Sunday, January 22, 2012

Make it Mondays : Single Shot Screenprinting

You're probably starting to see a trend here, so alright, I admit it : I'm pretty into T-shirts.

This Single Shot Screenprinting method (aka, 'ghetto screenprinting', as we called it in college) is a great way to transform a boring, blank shirt into a far more awesome one. This was also my key method of having shirts sporting my favorite bands on them when I too poor to buy them. Over the years, I've made countless shirts using this method and have been thrilled with how long the print has lasted with minimal or no fading I have a few that are over 3 years old and the print is still looking great!

What you need :

-blank T-shirt
-acrylic paint (I'm currently using house paint, which also works just fine)
-plastic coated freezer paper
-print out of a design your choosing
-Exacto knife
-cutting mat (cardboard also works)
-small paint roller and tray (tray not pictured)
-cardboard (not pictured)
-hair dyer (optional)

1. First things first : Choose your design. It can be just about anything, but I'd recommend keeping it simple. Big, bold forms and minimal text works best. But, depending of your level of patience and skill with an Exacto knife, you can get as crazy as you'd like. The sky's the limit.
After brainstorming and searching Google Images for a while, I decided to go back to the routes of my ancestral homeland and make a New Jersey Turnpike shirt (don't judge me).

2. Now that your have your design printed, trace it onto your freezer paper. Make sure that you trace it papery side up, plastic-y side down.

3. Using the Exacto knife, carefully cutting out your forms. You can either discard cut outs, or save them to create an inverse print of your design (kinda fun if you have the time and something else to print onto).
PS--Turn the iron on.

Here's a good trick that will help anytime you have text or a time you have a shape with another shape in the middle of it. Create a bridge, basically a thick line, that connects the form in the middle with the space outside of your design. We'll cut this bridge away later.

4. Now that your stencil is made, it's time to adhere it to your shirt. First, slip some cardboard inside the shirt to prevent paint from seeping through the back of the shirt. Line up your stencil on the shirt, plastic side down, and iron the stencil onto the shirt. The freezer paper should adhere very easily; you'll only have to iron for about a minute.

Let's go back to that bridge we made earlier. Now that the stencil is ironed on, you can carefully using your Exacto knife to cut away and remove the bridge.
PS--Turn the iron off.

5. Time for my favorite part : the paint!

As a side note, you can get these mini rollers at any hardware store for about $2 and they come with a little plastic tray. However, I've done this some many times and forgotten to wash just as many trays that I am using the back of an old canvas instead. You can use tin fold, a paper plate, or whatever you have around; the principle is the same.

Pour the paint onto the tray and roll your roller in the paint. Try to pick up a fairly liberal amount of paint, but not so much that it will splatter. It also usually takes a decent amount of paint to cover your design, as the fabric just soaks it right up. Roll the paint over your stencil, and be careful to not get paint on the exposed part of the shirt.

6. Hooray! You're almost there! Now you can either wait for the paint to dry or use a hair dyer to speed up the process.

7. Once the paint is completely dry, carefully peel off the freezer paper from the shirt. It should come off very easily. In some cases, you can even get another use or 2 out of your stencil. Otherwise, just discard it.

Congrats! Now you have a totally sweet t-shirt! You can wear it right away, but I like to wash mine first. I find the first wash can help to set the paint into the shirt and loosen up the painted fabric a bit. I'd also recommend washing inside out, especially for the first wash!

Happy DIY-ing and see ya next time!


  1. Wow, this is soooo cool, I may have to try it.

  2. love it! great timing too, I'm learning how to do professional screen printing this week. Very serendipitous.

  3. Thank you for sharing! I definitely want to give this a try! :)