How to Screen-Print

Why let T-shirts have all the fun? Screen-printing is easy, cheap, and fun-so break out those tea towels, totes, and tablecloths! Our step-by-step guide will make you a believer.

I Screen, You Screen

Can't get enough of your favorite screen-printed concert T? Here's a new idea to love: Extend the look to your surroundings. This simple at-home technique will have you screen-printing totes, pillows, and other home decor in no time. And it won't hurt your wallet, either.

Screen-Print Apron

Surprise budding cooks in your family with a completely unique screen-printed apron. Use your child's favorite motif -- here, we opted for butterflies -- or decorate with cute fruits and veggies. (Adult-size aprons make wonderful gifts for grown-up foodies, too.)

Pretty Pillow

Designer-look pillows minus the price tag? We're in! Basic pillowcases cost only a few dollars at crafts stores. Buy several at a time, and screen-print them in the same afternoon to keep the look cohesive and the colors consistent. Your sofa will thank you.

Screen Printing: Materials

Ready to get started? First, make sure you have all the necessary materials.

What You'll Need

-- Sheer fabric (1 yard)

-- Wooden picture frame

-- Mod Podge

-- Paintbrushes

-- Pencil

-- Item to be screen-printed

-- Fabric ink (about 4 ounces)

-- Squeegee

Before you break out the paint, you'll need to stretch a fabric screen. Keep clicking to learn how.

Screen Printing: Step 1

Lay a piece of lightweight tulle or nylon-blend fabric (never silk) flat on your work surface. Center a wood frame a little bigger than your design on top. Cut the fabric so you have several additional inches on all sides of the frame. Pull one side of the fabric over the frame's edge and apply Mod Podge with a paintbrush. Be careful not to drip Mod Podge onto the center of the screen where your design will go. Press the fabric to the frame and let dry five minutes.

Pull fabric tightly on the side opposite the glued edge. Apply Mod Podge to hold in place; let dry. Repeat the technique on the two remaining sides. The goal is to stretch the screen tight like a drum. When dry, trim the excess fabric.

Screen Printing: Step 2

Flip the frame over so the screen faces up. Apply glue to the edges of the frame and to 1-1/2 to 2 inches of the actual screen to seal the edges and stop ink from leaking out. Let dry thoroughly.

Screen Printing: Step 3

Create a design by printing clip art or by drawing a simple doodle on paper. Set the design on your work surface and position the screen facedown on top. Lightly trace the design using a soft lead pencil (you don't want to rip the fabric).

DIY TIP: Don't worry if you're printing words and they appear backward when you look at the screen faceup; they'll read correctly when you're done.

Screen Printing: Step 4

Flip the frame over so the screen is facing up. Brush Mod Podge onto the areas of your design that you don't want to be printed. Let dry. Check for small holes by holding the screen up to the light. Any place where light shines through will be printed. Smear on more Mod Podge if needed.

Screen Printing: Step 5

Place the item to be screen-printed on a level work surface and smooth or iron out wrinkles. Position the frame facedown on top of the item. Pour ink along the upper side of the screen above the pattern.

Screen Printing: Step 6

Pull the ink down the screen with a squeegee held at a 45-degree angle. Lift the screen and let the ink dry. Gently rinse the screen with tap water. Do not use soap or scrubbing tools. Let the screen air-dry so you can reuse it.

Custom Cool

With screen-printing, the possibilities for customization are limited only by your creativity. Aprons, tea towels, bags, clothing, home decor -- even paper crafts -- are all perfect vehicles for your screen-printed designs.

Bag It

Look for items with large blank spaces next time you hit up your favorite stores. You can usually score solid-color shirts, bags, napkins, tablecloths, and other accessories on the clearance rack. Once you have basic screen-printing supplies on hand, it will be a snap to whip up new projects in no time -- and for very little cash.

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