The majority of people who I've come in contact with have little to no idea what goes into printing t-shirts (or posters) using the screen printing method. I feel like some people think that it is simply a matter of sticking a blank shirt in a big machine, hitting a couple buttons, and ta-dah!...a t-shirt is made! For any of you who have some knowledge of the process already, you know that is far from the case.
I taught myself to screen print over a year ago and I now have my process down pat. Since I do things slightly unconventional (or the "hard way"), I wanted to share my process with anyone who wanted to learn how to start screen printing very cheaply. Of course, coming to my finalized process was not cheap, as I wasted a lot of blank shirts, ink, equipment, etc. not knowing what the hell I was doing at first. But now it is start to pay itself off.
So let's start! I suggest going through each step first, to get the whole idea, and then going back and taking it step-by-step.
1. The first step in screen printing is obviously coming up with a design. I am doing a shirt for my comic, "Hammer'd" on www.CrapfortheCrapper.com. Once you have your design, you change everything to black and print it on transparencies. This takes some prior knowledge of Photoshop or Illustrator, so I won't go into too much detail. I double up my transparencies in order to assure darkness. Here I am using four tranparency sheets taped together since the design wouldn't fit on a standard 8.5"x11" sheet.
I use Apollo transparency film in my HP 1410 All-in-one. If found that this printer, opposed to my much more expensive Brother MFC 5890cn, prints pretty dark transparencies.
The shirt I'm doing is going to be a three color screen print, but I'm just doing one screen and will tape off the sections that are diffferent colors than the one I'm printing. This will be explained better later on.
I did these shirts for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in St. Louis this past Saturday. Our team/group was made up of half Mizzou fans and half Kansas fans. So we thought that combining the two rival mascots would be pretty neat...and something that really has never been done; at least that I've seen. My brother said it best when I showed him the shirts, "It's bittersweet." We thought about doing "JayTigers" but that didn't have a nice ring to it...plus Mizzou needs to go first, right! Sidenote: When designing the logo, it was a pleasure cutting off the jayhawk's head!
So the shirts were a big hit at the race/walk! A lot of people were even stopping us to take pictures, haha.
But, on the more important side, the race was an AMAZING experience. I've never been a part of something that large and for such a great cause. There was a part of the walk where the people in front of you were on an incline and you could see the massive river of people cutting through downtown St. Louis (picture below)...you couldn't help but get teary-eyed.
There is not a single person that I know who hasn't been some way connected to breast cancer...whether it was a mom who passed away, a grandma who survived, or even just a friend who had a scare. I was thinking while we were walking the 5K, it's been like 30 years since the Susan Komen for the Cure began, and I really hope that this race doesn't go on year after year and get to a 50th Anniversary race. It would be nice if a cure was found and there was a big "finale" race or something. Or if it became "We Found a Cure!" race...that would be awesome!
That's what I hope for at least.
Up until last week, I had been using 3M Injet Transparency Film on my Brother MFC-5890cn to print transparencies for my screen printing process. I had been quadrupling them up to get darker black areas.
In an effort to cut some costs, I found a much cheaper injet transparency film made by Apollo. My costs for transparencies were substantially cut! $50 for a 50 pack of the 3M stuff went to $14 for a 50 pack of the Apollo stuff!
So the new transparencies arrived and I ripped open the package...only to look at the specifications and find that they were not compatible with my Brother printer. Tiss tiss for not looking into that before I ordered, right? But, I tried printing a few anyway...only so my Brother could completely eat each page.
I sat there for a few minutes letting set in the fact that I was stuck with 200 transparencies that I couldn't use. And a thought came to me! They were compatible with HP printers and I had an old HP printer collecting dust next to my desk!