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DIY Tshirts Part Two: Screenprinting and Transfers

Everyone digs a custom t.

So, I spent a good portion of the day in a dentists chair getting the roots of my teeth scrapped to hell, despite my intense and overwhelming hatred of the dental profession and the entire teeth cleaning process, and I’m still spitting blood so we’re gonna do a short and sweet one this week y’all

Last week we covered some quick and easy no-sew tshirt alterations, but I left out some pretty obvious options, namely: screenprinting and transfers. Both are essential staples of tshirt modification because the process is a) cheap and b) pretty straightforward. Plus, you know what they say: if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture on a tshirt is worth a thousand tumblr posts.

Screenprinting can seem a bit intimidating – like a printing press for a tshirt, but it’s really basic (there’s a reason it’s been around since 960 AD). You’ll need something to build your frame out of – like an old picture frame or an embroidery hoop – then stretch your fabric over your frame like canvas. Place your frame, fabric down, on your image and tape in place. Trace the outline of your image, then paint the negative spaces with Mod Podge and let dry. Now, grab your T and put some cardboard in the middle to keep the ink from seeping through. Put your fabric screen on the part of the T you want to print, fabric facing down and weigh down the screen. Cover the screen with fabric ink and use a piece of cardboard to spread it around, ensuring your image is covered, then very slowly peel the screen off the shirt (rinse before it dries!). Once dry, cover the print with paper and iron on med high heat for a few minutes to seal. Granted, there are other methods (this one uses emulsion fluid and sunlight) that vary on the details but the basic steps are the same, so try a few different techniques and be warned: screenprinting can become a bit addictive.

If that sounds like far too much effort, you can a) just take a screenprint class at Workshop or b) use a transfer instead. Just keep in mind, you’ll need to track down some actual transfers to print on and have access to an inkjet printer. Print your image onto your transfer, then cut out (make sure there are no white edges, that looks cheezy dude) and peel the thin front from the photo paper back. Turn your iron on high and prep your T by ironing the spot, then lay down your transfer, put parchment paper on top and iron your image, taking care around the edges so it doesn’t peel. Let it cool for about 30 minutes, then repeat. One more caveat: these will be cold wash only, but don’t worry – once you open up your tshirt etsy store, you can just get everything hand washed.

Images courtesy pintrest and instructables.

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About the author

Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

A freelance writer, blogger and poet based in San Francisco, Amber has written for PC World, InfoWorld, and the 16th & Mission Review. She has performed at City Hall, Litquake, the Brainwash, 16th & Mission, BlueSix, and SFSU among other places. Amber is also consummate fan of swearing, organizational freak, yoga practitioner, music geek, caffeine addict, and tattoo enthusiast who enjoys platform shoes, making out, thumb wrestling and fighting the good fight. She owns a bicycle named Gretel, a motor scooter named Elroy and a cat named Simon. She can be found in various virtual locations all over your interwebs.