Home Screen Printing: How to Screen Print T-Shirts

 Screen printing t-shirts may sound complicated, but this easy at-home screen print method is a snap. Screen printing is a great way to print lots of shirts with the same design. Follow these step-by-step instructions and you'll be printing like a pro in no time.

  • 01 of 06

    What You'll Need

    T-shirts on Hangers
    Reggie Casagrande/The Image Bank/Getty Images
    • Embroidery hoop: Use one that is the right size for your design. They can be found at craft stores.
    • Gauzy curtain: Use a transparent curtain or a swatch of sheer fabric. Use one that has small holes for the best results.
    • Screen printing ink or black fabric paint: Both of these can be found at a craft store.
    • Latex paint: Look for mis-tinted paint in the discount paint aisle. (This is to fill in the negative space on the screen.)
    • Blank paper
    • A small sponge brush
    • Stencil for the desired design
    • T-shirt
    • Watercolor paint and paintbrush

    Once you've gathered your supplies you can get started.

  • 02 of 06

    Choose a Design

    Home Screen Printing
    Choose and print your design. Rain Blanken

    First, you'll need to choose what design you want to screen print. Choose a design that will be easy for you to trace over. Simple designs take ink easier, too. You can draw your own image, or find an image you like online.

    Use an image editor on your computer to make the image the correct size. It will need to fit in your embroidery loop. Print the image out on a plain piece of paper.

  • 03 of 06

    Prepare Your Screen

    How to Screen Print
    Stretch and trim the screen. Rain Blanken

    Stretch your gauzy curtain over one embroidery loop and secure by placing on the other embroidery loop. Make sure your screen is pulled tightly. Adjust as needed until it is taut, like the head of a drum. Trim the extra material.

  • 04 of 06

    Trace the Design on Your Hoop

    How to Screen Print
    Carefully trace the design. Rain Blanken

    Tape your piece of paper to the table you're working at. Center the embroidery hoop over the image and begin to trace. You need to trace lightly so that there isn't a lot of extra pencil lead on the screen. This step can take a few minutes, depending on how detailed your image is. If you are tracing letters, be sure to make the lines nice and straight.

    Tracing the design may be difficult for some people. If this is the case, you can print your design out on self-adhesive paper and it cut out. Self-adhesive paper can be found at most department, office supply and craft stores. Center your cut-out on the screen and stick it down, making sure the edges are well-stuck.

    Once you're done tracing, you can start to apply the latex paint.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Apply Latex Paint to you Screen

    how to screen print
    Brush latex paint on your screen (This screen is finished and out of the hoop after the project was completed). Rain Blanken

    Use the latex paint to cover all the space that you don't want to print. It is very important to make sure that you have covered all of this negative space. To be sure, look through the screen at a light to try to detect any places you've missed. If you traced your design, use a small brush for tight spots.

    Let the paint dry, this could take an hour to five hours, depending on how much paint you have used. When it is dry, test your screen by laying it on a blank piece of paper and brushing over the entire screen with thin watercolor paint. The image on your piece of paper is what will appear on your clothing. Fix any mistakes by adding more paint and testing again before you print. People commonly use Mod Podge for this step, which is not a practical solution.

    (In this photo, the screen has been removed from the embroidery hoop after the project was completed. Paint your screen with the embroidery hoop on it.)

  • 06 of 06

    Screen Print Your T-Shirt

    How to Screen Print
    Add ink or paint to the shirt, applying the squeegee evenly over the design. Rain Blanken

    Lay out the t-shirt on an entirely flat surface. Slip a piece of cardboard between the front and back of the shirt where you will be printing. This will prevent ink from soaking through to the back of your shirt.

    Place the screen where you want to print on the shirt. Use your sponge brush to blot ink all over your image. When it is completely covered, slowly pull up the screen. You can also use fabric paint for this step.

    Let the ink dry overnight. It should be safe to put in the washer after it is dry. Now you have a screen that you can use to print this design on over and over again.

    To make your t-shirt fit better, try turning it into a fitted tank top or try another form of t-shirt surgery.