Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Deerhead Screen Printing Experiment

Last weekend, I finally got to experiment with a process I've been wanting to try for a very long time - the poor man's screen printing technique. Deerhead needed new T-shirts, so it was a perfect opportunity to make something useful out of the learning process. I didn't anticipate just how great this little project would turn out!

Deerhead Tee

Deerhead Tees

Deerhead Women's Tee

Deerhead Women's Tees

I don't know what I'll do if Mark and Emily get tired of modeling for me. I'm not a photographer so it's not always easy for me to get decent shots of projects like this. I do what I can with my old point-and-shoot Sony camera. But Mark and Emily's patience with me and willingness to pose made the above photos pretty successful I think.

Screen

There are tons of tutorials out there that cover screen printing so I won't go into much detail here, but I can confirm that Mod Podge works perfectly for blocking out the negative space on the screen. Those of you familiar with "real" screen printing processes know that photo emulsion is normally used for burning an image on the screen. We decided to give the poor man's version a try since we already had all the other supplies on hand besides the emulsion. I printed out my designs, traced them onto the screens with pencil, then carefully manually painted out the negative space with Mod Podge. It's labor-intensive but effective.

We used an embroidery hoop as a frame for the small deer icon. The actual frame we built for the Deerhead text screen worked better to keep the screen stretched tight through washings. The embroidery hoop was ok for a small run, but was definitely more of a hassle to deal with. The screw was as tight as it could go and the screen was still working loose with each washing so needed adjusting as we worked.

Deerhead Tees

I was concerned about how well the ink would show up on darker colored shirts, but the Speedball ink we used turned out nice and opaque. Some of the colors were a bit pearlescent, which I think looks super cool. While we were constantly working against the ink drying way too fast on the screens, it was really slow to dry on the shirts. We found that setting them out in the sun sped up the drying time greatly. Of course, the ever-present gusting South Dakota wind was there to help us out, hence the big boards anchoring the shirts down.

Deerhead Women's Tee (sleeve)

Deerhead Tee

Once the shirts were dry to the touch, we set the ink by ironing them. The directions on the ink bottles recommended ironing 3 to 5 minutes on each side. We did 3 minutes on each side, and wow did that get tedious. Next time I think we'll experiment with heat setting in a clothes dryer instead.

Deerhead Tee

While I was exposed to screen printing a lot over the course of my college career, I was never able to take the official screen printing classes due to schedule conflicts every semester. I regret that I missed out on the classes...but I'm thrilled about trying it out on my own now. It was easier than I expected and FUN as well. I'm looking forward to doing more of this!

More screen printing photos from this project here.