Having your own print on a T-shirt is a cool thing. There are many local companies that can make prints on clothes. We provide the service of t-shirt printing in Dallas. How we make the prints will tell you in the article after reading you will be able to make such prints yourself at home, garage, or in the basement. Below I will tell you how to do it and how much it costs.
A technique that works well in printing on fabrics and does not require a lot of money from you is screen printing. What’s this? It is a sieve (a frame with a taut mesh), in which part of the mesh is temporarily glued, and the free part – we put thick paint on the sieve and squeeze it using a squeegee (handle with rubber). Unlocked meshes are a pattern through which the ink passes and is reflected on the printed fabric. We dry the print and we have a T-shirt with our own design! Easy? NO? We’ll simplify it soon.
Step 1. Screen printing frame
The cheapest option will be to make such a frame from wooden profiles, use a canvas, or, in the case of a mini format, a photo frame. A more expensive option is to buy or order a welded frame made of aluminum (steel would be too heavy). You can also buy a ready-made frame with a stretched mesh. We recommend our wooden frames for screen printing.
Step 2. Selection of screen printing mesh
Screen printing meshes come in different densities. They are marked according to the number of fibers per centimeter and the diameter of the fiber itself. We usually use the first parameter. 39T mesh has 39 fibers per centimeter and will allow much more paint through than the denser 120T mesh.
The choice of mesh depends on the absorbency of the printed substrate, the paint manufacturer’s recommendations, and how detailed the print we want to have. For cotton T-shirts, we recommend a 43T or 48T mesh when printing with water inks. Here are our proven screen printing meshes.
Step 3. Stretching the mesh on the frame
The mesh can be attached to the wooden frame using a tacker and upholstery staples, the mesh must be properly tensioned. The mesh can also be glued to the frame t-shirt it is most convenient to do it on special tables for stretching the mesh.
Step 4. Plugging the mesh holes under the pattern-screen printing matrix
We wash our screen, i.e. degrease it and dry it, and then we get ready to create our screen printing matrix. We can use for this:
Photosensitive emulsion – a special thick substance that is applied to the mesh in darkroom conditions using the “emulsion trough”. We close the mesh in this way and leave it to dry.
In the meantime, in the deepest black, we print our pattern for exposure on transparent foil. the so-called “film” or “positive”. When exposing the film from above, we press the film with a piece of glass against the surface of the mesh covered with a dry t-shirt emulsion, and under the frame, we put a piece of sponge wrapped in black fabric – thanks to this, the light will not be reflected under the mesh. For irradiation, we use, for example, a halogen lamp with a power of at least 400W with an ordinary filament.
Such a lamp emits the UV-A spectrum needed to harden the emulsion. The light source is mounted above the frame at a height equal to 1.5 of the length of the diagonal of the frame. The point is that the beam of light should be dispersed over the entire irradiated surface as evenly as possible. The exposure time depends on many factors, but let’s just assume that with this setting and our emulsions, it should be about 10 minutes. After irradiation, we wash the sieve by rinsing the uncured emulsion from it. In this way, a printing pattern is created on the matrix. For starters, we recommend a one-component emulsion.
Retoucher/filler – it is used to fill the cavities in the hardened emulsion, if any, but you can also “manually” seal the mesh with our pattern by simply applying it to the mesh with a brush. You can also put a cardboard template on the mesh and paint it on the mesh and leave it to dry. With this method, we don’t need to expose anything. Retouchers for watercolors can be found here.
PVC foil – We cut out a pattern in it with a knife or a cutting plotter, select unnecessary pieces of foil, and, using transport paper, glue our t-shirt foil to the mesh on the printing side, i.e. the one that is in contact with the printed surface. You can get this foil here.
Step 5. Squeegee and paint
The squeegee is a handle with a rubber squeegee. We choose the length of the squeegee depending on the width of our exposed pattern. The squeegee should be wider than the pattern so that we can cover the entire pattern (flood) previously applied to the matrix with one stroke and then push the paint through the sieve with it. We recommend our Inktorpeda water paints.
Step 6. Washing the ink off the sieve
After printing, the excess ink can be collected into a container, and the sieve and squeegee are washed with water. We’ll use a brush for this. We leave the clean frame to dry. We can repeat a series of prints with the same pattern in the future, or wash the screen clean (detach the emulsion) to use it to print new projects. You can also use a special sponge for cleaning.
Step 7. Detaching the emulsion from the sieve
For this purpose, we will use a de-layering agent – a preparation that we spray on both sides of the mesh. Using gloves and a sponge/brush, spread the agent evenly over the entire surface of the mesh and leave it for a few minutes. The next step is to wash the emulsion with water using a pressure washer. The delayer is also available in our store.
Step 8. Back to step 4 🙂
How much is it?
net approx. PLN 50 (1×1.27 m) is enough for 4 A3 sieves
wooden frame – material cost approx. PLN 15
economic squeegee 20 cm – PLN 50
photosensitive emulsion – PLN 95/kg
preparation delayer – PLN 19
water paint – PLN 34 / 0.5 kg