I’ve taken screen printing classes where you use massive silk screens and print on super nice, thick Rives BFK paper. It truly is an art form to get amazing, precise prints. However, I decided to try this technique using recycled materials from around the house to screen print a t-shirt.
It totally worked, and I love the worn-in, destroyed, painterly effect that I ended up getting. Plus, it’s fun to know that when you wear the shirt out and receive a compliment, it’s all thanks to your handy work.
Follow these steps below to create your own unique screen printed t-shirts.
- design, printed out
- wooden picture frame
- panty hose
- staple gun with staples
- Multi-surface or fabric paint
- old credit card
- scrap cardboard
- scrap paper
Start out by gathering a wooden frame, staple gun, and cutting out a section of panty hose. I used a top portion of the panty hose on an 8×10’’ frame.
Flip the frame over to the back, take a corner of the panty hose, and staple it down.
Stretch the panty hose tightly to the opposite corner and put in another staple to secure.
Staple down another end of the panty hose while pulling it taunt.
Secure the last corner of the panty hose.
Secure the rest of the panty hose down by pulling it tight and securing with a staple. Staple going back and forth in opposite directions in a similar fashion to the corners until the panty hose is truly secure.
If you notice any of the staples ripping away too much of the panty hose, just ease up a little.
Cut away any excess panty hose.
Reinforce the panty hose with duct tape. Start on the back, and cover all four sides.
Flip the frame over and reinforce the front frame with duct tape as well. This helps ensure that the tightness of the frame will hold.
Take your printed design and place it how you’d like it to appear under your frame. I decided on the word ‘surfboard’ in an homage to SoCal summer and Beyonce.
If you’d like to do the same, you can download our template here.
Lightly trace the outline of your design with a permanent marker.
Decide what parts of your design you’d like to be t-shirt and what parts you’d like to be ink. I wanted the t-shirt material to be the ‘surfboard’ letters, so I marked them out with Mod Podge.
Basically, wherever you paint the Mod Podge, the t-shirt material will show. I also used a green Mod Podge so that I could see exactly where I was painting it down. I did a total of four coats, letting it dry completely before applying another layer.
Once your screen is completely dry and you feel you have masked out all desired areas completely, it’s time to print. Gather up a t-shirt, scrap cardboard, fabric paint, a brush, and an old credit card.
Do a few test prints with your screen on some scrap paper. Each screen will react differently depending on how tightly it is pulled. I tested out just using the credit card to pull ink across, just the brush, and then a combination of both.
I found that a combination of both worked best for me. To get the letters so that they were more readable, I ended up patting ink through the screen with the brush, and then using the credit card to pull extra ink across.
Once you’ve figured out how you should pull the ink across your screen to get a good print, it’s time to apply that technique to your t-shirt.
Before starting, make sure that a piece of cardboard is in the middle of the shirt to avoid any seep-through. Then, put your frame in position and have at it.
Pull the frame away from the shirt, and then fill in any areas that you’d like by going back in with a paint brush. I also went back with the credit card and additional paint because I liked the aesthetic.
Let your shirt dry completely. After that, it’s ready to wear!
As you can see, this technique won’t yield precise results, but it does offer a distressed feel that would be hard to replicate in any other way.