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It is possible to do your own t-shirt screen printing at home, especially if you'd like to pick up a new hobby. First, you'll need to obtain the supplies to make a silk screen, and the inks or dyes that you want to color your image with. Most of these items can be found at local craft or artist stores, or you can order them on-line from artist supply websites. You'll want to create a screen (there are many ways to do this, you can either make one by hand or print one from your computer, it's up to you and your pattern) – and then stretch and attach that screen onto a frame (making sure to account for the fact that silk screen materials often stretch). Once your silk screen is dry and ready to use, you'll want to apply the ink onto the screen (which you've placed onto the t-shirt) and squeegee it with a rubber blade onto the shirt. Take care not to use too much ink – the image may bleed. Remove the screen and allow the image to dry thoroughly before washing your shirt with the homemade t-shirt screen printing on it (make sure to read the ink manufacturer's directions for washing your new shirt).
If you're looking for a local silk screener to create some items for you, often you'll find them listed as sign manufacturers. Signs, ranging from banners to road signs, are often created using silk screening techniques - just on a larger scale than the techniques used to print onto shirt and smaller items. As banners are usually made of cloth or cloth-like materials, silk screening is a perfect process to create the large images needed on banners. Silk screening can also allow companies to apply non-fading UV proof inks to items such as road signs, so that they will stay sharp in outdoor conditions. Silk screening is the easiest way to transfer images onto these items - making it so they don't have to be painted by hand.
There is a specific process that a printer or artist must follow when screen printing an item. First, a screen must be made as a stencil – this screen, made of porous material, is stretched taut over a frame. Parts that ink does not need to go through are covered with a non-porous substance, creating a pattern. Ink is placed on top of the screen, and the screen printing process continues as the artist uses a squeegee (rubber blade) to push the ink through the screen onto the material being printed. This ink is allowed to dry, and then if another color is needed to be printed, the process is repeated with a different screen and colored ink. Silk screens can be reused repeatedly, as long as they are properly cleaned after each use – this allows for consistency when many items need to look the same. Stencils can be made by hand, or by machine, and the different techniques allow for different looks to the end product.
One of the most commonly silk screened items is the t-shirt. T-shirt printing has evolved steadily since the 1960s, when many manufacturers started to silk screen their shirts. Now, via the Internet, anyone can have their own design silk screened onto a shirt. Some companies will even allow you to print just one t-shirt of your design, with no minimums – but be sure to check before placing your order. Some of these companies even offer templates and design programs to allow you to design your shirt within their website. T-shirt printing is not limited to just one color of shirt, or one type of material either – although many people would argue that cotton makes the best material for a t-shirt, the silk screening process allows for different types of inks and paints to be screened onto synthetic materials as well.
Silk screen as an art form started with stencils made by Japanese artists that were known as “katazome”. This method of using a fabric stencil to paint images onto other fabrics is still used today, and has developed from a simple craft into an art form. In the early 1900s, mechanized silk screening was started by an Englishman named Samuel Simon, and silk screen developed into an artist's tool in 1914 when it was first used to make prints in San Francisco, CA. Screen printing as art reached its highest peak in the 1960s, however, when Andy Warhol created some of his most memorable works of art – known as “pop culture” art – by using silk screens and inks.
Silk screen printing is one of the many different types of printing available. This type of printing is usually performed using a porous fabric (silk is one of the types of fabric used originally), and involves using the fabric, a stencil, and ink or paint, to “screen” (print) out a clear image onto another material. At this time, however, the porous fabric that is used is generally polyester, because the use of silk was discontinued in the 1940's due to World War II. The materials that can be silk screened range from such items as fabric and ceramics, to paper and canvas. Silk screen printing started out as an industrial process, but was later adopted by artists and other craftspeople in order to create new and different looks in art. Silk screening is an efficient and professional way to print logos and images onto many different items
There are many different things that can be screen printed. Usually, screen printing is done onto items that would generally not be able to run through a printing press. These include fabrics such as t-shirts, ceramics such as mugs and other dinnerware, and large canvases or other artist materials. Silk screening is especially popular these days on items such as coffee mugs, with many on-line stores offering the screen printing of photos onto mugs as gifts. These screened items are usually made up of many different colors, meaning that a variety of screens must be used to transfer different areas and blends of color onto the item. Other items that can be screen printed are other cloth items, such as tote bags, and even plastic items like pens – many of which are silk screened with logos and sayings so that they can be used as business giveaways.
There are several items that are needed to complete a screen printing project. First of all, you will need to create a screen. This porous fabric stencil, typically made of polyester, can be created in several different ways. An artist can paint the stencil with non-porous material where they do not want ink to flow through, by painting a reverse image. Or, the artist can paint the screen in a pattern with a drawing medium, and then cover the entire screen with screen filler. The artist then rinses the screen, and only the areas where the drawing medium was painted will be porous. There are special types of screens that can be run through laser printers and other equipment, so that a precise image can be rendered onto them. Other screen printing equipment that is needed includes a frame on which to stretch the silk screen, inks or paints that are meant to be colorfast on the material you're working with, and a squeegee to push the ink onto the material below. Finally, you will need material (such as fabric, or a ceramic mug) on which to screen the image.