Give the gift of nerdy custom fashion with this nerdy screenprinting tutorial

November 14 | Guest post by Swashi

Most of our friends are all somewhat nerdy about one thing or another — and two in particular introduced me to the glories of Star Trek the Next Generation; another loves the Original Series; another introduced me to Doctor Who. Most of them are total Star Wars fanboys (they would all have movie nights and watch the Original Trilogy together).

SO we've decided to DIY screenprint a symbol for each person that refers to their specific nerdy thing onto scarves: Next Gen, Original Series, Dr. Who (Tardis), a symbol from the comic Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (which my best friend and I used to read together years ago), symbol for the Rebel Alliance and the Imperial symbol.

That's the story, now here's the DIY screenprinting tutorial:

You'll need:

diy screenprinting 2
STEP 1
Get your design: Print out your design. I found the symbols via Google, then put the images into a document in Microsoft Word and just scaled each one down to close to an inch, the size I wanted them.

DIY Screenprinting 1

STEP 2
Make the screen. Once you have your image, cut out a piece of the stocking and put it in the embroidery hoop–be sure to stretch it very tight. (The first one I tried, the symbol was big and I didn't stretch enough. The screen allowed the ink to smudge because it was a bit loose.)

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 5.55.11 PM
STEP 3
Trace your design onto the screen with a pencil outline.


STEP 4
Next, fill in the negative space with Mod Podge, making sure no tiny holes appear in the Mod Podge by making it relatively thick. Be very careful at the edges of the design. The unpainted area will be your screenprinted design.

DIY Screenprinting 6
STEP 5
Let the screen dry.


STEP 6
Do a test run of your screen, following steps 7-9. I used a tea towel. It's a good thing I did, because the first few came out pretty poorly. (That smudgy blue is where I tried watering down the ink a bit, which I did not like at all; I ended up just using the thick ink straight from the jar.)

STEP 7
Put down parchment paper or wax paper underneath the fabric in case of bleed through, so you don't ruin your surface OR accidentally glue the project to the table. I tried newspaper, which became stuck to the bottom of the fabric. THEN I used wax paper, which worked well.

Screen Tardis

STEP 8
Carefully place the screen face down on the fabric and paint the ink onto the screen. Be sure to push the ink through the screen without accidentally moving the screen around to prevent smudges (this is why doing a test is such a good idea!). You can use a card to push the ink through the screen if it's pretty thick, or if your brush is stiff that might do the trick.

Paint Screenprinting

STEP 9
After the ink dries, iron the design on high heat for one minute from the back of the fabric.

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STEP 10
When you're happy with the tests, follow steps 7-9 on your real fabric.

Here's how mine came out:

nerdy screenprinting

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  1. If you're having trouble with knit material like stockings stretching too much, you can also do this with woven material like chiffon. You can also use freezer paper – though it's much harder to reuse the stencil. So many great options for personalized gifts! 🙂

    3 agree
    • I don't know what the fabric would be called but I used old sheer drapes from the thrift store and it worked really well also!

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      • I used the same material to make personalized tea towels for a bridal shower present and it worked great!!!

        • I use organza for my screen printing. Also I just use ordinary fabric paint and a sponge brush. Screen printing ink is too watery and I find it bleeds too much no matter if I use it straight or watered down. If you have a screen printer by all means, but if you're doing it by hand I would recommend organza and fabric paint.

    • I like freezer paper and fabric paint *nods* It probably doesn't produce quite as clean an image as screen printing, nor is it quite as hard wearing, but it's a whole lot less fart-arsing around.

  2. I've been screenprinting for years, and I get that this is a budget DIY tute, but if you spend $10 to buy some proper screen mesh on ebay, it will make the world of difference to the final product. You can still do everything else the same – trace with a pencil, modpodge, whatever. But real screen mesh won't stretch, and will be the right density for the viscosity of the ink.

    7 agree
  3. I've done screen printing in the past, but it was always at a learning institution where I used someone else's supplies, so when I saw this tutorial on Pinterest I was pretty excited to try it. The project at hand was a shirt for my four year old's rainbow robot birthday party.

    Let me tell you, this method is DIFFICULT. It took me three coats or so of Mod podge to get it to even fill the negative space. If I had known about the chiffon, I'd have tried that. This was a pain in the ass using pantyhose. My design (a rainbow gear) turned out adorable, but I will not be doing this again. Low pay out (fuzzy edges) for too much work (hours and hours Mod Podging).

    Next time I want to screen print, I'll just be investing in some real screen printing supplies…

  4. …I haven't thought about JtHM in years. It was one of my favorite comics in high school. Time to dig out my old comics and give it another read, methinks.

    1 agrees
  5. I've tried the embroidery hoop and pantyhose technique several times before, and I don't know how anyone gets a clean result out of it. My design shifted when I tried to squeegee the ink, and I ended up with a ghosted and smeared image.

    Through much trial and error, I settled on printing with a reusable screen made from curtain sheer and a picture frame. Staple the fabric taut all the way around the frame. You can either make a permanent design with Mod Podge or screen filler, or put a stencil between your printing surface and your screen, and print through that. For batches of several prints, cut the stencil from clear contact paper (the kind you use to line a drawer) and stick it directly to the bottom of your screen. I've taught this method in a workshop with a dozen people, and all their prints came out great.

    3 agree

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