DIY Screen Printing :: Using your Silhouette

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Watch out, HTV, I have a new obsession when it comes to my graphic tees!

While HTV gives you clean, sharp lines, I love the vintage look of screen printing.  There are a few ways to get the job done, but if you have a Silhouette (or other cut machine) you have a fast and easy way to create your own screen printed shirts.  This is a great method for a DIY crafter who wants to do super small batches. 

I could have (should have?) documented the process once I mastered it . . . but I was feeling bold, so I decided to take pictures along the way to show you the FIRST time I tried this method of screen printing. You'll see the shirts aren't perfect, but they're a total success for a first go around.  And I will mention that: don't expect perfection the first time! Use a cheap shirt for practice so you can get a feel for it.  

I've been wanting to try out screen printing for a while now, and for $30 I was able to buy everything I needed (the frame, paint, and squeegee, all of which I bought on Amazon).  If you're like me and have been Silhouette-ing for a while now, you probably only need a few extra supplies. 

I use a Silhouette Cameo 3 and this heat press (optional) for my work.  

Here's what else you need:

I did two designs-- I Can Make That is a file from my friend Katy over at Thread and Grain, and the Old Fashioned one is my own design (I'm really not sure if people still drink brandy outside of Wisconsin . . . ha!). 

I used Oracle 651. You cut the design like normal (NO mirroring like you would with HTV). 

When you weed your design, you will weed out the areas where you want the paint to be (so again, opposite of what you'd be doing if you were HTVing it). 

Next, apply your transfer tape, the same way you normally would.  The squeegee was great for this whole transfer tape process!

Next, apply the vinyl to the screen. The vinyl goes on the recessed side of the screen (that is to say, within the frame itself). Again, the squeegee was a lot of help. Go slow. It's tricky to get the vinyl to stay adhered to the screen.  I don't do much with vinyl, so I found this step excruciating. If you've done a lot of work with regular vinyl, you'll probably do better than me. 

Now cover all your extra screen with painters tape. You can get right up onto the wood frame at this step.  You don't want your paint to be able to seep through onto the shirt, so make sure you get every bit of space! 

Alright! We're ready to go!  I centered the design on my shirt, and got my squeegee and paint ready. 

Side note: I've since marked the centers on all sides of my screen, so that it's easier for me to center my vinyl onto the screen, and the screen onto my shirt. I highly recommend it. 

Pour a line of paint across the top of the design. 

Using your squeegee, smoothly glide the paint down in an even stroke, making sure to hit all areas of the design. If you have a second people, it's great to have one person hold the frame firmly down. 

I decided to use my second person to take pictures. Oh well. 

But really, it's super helpful to have one person hold the frame down. You need more pressure that I did here. But that's part of the learning curve. You'll learn a feel for the squeegee and how much pressure you need. 

The excess paint on the squeegee can be put back into the container for next time. You'll get a lot of shirts out of this jar of paint!

Lift up the frame, and voila!

All the pictures in this tutorial are from my FIRST attempt at the process.  I've cleaned up since then and worked out my technique and have learned a feel for the squeegee, but you can see these are still totally a success.  I had the expectation that my first go around would be awful, so I was SO happy that I considered both of these totally wearable. 

You do want to wash your frame right away, because the paint starts to dry fairly quickly.  I immediately applied my second deisgn and went in for round two. 

Leave the shirts to dry-- it doesn't take all that long. I came back after an episode of The Path and they were good to go. I used my heat press on them for 20 seconds at 320 degrees. You can also use an iron, or even turn them inside out and put them in the dryer. However you do it, you want to apply some heat so that the paint can set. 

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This one didn't turn out as good, but it still worked out.  

I was seriously all kinds of stoked.  

Wear it loud, wear it proud! This is such a cool alternative to HTV.  And while gold HTV will always hold a place in my heart, expect to see a lot more black and white screen prints from me! <3

Did you try it? Let me know how it goes! 

Silhouette Cameo -- Starter Bundle
$219.99
Silhouette America