04 July 2010

screen printing - the shirts

Printing on t-shirts is an art form. One that I need a bit more practice in. :)

Because I procrastinated took too much time to work up to the task of screen printing, I was on a deadline. Thursday night I found scrap fabric and t-shirts, gathered my supplies, and started working on it - knowing that Friday we were going to print 27 shirts for the young women - and I had to figure this out fast.

I watched two different videos on u-tube and read at least 4 blogs on how to apply the ink. It sounded pretty straight forward. Make sure you had plenty of ink, spread the ink with the squeegee at an angle of 75-80 degrees, then lift the screen straight up.

I started with the white ink and the t-shirt design. (Remember, deadline. We were printing the shirts the following night!) It went something like this: The first looked okay. The little letters didn't look so great. I tried again. It looked a little less great. Tried again. It looked even worse. Time to wash and dry the screen. Pulled up the u-tube video and watched it again. Tried again with a different angle. Tried again with more pressure. Washed and dried the screen. Tried again. Looked it up on the web. Learned that white ink is a very hard ink to print with because it needed to be thick to be opaque. (I couldn't believe it. Out of all the colors, we chose the hardest ink to put on a t-shirt to give to teenagers - possibly the hardest audience in the known universe. Yea.) I tried the black ink. Worked perfect. (Insert scream of frustration here!)

By the end of the night I had the black ink figured out and had made two reasonably good prints with the white ink. I could only do 3 prints before the screen needed to be washed. The thick white paint dried fast - fast enough that the small letters under the theme could only be printed on the first use of the screen. But the theme looked passable, so I counted it as a success.

Lesson to note: if you are going to screen print at home, choose big fonts. It's easier to print.

Friday night we made the executive decision to tape over the little words and just print the theme on the t-shirts. It took close to 4 hours for 3 of us to print 34 t-shirts. Lindsey had the 'knack' and was in charge of printing (tips: lots of pressure, 80 degress on the squeegee, 8-9 passes of hard pressure, wash after 3-4 uses.), Cosette was in charge of ironing, folding the t-shirts, and letting us use her house and kitchen, and I was in charge of touch-ups.

Not bad for a bunch of amateurs two days before camp starts. And the girls were nice enough to say that they liked them. We got several pictures of them all in the shirts ... and then we went on an underground cave hike in them. They looked great. :)

As for the pillowcases ... it was too windy at camp and the ink was drying instantly in the screen. So we'll do it as one of their activity nights later this summer.

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