Home > Fun Stuff, Printmaking > How to Make a T-shirt Without a Silkscreen

How to Make a T-shirt Without a Silkscreen

No silkscreen?  No problem!  Here is how to get the look of silkscreen printing for one-off or just a few t-shirts.  You need some self adhesive plastic, a stencil brush and fabric paint.  I recommend Tulip Soft fabric paint [which air dries and is washable] or just use Speedball for Fabric silkscreen ink [which basically handles like a paint with thick consistency.  You need to heat set it with an iron after it air dries; it is also washable.]  You want to work on fabric that is 50% to 100% cotton for either the Tulip Soft fabric paint or the Speedball silkscreen ink to bond and be permanent.

* Update 11/22/2012: IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE member Kathy Whisler with PS1 checked with the manufacturer and Kittrich Corp. (makers of Con-Tact shelf paper) is PVC based, not plastic, and laser cutting this material can produce dangerous fumes.  Do not put PVC into a laser cutter unless you like deadly chlorine gas.  Please make sure that you use plastics and not PVC based materials.  You can safely hand cut adhesive self-liner or use a vinyl cutting machine rather than a laser cutter or laser cut material specifically made to be laser cut.

I cut out a stencil for the text with a laser cutter.  I used the settings for cutting cardboard and had it etch rather than cut for the highest level of detail.  I stretched shelf liner rubber flat on cardboard and taped it into place so it would be nice and level inside the laser cutter.  You can hand cut your stencil with an Xacto or pen knife; it is just a lot more work.  I had to hand place the centers of some letters, carefully peeling them off the backing of the shelf liner.  Tweezers will help if you have small pieces to hand place in your design.

Press the shelf liner firmly onto the t-shirt and put a few layers of newspapers inside the shirt so the paint does not soak through and stain the back.  Stencil the fabric paint on pretty dry and evenly.  Let the paint air dry to the touch before pulling up the stencil.  I did not do this and got a smudge of wet paint onto the shirt.  Also a prior experiment with using a heat gun to try to force drying showed how much shelf liner warps and pulls away from the fabric with excessive heat.

Related: Video tutorial on a better process for multiple shirts / items

 

 

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Categories: Fun Stuff, Printmaking
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