell from $25 and up from online stores. The kit already has the tools needed for screen printing: mini squeegees, blank stencil films, an exposure frame, and some ready-made graphics for you to use. All you have to do is buy screen printing ink.

In t-shirt screen printing, Jacquard and Versatex Screen Printing Inks are just two of the trusted brands to bring high-resolution images to life on fabric. The colors are vibrant, intermixable, and water-soluble. The ink is permanent on most surfaces, including paper, leather, vinyl and fabric.

Lastly, prepare the setup for the exposure process. You do not need special UV equipment for this. You can either make use of natural UV from sunlight. You can also make your own equipment—if there is no sun shining outside—by using the following materials:

  • One (1) Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb with a brightness of 27w Daylight 5500k (equivalent to 100w)
  • One (1) 10.5" Clamp Light by Commercial Electric
  • Two (2) 2"x2" blocks of wood
  • One (1) 4"x5" StencilPro or PhotoEZ stencil
  • One (1) 6" x 6" Exposure Frame

You can buy an exposure frame from a store or you can make one for yourself with clear plastic vinyl and a dark platform for the stencil. The clear plastic will cover the artwork and prevent it from moving. Keep the stencil film and the artwork in place with clamps on each corner of the frame, or you can use any clip, screw or tack to keep the layers of paper, stencil and plastic close together.

How To Make Your Own Stencil

With your computer and printer, you can make your own design using user-friendly graphic design software. Once you have printed your artwork on paper, cut the edges to size to fit the stencil film.

Place your artwork on the shiny side of the stencil face down and insert the two together in between the exposure frame’s back and front covers. Keep them together tightly by attaching the clamps or clips on the corners of the frame.

Position the frame in between the two blocks of wood. Place clamp light with the bright fluorescent bulb in it over the exposure frame. The timing of the exposure depends on the stencil brand and the artwork’s material.

The shortest exposure time is best achieved using acetate film for the artwork and using sunlight as source of UV light. Make sure your artwork is printed in black and white and the ink is very dark and opaque. If necessary, print the image repeatedly from the printer to produce a very dark image.

Place the stencil on black non-reflective surface during exposure. When using sunlight, cover the stencil before and after exposure to guard against over exposure.

Now you are ready for t-shirt screen printing and making your own gifts this Christmas!


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      tshirts 6 years ago

      As a seasoned screen printer, I have to say that you require a lot of patience to be a success at screen printing. T shirts are probably the easiest to start printing, I would say have a go at single colour plastisol printing first, on light coloured shirts first until you get the hang of using a squeegee! A good tip is to print away from yourself as oppose to the normal though to print towards you.

      Good luck!


    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Excellent article, always wondered how it is done. Thanks

    • profile image

      Silkscreen Printing 7 years ago

      This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives in depth information. thanks for this nice article Good post.....Valuable information for all.I will recommend my friends to read this for sure.

    • clairebretana profile image

      clairebretana 8 years ago from Iloilo City, Philippines

      Thank you for dropping by my hub, T-shirt Printers. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      T Shirt Printers 8 years ago

      Great article very interesting. Not a lot of people know the amount of work that goes into screen printing a design onto t shirts.