Printing doesn’t have to be just for the pros

I’ve never had so much time on my hands has I have done recently. During the 15 days of Social distancing in Vietnam, I have had a lot of time at home. I have used this time to be as productive as I could with my little t-shirt business. My website is ready to go (just waiting for the factory to be back operating fully to order more stock), my blogs are coming along and now I have videos too.

I’ve done other things, too, such as:

  • Work out at home.
  • Read magazine and write some blogs
  • Make paper bag, using old newspaper or magazine. I’m going to start to reduce the amount of plastic I use: both in my business and regular life
  • …and the topic of today’s blog: screen printing t-shirts

If you don’t know what screen printing is, here it is:
“Screen printing is a process of transfer image from the plastic film or a stencil to the mesh screen by light exposure, then use the screen to print to the final material such as cloth, plastic, glass, wood, metal.”

It’s a popular printing method, maybe the t-shirt you are wearing now is screen printed…?

I have to tell you it’s so much easier then what you may expect. Everyone can do it.

Items you will need:

  • A screen frame with mesh (it can be either wood or aluminum).
  • Photo emulsion mix with sensitizer.
  • Ink.
  • A film (acetate) with the image on.
  • Wood squeegee.
  • Led bulk.
  • Scoop coater.
  • A hair dryer.
  • Cooking oil.
Some of the things you will need

And now, let’s get started!

  • Step 1: Mix the emulsion with the sensitizer

Mix the photo emulsion with the sensitizer. A friend of mine has mixed it for me already. In fact, you can buy some emulsion with has sensitizer in already, then you don’t need mix it yourself. It’s safer.

Pour the mixture of photo emulsion into the scoop coater.

  • Step 2: Apply the emulsion to the mesh

We have to do this step in low light or darkness to avoid the exposure of the emulsion.

Keep the frame is 45 degree or 135 degree to the ground. Pull the scoop coater from the bottom to the top of the frame from 2-4 times, make sure that the mesh is full of emulsion.

Apply for both side of the mesh.

When you see both sides are smooth, then it’s done. Move to the next step.

  • Step 3: Dry the mesh

Use the hair dryer to make the mesh dry.

You can check it by touching the mesh and when it’s not sticky on both sides, then it’s done.

  • Step 4: Place the film on the mesh

In this step, Thanh’s top tip is put cooking oil on the surface of the mesh. It helps the film (acetate) stick there better and not move.

  • Step 5: Exposing the image.

Set up a light about 30cm from the mesh. I am using the led bulk 15W and leave it in 30-35 minutes. In fact, when it has sunshine, you can put it outside for an exposure by sunshine. But in Hanoi it is cloudy all the time, it’s raining sometimes, so I cant do that today.

You also can use the led light with different wattage but you will need to be careful with the time and the distance, don’t put it too close to the mesh.

  • Step 6: Spray the mesh screen

After 30-35 minutes, the image will be on the mesh. Now you need to spray into the image to remove of un-exposed emulsion. The more you spray the image, the more the image getting sharper. Use the strong spray hose into the image on the mesh screen. Please be careful; strong enough, not too strong.

You need to spray into the image until every detail is clear enough. My design is very thin in parts so it can be tricky to get this bit right. You will need to do this to both sides.

And you can use a brush to gently brush it gently to help this process to be quicker.

  • Step 7: Dry the mesh screen again

After spray the mesh screen, you will need to gently wipe it by cloth first to make it dry

The exposed, washed, cleaned and dried screen ready for the printing stage

Then you will need to use the hair dryer to dry it more.

At the end you will get the dry mesh screen with a sharp image on.

  • Step 8: Print out

This is the most exciting step, but don’t be too nervous, be confident but careful.

You will need to put a piece of card inside the shirt before printing because you don’t want the ink will go through the t-shirt. Also it makes the surface is hard enough and not moving.

Put the frame and check the image in the position which you want. Put the ink at the beginning of the frame.

Try to hold the frame as stable as you can. Use the wood squeegee to pull from the top to the bottom, or from the right to the left and do it again in the different way for 2-3 times, don’t do it too many because you don’t want too much ink.  

Take the frame gently up and see the result. Wahoooo. Look! You did it.

And now let dry it by the hair dryer.

Congratulations. Welcome to the world of printing t-shirts.

You also can do the same process with other t-shirts for the same film (acetate) image.

The good thing of screen printing method is that you just need to make the screen once, then with that image, you can print as many as you can in that time.

The Final Product

Oh yeah! That’s all I want to share with you today. When I finished printing t-shirts, I feel great, feel like oh yeah I am amazing, I can print a t-shirt myself!

Trust me, try it and you will never look at a t-shirt again in the same way. You could become my competition! ?

I hope you enjoy reading my blog and if you try to print a t-shirt, please let me know the result. I would love to hear.

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