How to make a screen print on fabric with very cheap materials.
I’d been wanting to print tote bags to sell on my shop for a while. I looked at commercial printing but it was expensive and required having large quantities made, home screen printing with photograph emulsion sounded complicated and I rejected lino printing because I just hate cutting it. Luckily, I found several tutorials on the internet for different methods of screen printing. I experimented a little, and used various of the ideas I’d seen. This is how I did it.
You Will Need:
- An old picture frame
- PVA glue
- Jam jar with lid
- An old credit card
- Fabric to print onto
- Screen printing ink for fabric
- A design to print
First you need your design. I drew my unicycling bear very roughly on paper then scanned it, completed the design in photoshop and printed it out the size I wanted it on the bags. You can just draw the design to the size you want or find an image on the web.
Next I took my piece of voile and stapled it to my picture frame. It needs to be as taut as possible. Keep the staples to the back of the frame as it needs to sit perfectly flat on your fabric while you are printing.
I put my printed out design under my frame and traced it onto the voile with a ballpoint pen.
(I left some of the detail out as I was happy to add it later, but it’s up to you how much you want to trace. Paper under screen so you can see the drawing.)
The next stage is to start painting on your screen with a blocking agent. I used a 50/50 mixture of PVA glue and water. Simply put glue and water into a jam jar and shake thoroughly! I also added a drop of acrylic ink to mine so that it was easier to see where I had painted.
The idea is to block out all the areas you wish to remain white. Prop up your frame so that it’s not touching anything underneath and start painting on the glue mix with a fine brush. Once you have painted round the outline and added the detail use a larger brush to block in the big white areas. Allow the glue to dry and then repeat with a second coat.
Allow to dry thoroughly.
I made a test print before I started printing on bags. If you find you have made a mistake you can gently rinse off the ink under the cold tap, allow to dry, add more glue and dry before printing again.
To print you will need to put something underneath your fabric. I have a vinyl tablecloth and I put a piece of mountboard inside the bags. A plastic bag should work fine, but whatever you use make sure it is flat and smooth. It’s also a good idea to iron your fabric before you print on it.
Place you frame on the fabric where you want to print. Make sure the voile is in contact with the fabric. You can see in the photo that I weighed the top my frame down with a large stone. Dollop a large blob of the screen printing ink at the top of your image and drag in across the image towards you with an old credit card. If you haven’t put enough ink on, don’t worry, just add some more and keep going. (I also tried applying ink with a brush but it didn’t work as well as this method.)
Once you have covered your image with ink you can carefully lift your frame off. Put your fabric aside until the print has dried thoroughly. If you want to print another, carry straight on, or carefully rinse the ink off of your frame to use again.
The ink I used needs to be fixed with heat. Cover the image with a tea towel and iron as hot as you can on both sides. (Check manufacturer’s instructions for the ink you use.)
This sounds complicated but it was really fun to do!
My Unicycling Bear tote bags are available to buy on my Etsy shop.