Saturday, August 4, 2012

DIY: Silk Screen Printing vs. Painting on Fabric

Nina's DIY tribal tee
Several weeks ago I received a package from Samantha of Bromeliad blog.  She had sent me her Plaid's Simply Screen Custom Silk Screen Kit (available at HobbyLobby).  I already knew from her  December post that the product was kind of a hassle to use but still decided to give it a try.  Samantha has graciously included the Navajo inspired screen design she made for her pillow (once you make the screen design you can reuse it multiple times).  Here is Bromeliad's pillow made using the Silk Screen Kit: 

via here
Learning from Bromeliad's experience she talks about in her post, I used only one color (black) and made my daughter a tribal print tee.

tip: make sure to tape all the sides of the design all the way to avoid messy spots like mine

Once I felt a bit more confident, I went ahead making my own silk screen design using the photo source below.  My children's school mascot is Bison and their color is burgundy.  The kit comes with three screen print inks: black, red and blue.  To make burgundy I mixed red and blue and a touch of black. 

bison image via here
I'll be honest with you.  The whole process is kind of a hassle.  First, print a black and white image of your choice on regular printing paper.  Then, tape paper to the special screen provided in the kit (it's that blue screen you see below).  Next, process the image in the light box (the box and light bulb are included in the kit).  Rinse the screen in warm water and wash off the processed areas using sponge provided in the kit (actually, the image I've chosen was so detailed that I had to literally scratch my screen using lots of "elbow grease").  I recommend using not-so-detailed image.
And the final step is actually applying your ink to the shirt (through the screen) using squeegee (also, included in the kit). 

OK, so would I buy this kit myself?  No, I'd much rather just hand paint using fabric paints.  Actually, here is my secret: instead of fabric paints which dry hard I use regular craft acrylic paints mixed with 1 or 2 parts of Fabric Medium.  More fabric medium -softer the image when it dries.  I don't claim to have any exceptional skills but I'll be honest I did attend an art school in my childhood and my dream was to become a real artist (I ended up becoming an Accountant, go figure!). 
So if you are absolutely sure you can't paint, then I would use silk screening kit.  But painting to me is so much easier and so much more creative and fun.  Here are some of my own hand-painted holiday designs:

my kids wearing my designs back in 2007
August 9, 2012 EDIT
I've just made a pleasant discovery.  Fabric paint (or acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium) can be used instead of silk screen ink to print with the Bison screen I made (see the original post above).  The kit does not come with lots of ink (three colors only).  Since I already had a large stash of fabric paints, I tried them and it worked!

Bison image screen printed using fabric paint


  1. I really like the way the buffalo tee came out, it has a very vintage look to it. And I LOVE fabric medium! I have a ton of acrylics and it's so easy just to mix in some fabric medium rather than buy fabric paint in the color you need (and so much cheaper too).

  2. The buffalo is really cool! And I like seeing tribal prints; there's something about them that gets my attention.
    You have such creative ideas. :)

  3. Wow, look how much your daughter has grown from 2007 - she is such a cutie! I do like the bison image but sounds like the paint is a much more fun process...

  4. Great project as usual and your little ones are just darling...

  5. Wow, Maya, you did awesome. The bison is so detailed. And you even managed to squeeze a decent shirt out of that crazy tribal stencil. I knew if anyone could handle screen printing, it would be you.

  6. Hi dear.How are you?
    So amazing prints.Really interesting and original.Your kids are just perfect.
    Sophie and Anna

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  14. Very creative posts, I love the tribal designs, and the buffalo one. Keep on sharing.


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