Have fun silk-screening on a budget

FamilyFun magazineMarch 29, 2013 

  • More project ideas • Add personality to a tote bag. • Try an anytime design, such as a UFO ... or a monster! • Print family tree T-shirts for a reunion and have relatives sign the leaves with permanent marker or a fabric paint pen. • Add cupcakes to aprons for friends who like to bake. • Put friendly fruit on cloth napkins.

I’m a thrifty gal. That thriftiness has led me to figure out cheaper ways to do projects that seemed too elaborate or too pricy. After some trial and error, I came up with this silk-screening method.

Because you can use the screens to make multiple prints, you can design shirts for a family reunion, a scout troop, a group trip to a theme park, or any event where matching attire adds to the fun. You don’t need a fancy kit, just some common materials and the desire to put your mark on the world (and your clothes).

Silk-screening is super fun, but it can definitely get messy. Wear smocks, protect your work surface with newspaper or a vinyl tablecloth, and have lots of rags or paper towels on hand for rogue paint. Our directions are for the two-color patriotic ice cream cone, but a one-color design is faster and just as impressive.


• 1 yard of chiffon or voile (around $5 a yard)

• Two 10- to 12-inch plastic embroidery hoops (about $3 each)

• Template or drawing (download our cone template and six others at http://tinyurl.com/afk86pj)

• Dull pencil

• Mod Podge

• Paintbrushes in assorted sizes

• T-shirt

• Cardboard or newspaper

• Scrap fabric or old T-shirt

• Thick acrylic paint (we recommend Liquitex Basics)

• Painter’s tape or masking tape

• Plastic gift card or old credit card

Step by step

Create the screens: You’ll need one per color.

For each, cut a circle from the chiffon or voile about 4 inches wider than the hoop. Stretch the fabric as tightly as you can between the inner and outer hoops and tighten the screw to secure it. Trim the excess fabric, leaving a 1-inch border.

Draw the design: Lay a hoop, fabric side down, onto your template or drawing. Use the pencil to trace the parts of the design that will be the same color (here, the cone). Repeat with the second screen and the remainder of the image (the ice cream).

Mask the nondesign areas: Flip over the hoop so that it’s fabric side up. To minimize the amount of Mod Podge needed, tape around the design, then fill in the space between that border and the hoop with more tape.

Do the same on the other side of the fabric. With the hoop fabric side up, use a fine paintbrush to apply Mod Podge along the lines of the design, switching to a bigger brush for larger areas. To see if your blocked areas are completely filled, hold the screen up to a light, then dab more Mod Podge over any holes you see. Flip it to check the other side. Holding the frame in one hand, use a clean brush to smooth out any blobs of Mod Podge. (Avoid having anything touch the wet screen.) Place the hoop fabric side up to dry, about 15 minutes. Repeat with the second screen.

Prepare your shirt: Iron out any wrinkles. To keep the paint from bleeding through to the back of the T-shirt, place cardboard or a few layers of newspaper inside. (Do this with tote bags and anything else with a second layer.)

Try a test print: Place the first frame fabric side down onto a piece of scrap fabric or an old T-shirt. Apply a 1/2-inch-thick line of paint across one edge of the design. Hold the gift card at a 45-degree angle to the screen. While pressing firmly against the screen, scrape the paint across the design. Go over each section of the design only once; overlapping a little bit is fine. Carefully lift the screen off the shirt. Use cold water to rinse the paint from the screen, inspect the print, and add Mod Podge or tape to the screen as needed to fill any holes. Repeat with the other screen. Let the Mod Podge dry.

Print: Follow the directions above to print on your shirt. Use the screen to print again on as many shirts as you like.

Clean up promptly: As soon as you’re finished making prints, rinse the screen thoroughly to remove the paint. Rub gently to get rid of any stubborn bits. When the screen is dry, reapply any tape that fell off.

Add another color: When the paint is dry (about 1 hour), print the second color with the second screen.

Set the paint: When the paint is dry, place a sheet of paper or a clean cloth over the design. Press with an iron set to the appropriate heat for your fabric.


You can also make silk-screened cards, wrapping paper and art prints. (For the sharpest results, use Con-Tact paper instead of Mod Podge.) Here’s how: create a screen, but instead of tracing your design on fabric, draw it on a piece of Con-Tact paper. Use a craft knife to cut out the design. With the hoop fabric side up, adhere the Con-Tact paper to the screen. Use tape to secure the outer edges of the Con-Tact paper and to cover the rest of the screen. Now make your prints the same way as with the Mod Podge method.

Want to print on paper? Don’t choose a design with tiny details. Mod Podge is thick, and it can be tricky to create small lines.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service