I love Adobe Photoshop! I don’t even own the current version. In fact the version I use for making screen printing artwork is many years old. Yet even this antique version of Adobe Photoshop is my primary graphic editing tool! You could probably buy an old version of Adobe Photoshop on eBay for alomst nothing.
The feature I use the most is called layers. To envision how layers work, picture a small stack of transparent plastic sheets. You draw some design on one sheet, and then you can see it through the stack. Then on another sheet, you can draw another part of the design. Now when you stack them, you see both parts together. This is how layers work.
With layers, I usually start with a white background, and then create a transparent layer over it. I draw on the transparent layer in black. I might draw some design or whatever on this layer. If I decide I want to add text, I create another transparent layer. Then I put the text on this layer. Why the layers are so useful is that all of the elements are on separate layers. If I mess up on part, I can just redo that part without messing up the rest. I can move parts around easily without disturbing the rest of the parts.
The easiest way to create new layers in Photoshop is to select something on the current layer, and copy it to the clipboard using ctrl-c. If you have the little boox that displays the lays open, you will see a “floating layer”. This is a temporary layer that holds the stuff on the clipboard. Click on the floating layer label, and give it a name. The temporary “floating layer” will now become a regular layer that is nwo the top layer.
If you look at the box that displays the layers, you will see little eyes icons. The eyes show that that layer is visible. If you toggle the eye, that layer will become invisible. This is usefull if you want to see how something looks without a particular layer, but don’t want to get rid of the layer permanently.
When you are done, and the graphic looks like what you want it to, you can export the graphic as a tif, gif, or whatever other format you want. Adobe Photoshop will export your artwork to this new format as a SINGLE layer. Be sure to save your work in the Adobe Photoshop format as well. This will keep all of your layers. So if you want to come back and change your design, you will still have everything in layers.
Custom screen printed tshirts make great gifts. I have given away many t-shirts and sweatshirts as gifts. People really appreciate them.
One year for Christmas, I screen printed some custom sweatshirts for my dad and his wife. Since they are both avid golfers, I made up a fictional golf country club named after the street they live on. I found various country club logos, and then designed one that kind of looked like a real one. I use Adobe Photoshop, and used a shield shapes, and pasted some gold related clip art, etc to make a generic looking country club logo. I made one sweatshirt for him naming him Senior Golf Instructor (tweaking him about his age), and one for her naming her General Manager (putting her in charge). They turned out nice, and looked like legitimate golf country club sweatshirts.
I made a t-shirt for my mother with a drawing of our dog on it. I made t-shirts for my wife advertising her craft website. I some custom t-shirts for myself and a couple friends naming us the Goon Squad after a particullarly eventful karate black belt test where we got to attack the black belt candidates.
Custom made screen printed t-shirts can be a lot of fun, and will remind the people of a special event for years. Just think of how much more they will be appreciated than some generic store bought gift!
There are a variety of styles of screen printing frames available.
At the low end of the spectrum are wooden frames. You can buy wooden frames, or if you have basic woodworking skills, and a little bit of equipment, you can make your own. If you are just starting out, you should just buy one or two. I bought my wooden screens at Dick Blick. The benefits of wood screens is they are relatively cheap. Some of the negatives are that they can warp over time, since you are going to be running them under water often. The better wooden frames have jointed corners. The cheaper ones have 45 degree mitered corners, with little metal fasteners. The mesh is usually held in place by cord pressed into a slot. The mesh can sometimes come loose if the cord slips. This can be fixed by removing the cord, stretching the mesh over the frame, and stapling the mesh in place.
A step up from wooden frames are aluminum frames. Aluminum frames have welded corners, and won’t warp. But aluminum frames are more expensive than wooden frames. But they will last longer than wooden frames. The mesh is permanently glued to the frame.
The best frames you can buy are Newman Roller Frames. These are also the most expensive. These allow you to retension the mesh by tightening the rollers. I have read about the process of tensioning the mesh on one of these, and it is quite involved. If you are a hobbyist, or not really planning to be printing lots of shirts regularly, these are probably overkill. The mesh can be replaced on a roller frame if it is damaged, or to use a different mesh count.
When buying frames, you also need to decide on what kind of mesh you want to use. This is because the frame usually come mounted on frames. I use 110 monofilament mesh. Mesh with higher numbers will allow more detail. Mesh with lower numbers works better from printing light colors on dark shirts. 110 is a nice middle ground general purpose mesh.
You will also need to determine the size of the frames you want to use. The larger the size of the frame, the more they will likely cost.
After you have coated your screen with photo emulsion, exposed the screen, screen printed with the screen, and then cleaned it, you may want to remove the photo emulsion so you can reuse the screen.
I had read that you can use bleach. So I bought a gallon of bleach for a dollar at the local grocery store. After I had washed away the leftover ink using warm water, I brushed on bleach, and let it sit for a while, and scrubbed it with a nylon bristle brush. Then I sprayed the screen with warm water. Some of the emulsion had been removed. I reapplied the bleach, scrubbed, waited, sprayed, and more came off. After about four applications, the screen was pretty much cleared. Basically, it was a lot of work, and used a lot of bleach.
I decided to try stencil remover. The local art supply store was out, so I drove to Syracuse, and bought some over there (combining the trip with a book hunting expedition). The quart bottle was relatively more expensive than bleach. I hoped it worked.
I poured just a little of the stencil remover on the screen, and used the nylon bristle paint brush to spread it around, I scrubbed lightly with a nylon bristle scrub brush, and then wait a few minutes. When I sprayed the screen, almost all of the emulsion was removed. Just a dab more stencil remover, and the rest was gone too. Compared to bleach, this stuff was magic.
The stencil remover hands down beat the bleach. I have also read that bleach is harsher on the screens, and will shorten their life. As the old saying goes, use the right tool for the job.
When exposing a screen, exposure time varies depending on the type of light, whether there is reflector, distance from the screen, bulb wattage, etc. And if you don’t expose a screen long enough, the image gets washed away. If you expose a screen too long, you will start to lose fine detail of the image.
What kind of light to use? I currently use a 250 watt halogen work light with the UV filter glass, and safety cage removed (you assume all risks if you remove your glass and/or cage from your halogen light). In the past, I have used a 75 watt incandescent bulb in a reflector with a clamp. Whatever you use, make sure you have some way of clamping it, or mounting it above the frame for an extended period of time.
Before you expose real work, you want to run a test to find the best exposure time. First take the light you have, and place it above a frame. You want to place it high enough that the whole screen gets equally exposed, but not so high that the screens will take forever to expose. If you use a spot light, it might focus too much light on the center of the screen, and not as much on the corners. This would lead to uneven exposure.
Once you have the light and placement figured out, we need to figure out some rough times. In the Speedball manual they give some times for a 150W clear incandescent bulb:
Screen size, bulb height, exposure time
8×10, 12 inches, 45 minutes
10×14, 12 inches, 45 minutes
12×18, 15 inches, 74 minutes
16×20, 17 inches, 92 minutes
18×20, 17 inches, 92 minutes
The higher the bulb is above the screen, the longer it needs to be exposed. If the wattage of the bulb is lower, you need to exposure it longer.
When I used the 75 watt incandescent bulb at 17 inches, I had to adjust the time. Since the wattage was half of the 150 watt recommended bulb, I simply doubled the exposure time. This worked fine.
When I started using a 250 watt halogen light at 23 inches, I needed to refigure the exposure time. Since the 250 watt halogen light was brighter than a 150 watt incandescent light. A halogen bulb puts out more light than an equivalent wattage incadescent bulb. So the exposure time would need to drop. And since I was raising the light higher above the screen, the exposure time would need to increase.
So not knowing the best time for exposure, I had to experiment. I didn’t want to expose screen after screen until I got it right.
This is what I did:
I coated a screen the usual way. I printed a transparency with numbers from 10 to 90 in increments of 5. With the light set up, I placed the screen under the light to be exposed. I had a stop watch going. After 5 minutes, I covered the 5 with an opaque piece of paper. After 10 minutes, I also covered the 10. I did this until all of the numbers were covered. Then I washed out the screen. The lowest numbers that were distinctly printed gave me the correct exposure time. The numbers below 40 all got washed away. 50 looked okay, but 60 looked better. So I used 60 minutes as an exposure time for my 250 watt halogen light (without UV filter glass) at 23 inches. With experience, I have since lowered the exposure time to 45-50 minutes.