I had a silk screen printing business for several years. Here are the steps to silk screen print an image on a T-Shirt or other material. Silk Screen printing is an enjoyable hobby and the right design can also be the start of a money-making business. A single silk screen is needed for each color. If you want to use multiple colors it is easiest to silk screen print with a press that aligns the colors tightly with a jig so you do not need to hand align the silk screen.
Things you’ll requirements:
- screen frame
- Photo graphic emulsion
- Silk Screen printing ink
- Heat to cure ink
- I would recommend buying a commercially stretched silk screen to begin with. The expense is not much more than stretching your own silk screen but in the printing method the right silk screen tension is needed to get a clear crisp image. Coat the silk screen with photo graphic emulsion in a dim lit area or dark room area (with a photo red light). Let the silk screen printing emulsion dry in a dark place.
- The image should be on clear acetate plastic. Dark opaque lines for a good image. Well line drawings are difficult to silk screen. Shading is possible but hard to do and is done with news-print type dot matrix printing. Tape the image to the silk screen with the emulsion in a dim lit area using clear tape. Expose the image with a light box or sunlight. Time resolve depend on the light strength and emulsion type used. See the instruction on the emulsion for exposure times.
- Remove the image. Gently rinse out the image by running water. A light shower head type stream of water is most excellent. The unexposed area under the image will wash out. Allow the silk screen to dry. Hold the silk screen to the light. Put masking tape over every pin holes outside the image area or paint with emulsion and expose to light to cure.
- Pull Tee-Shirt or fabric over a board to hold the fabric taut. Printing presses for tee-shirts have a shirt shaped board that is sprayed with a light adhesive.
- Screen printing ink
- Put silk screen printing ink on the top of the screen. Place the screen in position on the t-shirt or cloth. Pull ink across the silk screen and image with a squeegee using light pressure. Lift screen. If you are doing a second color you will need a silk screen with the second color just prepared and align it and screen the next color. This is easiest with a press that has a jig to keep colors in alignment each time.
- Remove the fabric from the board. Hold it out as the ink is motionless wet. Cure the ink with heat. A hair dryer may work. Little flash heat dryers are inexpensive. Commercial printers have a belt dryer they use. There are a few inks that will cure in the sun. See the ink container for the temperature and drying time needed.