I am head-over-heels giddy about this project. These screen printed tees have been in the works for months! It started out with wanting to use some cute animal shapes on tees for Sweet J and it morphed to so much more. Lollipops, ice cream cones and cute glass of lemonade got mixed in with the lion, croc and hippo (plus a slice of pie, giraffe, rhino, popsicle and watermelon).
I love making tees for my children. As a lover of simple design, I get frustrated sometimes when I can’t find designs I like. This project allows me the freedom to keep it simple. Plus, the tees can include items my children like and they can help decide how they look.
This project is a lot of preparation; it takes some time to get to the fun part, which is painting the shirts, of course. However, the steps I’ve laid out will help you create screens that can be used now and in future screen printing projects.
-images – here are five animal designs and six food designs!
-sheer fabric – tulle or sheer fabric*
-Speedball Screen Filler or Modge Podge**
-paint brushes or foam brushes
-tees – I bought ours on Old Navy. Had to remove a few pockets.
-section of cardboard (to go inside tees)
*The fabric must be sheer or porous to allow paint through. I used a $5 sheer curtain panel for all my screens.
**Speedball Screen Filler is what I chose to use to make my screen printing stencil. It is a red liquid that prevents paint from going through areas where it is painted. It won’t wash off with the paint afterwards. And the red tint makes it easy to see the design. Modge Podge works too but I’m not sure about its durability.
Begin by finding your desired image. Anything works, any size. Super detailed images might pose a challenge but if you’re up for being super diligent then do it. Prep your screen material by cutting a piece larger than the embroidery hoop you are using, which should be larger than your image. Then, place it in the embroidery hoop. The screen material should be very taut.
Lay down your image, top it with a piece of wax paper and lay the embroidery hoop-ed screen on top. The material should be flat on the work surface. Trace the image on the screen. Use a screen filler (or Modge Podge) to copy the design. Coat the areas you DON’T WANT PAINTED, or the negative spaces. As you can see below with the lollipop image, I used the screen filler to cover the area around the image (plus a few inches out to protect the shirt) and then I blocked off the white swirl as well.
Allow the filler to dry. Because the screen was laying on the wax paper while copying the image, when it dries and the wax paper is peeled away, the screen will not be completely coated anymore. Some of the filler pulls away. I did at least two coats, if not a third touch-up round, to make sure all the areas were well coated. I did the second and third coats by holding the hoop up in the air and then setting it at an angle to dry. Laying it down on another surface will just cause the filler to pull away again.
Once the screen is well coated and dry, the next phase can begin. Make sure the shirts you wish to paint have been washed and dried, especially if brand new.
To print, place a tee on your work surface, laid out flat and smooth. Place a wax paper covered piece of cardboard between the front and back of the shirt to protect it from paint. Place the screen on the shirt right where you want the design. Then begin adding paint. Make sure the paint gets pushed through the screen, not merely brushed on top. And hold that screen still!
As you can see, I did some a solid color and some multi-colored prints. Solid colors are easier. Less exacting, less preciseness needed. But the multi-colored ones are sure cool. Love Bug requested her lollipop be rainbow colored. Again, make sure the paint is pushed through the screen to the tee below.
When the whole design has been painted, gently peel the screen from the shirt and check your work.
Allow the painted shirt to completely dry. I like to turn the shirts inside out while washing to help preserve the image but it’s not necessary. Rinse the paint from the screen with cool water and allow to dry. Use it again in the future for more prints!
To get children involved, start with allowing them to help paint the image on the shirt. Talk about pressing the paint through the screen while you hold the hoop in place. As children get older and can be more precise, get them involved with prepping the screens. They can really own the project then. And definitely include them on choosing designs. If they are wearing them, they should have a say. Plus, they have great ideas!!
This was a fabulous project and I can’t wait to do more!
Special thanks to the Ilustrator rock star, Christina. Without her, my doodles would only be on the paper I drew them on.
This project is a part of Endless Summer Projects, a collaboration between Alexandra Hedin, Classic Play, Pars Caeli, Lulu the Baker, and this heart of mine to bring you fabulous summer projects for the whole family for the whole summer.