When a person decides they want to screen print, there’s a ton to learn. Some may be discouraged by that idea, others love the challenge. Josh Dykstra, owner of PRNT SCRN Screen Printing, thrives off of learning new, complex forms of art. For Josh, screen printing started as a hobby, then moved to a side-hustle as he learned the trade. His business has only grown from there.
Photo by Josh Dykstra
When Josh’s band, Monument Beach, needed t-shirts for a gig, Josh stepped up to create some merch. He comes from a creative background and has been making things himself his whole life. His band was doing everything themselves, from recording their music to booking shows. Why should creating their merch be any different? Printing their own shirts stayed true to the band’s (and Josh’s) roots.
From there, screen printing became Josh’s hobby. He started printing merch for his band out of a one-bedroom apartment.
“We didn’t really have the space for it but we tried to [screen print] out of our dining room,” Josh said.
Eventually, Josh and his wife Kate bought a house with a garage in Tampa, FL. The screen printing shop claimed the entire space.
“It kind of just took up that whole garage,” Josh admitted.
Before Josh took up screen printing, he and Kate have sold artwork at comic conventions. To diversify his income even more, Josh decided that printing t-shirts could lead to similar business opportunities. If he has an idea for a shirt design, he can make it himself.
‘“Maybe I can start printing for other people,’ and that’s kind of where I went,” Josh said.
Say hello to PRNT SCRN Screen Printing, born in late 2020.
As a DIY’er, Josh loves the creative process of making something from nothing. When it came to buying equipment for his screen printing shop, he decided that he could make some things himself. He built his own exposure unit and screen drying cabinet, but bought the press.
“Invest your money in getting a good press first and then for the other things. See what you can build,” Josh said.
Josh started with a Riley Hopkins 150 4 color, 1 station press. When he outgrew it, he found a used Riley Jr. (now the 250). The owner of the Riley Jr. press was retiring, and Josh swooped it up. The RIley Jr. is a 4 color, 2 station press. The extra platen has helped him speed up his process, and he can print longer jobs quicker.
Water-based ink enticed Josh at first. It has a softer hand feel, and is easier to clean up. But he found that he didn’t have the proper equipment to create a perfect water-based print.
“It was not curing properly and I don’t really have the best means to do that,” Josh said. The best way to ensure proper cure with water-based inks is to use a forced-air conveyor dryer, as the ink needs air movement to effectively drive the water from the ink. Josh is still interested in using water-based ink, and wants to try again when he has a bigger space.
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Instead, Josh pivoted to plastisol ink. He currently uses FN-INK™. He loves the opacity and texture of the ink. While the hand-feel isn’t as soft as water-based ink, it’s softer than most plastisol inks. Having a mixing system at his fingertips helps, too.
Most full-time print shops start as side-hustles. Life is busy, and starting a new business takes dedication, investment, and perseverance. Josh started his side-hustle in late 2020, but kept his job as a production artist for a sports apparel company for reliable income. He prints in the evenings and weekends, learning from his mistakes and keeping his shop simple.
SUCCESS AND STRUGGLE
Josh wants to stay close to his DIY roots to show other new printers that it’s possible to learn from the bottom up. Screen printing doesn’t have to be your full-time gig in order to be something you love doing.
“When you’re working at that bottom level, you get a better understanding of the process. You learn the fundamentals in a different way,” Josh said.
He loves the challenges of screen printing as much as the rewards. For him, they’re one and the same.
“You have to make mistakes and you have to learn from them,” Josh said.
He enjoys the learning process as much as he loves seeing that perfect print come out of the dryer. Making mistakes is the best way to perfect your process. Getting everything right feels so much better when you’ve overcome the challenges and failures of past prints.
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Photo by Josh Dykstra
SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESS
While it’s rewarding to make a perfect print, there’s even more reward in seeing the client’s face when they receive their order. Josh focuses mostly on printing for small businesses and people in the music scene. Since his screen printing journey started when he printed shirts for his own band, he now prints for other bands, too.
On top of client work, Josh likes to incorporate live screen printing in his booths at comic conventions.
“People watching it are amazed by it,” Josh said. “They’re like ‘this is how shirts are made?”
Offering live printing also allows Josh to talk about the industry and get potential customers. One such customer offered him the hardest job he’s done.
Josh worked out a deal with the team running a convention: he would print their shirts at cost if they would give him a booth at the convention. Both sides agreed, and Josh got to work. He printed 100 shirts with a multicolor design, all on his Riley Hopkins 150. It was a lot of work, but he was proud of the outcome.
Printing in front of an audience also gave Josh an idea: to revamp his YouTube channel as an educational platform for screen printing.
YOUTUBE CONTENT CREATION
Josh’s YouTube channel has been around for approximately 10 years. Over that time, it’s been home to a wide variety of videos in different genres. It used to be a channel to showcase Josh making art. Then it was a channel for Josh to review movies (these videos are private now). When screen printing became his side hustle, Josh decided to post videos helping other new printers set up their shops and hone in their processes.
He uses YouTube as a means to teach other printers, but also to learn from them. He reads the comments on his videos to pick up new tips and tricks of the trade.
“While it may come off as me teaching, it’s really me showing what I know and learning from it,” Josh said.
There are plenty of screen printers on YouTube. Josh didn’t want to compete with the likes of Lee Stuart and Golden Press Studio. He wanted to do something different. He noticed that a lot of screen printers struggle with the design part of the process.
“Do I have anything new to say?” Josh asked himself. “If I don’t, I’d rather just do something that I know well.” His background in art and design set him up perfectly. He’d found his video niche.
THE YOUTUBE PRODUCTION PROCESS
Creating, editing, and producing YouTube videos takes time, especially if you want to do it well. For Josh, this time was well-spent. Creating videos for YouTube is another creative outlet: working out all the details in pre-production, capturing the shots, ironing out the video, — it’s the perfect fuel for Josh's creativity.
“I’m not a big videographer, but I love post production and editing,” Josh said.
Though his YouTube channel has been around for over a decade, his screen printing videos were the ones to gain traction. He keeps making them, enjoying the process of making something that people wanted to watch.
“I’m always a student. But as I do these things, as I’m learning myself, I’d like to showcase it in a non-traditional way, and be a little more creative with my editing,” he said.
Josh also records his own music for his YouTube videos. This way, he can get around copyrights and keep creating new things.
Photo by Josh Dykstra
PRNT SCRN Screen Printing hasn’t been around for a year, and already Josh is making big plans for the future. He wants to make screen printing his full-time job one day.
Josh also wants to get more and more involved with local businesses. When COVID-19 shut everything down, the world learned how important small businesses are. Many people took the opportunity to start their own small business. As one of those people, Josh believes that small businesses are more important than ever.
The small businesses Josh especially loves to support are local bands. His background is in the punk music industry, and Josh loves to make merch for local bands to get their name out there.
He wants to expand his shop, as he currently works in a cramped one-car garage. He also hopes to learn poster printing, to print his wife’s artwork.
ADVICE FOR NEW PRINTERS
Josh’s biggest piece of advice is simple. Make mistakes.
“You have to be okay with some level of failure and learn from that,” Josh said. Keep trying until you get it right.
Josh also advises that screen printers build a good social media presence. The world is becoming more and more digital, and building a professional, standout social media profile will help you gain clients and attract attention. Josh has gotten most of his clients through Instagram.
“Treat your Instagram like a resume or portfolio,” Josh said.
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Photo by Josh Dykstra
PRNT SCRN Screen Printing hasn’t been around for long, but it’s already making a big splash in the screen printing community. Whatever level of screen printing you’re at, remember: it’s not about the size of your press. It’s about the size of your creativity.