For the curious out there, my screenprinting process is as follows:
Step 1: Create the screen (or buy a pre-made one)
For this, I just use a basic embroidery hoop in whatever size I need for the design, and stretch some gauzy white material through it until it’s taut like a drum. I got both the hoops and my screen fabric at JoAnn’s. I use blue painter’s tape around the inside of the hoop so that my filler paint and fabric inks don’t get the hoop itself all messy, since the screens get changed out (<—- bonus feature of making your own screens – you just need one hoop, and can swap out as many screens as you desire).
Step 2: Create the design
I draw my design by hand, or if I made it on the computer, I print it out. Then I trace it onto the screen lightly in pencil with the screen laying flat on the paper.
Step 3: Fill the screen
Fill out the screen – in other words, block out all the negative space that won’t be printed, leaving only the design. I use latex paint for this, since it’s pretty durable (won’t wash off in water when you wash off the fabric ink) and also cheaper than the commercial screen filler. I just went to Home Depot and grabbed a small can of the mis-tinted paint, which is hugely discounted. This is by far the step that takes the most amount of time, particularly if it’s a design with lots of small details. I also usually do two coats, and check the screen by holding it up to the light to make sure there are no tiny holes I’ve missed.
Step 4: Print!
Once I’ve got the screen done, I decide which piece of clothing I’m going to print on, mix up the color I want with my Speedball fabric inks, and print. The screen goes face-down on the area of the clothing I want to print, and I use a layer of cardboard inside the piece of clothing so that if the ink leaks through it doesn’t go on the back of the shirt or whatnot. I use a paint spatula to pile the ink up to one side of the design, and then a squeegee to push the ink through. Once ink is applied, I lift the screen off the fabric, and immediately wash it (Speedball fabric inks are water-soluble… until they dry. If the ink is left to dry in the screen, it becomes unusable again). I get my inks from a local art supply store (Jerry’s Artarama), and my blank clothing from different places – ShirtSupplier.com, Target, my closet, etc.
Step 5: Heat-set the ink
This might be the most important step. Once the design is on the shirt and looking great, and the ink has dried, I grab my trusty iron and a spare piece of cotton fabric for an interface, and iron BOTH sides of the design on medium-high heat. Each side gets this treatment for 3-5 minutes. This binds the ink to the fabric, and makes it so it won’t come out when you wash it (remember how they’re water-soluble? Not so, after this step).
Step 6: Sport new duds proudly
The new piece of clothing with a custom design is ready to be worn!