How to Start DIY Screen Printing T-Shirts at Home  | Screenprinting.com

Have you ever wondered about screen printing t-shirts at home but didn't know how? Look no further! To get into DIY screen printing, all you’ll need are a few basic supplies and a passion for the craft. Amanda Dunigan, owner of Salt & Pine Co., started screen printing with a DIY press she built from 2X4s. 

A woman smiles for the camera while wearing a white long-sleeved shirt that reads "small business owner"

Photo by Amanda Dunigan

WHY SCREEN PRINT WHEN THERE’S VINYL?

Many people start decorating t-shirts with heat transfer vinyl (HTV). HTV is great when you’re only decorating a few shirts, but not ideal when you start printing in bulk (or if you want to do intricate designs or print multiple colors). Amanda initially was decorating shirts with vinyl, but soon switched to screen printing because the vinyl was peeling off her shirts after a while. 

“It was gut-wrenching every time I got another message [from a client] saying that the shirt peeled,” Amanda said.

RELATED: SHOULD I SCREEN PRINT OR DECORATE WITH VINYL?

She decided to jump into screen printing knowing that she would be able to provide higher quality printed shirts to her customers. But the screen printing process is more involved compared to using HTV. It took a lot of trial-and-error to be as successful as she is today.

To help other printers troubleshoot some common problems, Amanda has been sharing tips on Instagram. But she realized that she could help more DIY screen printers get started if she consolidated her knowledge and experience into one place. 

A DIY screen printing setup in the corner of a room with images on the wall, a DIY press with a shirt on it, and fabric lining the shelves of the setup

Photo by Amanda Dunigan

RELATED: MEET THE MAKER OF SALT & PINE CO. 

BUYING SCREEN PRINTING EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

 You have a few options at your fingertips. You could take the simple route and get a DIY Kit. It has basic equipment and supplies to get your DIY shop set up and running. 

While the DIY Kit is great for people looking to see whether or not screen printing is their thing (or just want to do it as a hobby), it has its limitations. If you’re looking to make screen printing a side hustle, you may want to look at investing in a more durable, precise press like the Riley Hopkins 150. It’s a bigger investment, but worth it if you plan on screen printing for another source of income or for a long time.

Other than the press, you’ll need ink, screens, squeegees, a heat gun or flash dryer, cleaning chemicals, tape, pallet adhesive, spatulas, and more (if you wanted).

RELATED: SHOULD DIY SCREEN PRINTERS GET A RILEY HOPKINS 150 PRESS OR A DIY PRESS?

A little hesitant to buy a bunch of equipment and supplies right off the bat? Well, there’s a DIY solution for that. 

BE YOUR OWN HANDYMAN

Amanda built her own press from 2X4s. Other DIY screen printers use their crafting skills to build other pieces of equipment. 

Take Josh Dykstra, owner of PRNT SCRN Screen Printing, for example. 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 a Riley Hopkins 150 4X1 screen printing press. 

“Invest your money in getting a good press first and then for the other things. See what you can build,” Josh said.

RELATED: HOW PRNT SCRN SCREEN PRINTING STAYS TRUE TO ITS DIY ROOTS

Whether you come from a woodworking background like Amanda, or you love to create things like Josh, building your own equipment is a great way to get hands-on learning. By making an exposure unit or press yourself, you’ll learn how it works (and what doesn’t work). When it’s time to upgrade, you’ll be able to narrow your search parameters and appreciate the quality of whatever you purchase. 

A screen with ink and a squeegee on it, a bucket of white ink sitting next to it, and ink on shelves above the press

Photo by Amanda Dunigan

Screen printing is a complicated process. Whether you’re printing as a hobby or as a side hustle, be patient with yourself. Make mistakes, educate yourself, and learn from the DIY screen printers who have come before you.

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