this craft thing

This Silkscreen Printed Shirt: Screen-Printing Tutorial

Today I unveil to you an adorable project that I masterminded a while ago. The story goes that my good friend Andy needs a birthday present for his lady. Something unique, personalized, handmade, thoughtful, and, as it turns out, absolutely time-consuming and challenging.

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Now, Andy is a firm believer in building character through hardwork and perseverance. Andy’s no quitter. And Andy sure picked one hell of a project to be his first.

For the sake of Andy’s happiness, we won’t discuss how much help I offered with this project. One thing’s for sure though, he rightly deserves two gold stars and an A++ for effort.

Some background information before you go ahead and think we’ve merely silk-screened a delicious looking shirt: Andy’s in a long distance relationship with a very nice lady from Belgium (I told you about that perseverance…). Andy lives in Canada. So there you have it, Canadian maple syrup and Belgian waffles. Simply perfect.

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In silk screening, the thing I find all at once fantastically fascinating and ferociously frustrating is getting the different colours into the design while having them match up perfectly. Especially since my “set up” is a clampless screen over a piece of newspaper on the floor. I say this because professional (or even just adequate) silk screen set ups include a dedicated work table with clamps that set your screen into place, so you don’t have to worry about carefully lining up your screen designs, or fret about the screen slip slidin’ away.

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Anyhoo. So I sketched the design which Andy very delicately cut out. Three times. This is because we wanted to have three colours in our final t-shirt, so we had to make a different stencil for each colour.

Alternatively, you could use something called a “screen blocker”, which you paint directly onto the screen and it blocks the paint from going through. I don’t like to use this method if the design isn’t too intricate, because it is a total son of a witch to wash off.

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After some hours, some tears, and some swearing, the stencils were cut!

Next, we taped the stencil onto the screen, and carefully lined up the screen to the t-shirt. Spread enough paint on the screen to cover your entire design, lay the screen down on the shirt, and firmly drag your squeegee back and forth several times across the design.

It helps to put some tape on the shirt where the corners of the screen are, so you can line up your next screen to the same position. You don’t see it in the meticulously staged photo, but, in real life, one person had to hold down the screen while the other person printed.

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After printing, you can fix up any booboos and oopsies with a fine tool, such as the top grade barbeque skewer I was using in this picture.

When the paint dries, heat-set it by putting the shirt under a thin scrap piece of fabric (in case of smudges) and ironing it. Follow the instructions on the paint bottle for this, and afterwards you can wash it like regular laundry!

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Now I will show you other things I have printed in the past.

Jelly shirt

SAM_0834 copy

SAM_0837 copy


Silk Screened T-Shirt



T-shirt (works best with cotton fabrics that are not textured)

Silk screen

Silk screen paint


Popsicle stick/ spatula


How to:

  1. Lay shirt flat and put newspaper inside to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the other side.
  2. Draw and cut out stencil(s).
  3. Tape stencil to the back of the screen.
  4. Line the screen carefully with the shirt.
  5. Spread some paint on the topside of the screen using a popsicle stick, enough to cover the whole design.
  6. Hold the screen firmly down on the t-shirt, and drag the squeegee back and forth several times, pressing the paint into the fabric.
  7. Lift the screen very carefully, and rinse it off with warm water until all the paint has come off.
  8. Repeat with other stencils, if you have more than one.
  9. Let dry, and heat set according to paint instructions.



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