Thursday, January 16, 2014

DIY Screen Printing: Nylons, an Embroidery Hoop and Mod Podge

For a few years now I have wanted to try my hand at screen printing. I think it looks so fun! So when my baby girl turned one and needed a 1st birthday shirt, I thought I'd try it out.

You know those foam fingers at sporting events? They say things like, "We're #1!" and are larger than life. How about a foam finger #1 birthday shirt? I had this idea in my head for a few months and was so excited about it. So, I did a little internet research on at home screen printing on the cheap, and got to work. I'm no expert, but I'll show you what I did and what I learned.

First you'll need:
  • old nylons, or other tight woven thin material (I read mention of using tulle. I started with that, but the fibers weren't tight enough, the gaps were too big and it was hard to get good definition. It looked pixelated. If you understand the way resolution works, it is the same concept.)
  • embroidery hoop
  • mod podge
  • fabric paint (I used acrylic paint and mixed it with a fabric painting medium)
  • paint brush/toothpicks
  • credit card or other object with a straight edge, it must be wider than your image

step 1: stretch the nylon tight over the embroidery hoop and secure it into place. 

step 2: You can do this next step two ways. You can print your image out in reverse and place the hoop on top of it with the nylon side up. (This is what I did.) Or, what I think would be easier, is to print your image out just like you want to see it and put the nylon side down so it is touching the paper and then trace the image onto the nylon with a pen or marker.

step 3: Using mod podge, paint any areas of the design that you don't want to be color when you screen print. For me it was the outline of the hand. Make sure you flip the hoop over so the nylon is not touching the paper (the image will be reverse), otherwise it will stick to the paper as the glue dries. 

I used a toothpick to paint the detailed areas and a foam brush to do the bigger outside areas.

step 4: Wait for the mod podge to dry. It will dry clear and harden.

step 5: Now your screen is ready to use! But first you need to mix together the acrylic paint and the fabric paint medium. Follow the instructions on the bottle. For me it was 2 parts paint to 1 part medium.

step 6: Now the real fun begins. Place your screen, nylon side down, on top of your fabric. Squeeze or pour a generous amount of paint in a line across the top of your image. Now, do as I say, not as I do. I took this picture on my very first attempt, and I didn't do it right. The paint should go all the way across your image and be enough that as you pull it down the screen you have enough to fill in the image. This is done in one step. Only pull the paint across the screen one time, so be sure that when you do it that your card is sliding over the whole image. Not like how I show it in the picture below.

I definitely recommend practicing. It took me a few tries to get the hang of how much paint and how much pressure to use.

When you are ready, make sure to remember what you learned, and don't go against your better judgment. Like I did. I said not to go over the image twice, but I did. When I printed on the actual shirt I was so nervous it wasn't going to come out right that I went over it a second time and put too much paint into the image and lost some detail. Darn it!

After the paint dried I went back over it with a toothpick and touched it up. I pulled out some white paint and mixed it with the fabric medium to add the details back into the image.

step 7: To heat set the paint, after it has dried, place a cloth over the image and press an iron to it for a few seconds.

This method of screen printing isn't perfect. But it was cheaper, and it worked for what I was using it for. I actually think it gives a pretty good distressed image, when you do it right and don't use too much paint. :)

Little one year olds don't care what their shirt looks like, plus they look cute no matter what they're wearing. That's the advantage of being a baby. Actually, in the end I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It was a fun project and definitely something I'd give another try at.


  1. This is a very useful post, I was looking for this info. thanks for sharing the great ideas...
    screen printing


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