Sunday, July 13, 2014

Silkscreen stenciling, the lazy way

For our one-year wedding anniversary, I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my husband with the logo of our most recent favorite band, Twenty One Pilots.

My source image
I did some Googling on silkscreen printing and found a process that I felt would work for me. Since this was my first time, it's kind of messy, but my husband and I are both very happy with the results.

(Sorry in advance about the poor lighting in the photos)

What you need

  • Silkscreen paint (Speedball is the brand I bought)
  • Foam brush or a sponge would probably work too
  • Freezer paper or preferred stenciling paper
  • Pen or pencil for stencil tracing
  • Sharp implement like an Exacto knife (or the blade from a multi-tool if you're me)
  • Source image, printed out at the size you want it on the t-shirt
  • (Optional) Ruler for any straight lines in your stencil
  • T-shirt, clean & dry
  • Piece of cardboard to put in the t-shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Iron

After you've gathered all that, you realize that you stuck at tutorials and you've already done half of the t-shirt design!


So scroll ahead to see how to do all of this. If you have separated colors like my image does, you can make a couple of stencils and apply in separate sessions. Just remember that any paint you are going to apply another stencil over has to be completely dried. I waited a full day before continuing. In this method (and this particular image), you could probably do all of the colors at once, but I didn't want to have to worry about painting in the wrong spots.


So, trace your image onto your freezer paper and then cut it out. Toss the cut out parts.


Voila. The knife on this multi-tool was pretty sharp, but really an Exacto knife is the only way to go.


Here, the inner part of my stencil has been lined up as close as I could manage onto the t-shirt and then ironed on. That's why I use freezer paper for fabric stencils: the shiny side can be temporarily adhered by ironing. It peels off really easily. This means it's not reusable, but that works for me. For the red & blue parts, I actually measured the image & the t-shirt to try and center it as much as possible.


Here, I attempted to line up the outer stencil as best as I could with the pre-painted parts & measurements I put down with pencil and then ironed it down. Getting circles placed is really obnoxious. Time to paint!


This paint is pretty thick. I tried to apply only with dabs to reduce the risk of bleeding underneath the stencil edges, but it wasn't perfect. I think the application probably takes some practice.


After applying the paint, I removed the stencil right away so the paint doesn't dry the stencil onto the shirt. I didn't know if that would happen, but wasn't taking any chances! I realized at this point that I needed a way to remove the inner stencil without smudging anything. I took a sewing pin to lift up an edge and then used a gloved hand to pull off the inner stencil.


Nearly done! With silkscreen paint, it has to be heat set. I let this dry for 24 hours and then ironed over it, using a sheet of brown paper to protect the t-shirt & paint. I also flipped it inside out to iron the inside so it could be set as possible.

The last step is DON'T WASH THE SHIRT FOR 5-7 DAYS. I guess there are ways to set the paint in other silkscreen methods that don't require all this waiting, but really this is great for a lazy crafter like me. I'll probably make the same shirt for myself! I haven't washed this one yet (t-minus 3-5 more days), so hopefully I won't be updating this post next week crying about how the image washed off.

Also pictured, the tungsten ring I bought him for our anniversary.
Have fun!

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