Archive for April, 2010
Anyone who has been involved with flat track roller derby even for a little while knows there is a huge do it yourself ethic regardless of the level of your league or personal skater ability.
Once we are skilled enough to start scrimmaging, the first thing we need are shirts which comply with the rules. I’ve been skating enough and with enough different leagues and challenge bouts, that having the ability to print my name and number quickly became a priority for me. I have a permanent silk screen I use to do my name and number and my derby wife’s name and number.
Once in a while, though, a whole team needs help or you pick up a different name and number for a challenge bout. This is when knowing the in’s and out’s of truly do it yourself printing can make you look super professional.
Using a Paper Stencil for Silk Screen Printing
You can make 6 to 8 impressions with a simple paper stencil and a quality silk screen. The ability to quickly reuse the screen is not only great for the environment and your budget, a whole team can crank out shirts for a pick up game.
What you’ll need:
- A silk screen stretched on a frame*
- Water based silk screen ink (I use Speedball products)
- A squeegee
- Heavy paper
- Exacto knife
- Masking tape
- A work area
- A “platen”
- Items to be printed
For my first test, I chose to make a stencil that didn’t have any loose pieces. Using Illustrator, I selected a font and printed out the outline of a derby name and number on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper.
Using an exacto knife, I cut my stencil out of the paper.
I chose to tape my stencil onto the screen on the back side then mask around it on the screen, but you can place your paper stencil on your first item to be printed, then lay the screen over it. The ink from the first impression will hold your paper stencil in place for several impressions.
Then I masked out the area, slightly wider than my squeegee, around where I was going to print on the top surface of my screen.
This screen was given to me by someone on the Burlington Bombers (thank you, Yofune Nushi!), but you can purchase a screen for <$30 new at an art supply store or used or reclaimed ones on eBay for less than that.
You will need to find a “platen” which is larger than the area you wish to print. The platen is the board that will go on the opposite side of your shirt or item to be printed which you will press against. In this case, I’m using an old college text book but I have used wood, plywood, boxes, and other items kicking around which make a solid, smooth surface.
I position the text book platen inside my shirt and center it vertically and horizontally where I want the print to go.
I wrap the shirt tight around at least the top and bottom or sides so it stays somewhat tight on my platen. In a commercial shop they may use a bit of spray adhesive. Since we don’t have a press or a lot of other fancy things here, I’m more inclined to buy extra shirts in the dollar bin at my local Goodwill or Salvation army than spend money on yucky glue and chemicals. Your mileage may vary.
Place your paper stencil on your print surface where you want the print to go.
Using my plastic spoon, I spread ink along one edge of my design on the tape outside my print area so that when I run my squeegee over it, it will evenly cover the whole area and have ink left on the other side.
Take your squeegee at an angle (about 30 to 45 degrees from vertical) and with pressure like you’re taking water off a windshield, spread the ink down and through the screen. If your print area is wider than your squeegee, make a second pass. This is called “flooding” because you are flooding all the little holes in the screen with ink.
Place your screen on top of your stencil so the flooded area is over the paper stencil, covers your whole area to be printed but does not extend past your stencil.
With your squeegee, push the ink back in the opposite direction being sure to pick up all the ink at one and and run it all the way to the end where you laid it with your scoop. I like to hold my squeegee at a 90 degree angle and almost feel like I’m scraping the ink through the screen and to the other end of the screen. If your image is wider than your squeegee, make additional passes in the same direction.
Some times, especially with thicker inks (like white or gold), I like to re-flood the screen spreading the ink back down the screen and pushing it back up again.
All the time you do this, you are holding the screen on your surface with one hand while running the squeegee with the other.
In my example, I did the yellow shirt first without flooding the screen before placing it on my shirt. I had taped my stencil to my screen. Without flooding the screen, I didn’t get a good impression. After lifting the screen and flooding it before placing it on my second shirt, I got a very good impression on my red shirt.
If it is your first time, I recommend printing with darker water-based inks on light colored shirts. The inks are easier to work with and get through the screen.
Cost of this DIY project:
$20 for screen (which I got free), <$1 worth of ink (those containers cost $10 at my local art supply store), $.05 piece of paper, $8 squeegee, $3 roll of masking tape, $2 for two shirts at the Goodwill store.
You can make your own screens too! A lot of my early screens were made from reclaimed frame parts at my local art supply store. It cost me about $5 to make a frame and they sell the “silk” (which is polyester) by the yard.
If you’re going to do a lot of these, there’s nothing quite like a commercially stretched screen on a really good frame. Larger frames like this one are tricky to handle though because they are so much bigger than the area you’re likely to print.