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"Printed my first shirts" or "An adventure in trial and error"

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Old July 21st, 2008 Jul 21, 2008 10:52:29 AM -   #1 (permalink)
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Default "Printed my first shirts" or "An adventure in trial and error"

I screenprinted my first tshirts, last week, after about 5 years of dreaming. I printed 3 dozen for my uncle's band for just the cost of the tshirts, just for the experience.

I've been sitting on a 1 station, 4 color press; 500w exposure unit, flash dryer, and 2 foot wide conveyor dryer.

Since I did this with no training(I learned everything here), I ran into lots of obstacles.
I pretty much had to do every step twice or more to get it right.

Start to finish....
I got the artwork for the shirts already in vector format from my uncle.
I have a nice epson r1800 for printing transparencies. There was a long image for the back, and a pocket size image for the front.

I took about 20 printings before I got the right size and opaqueness I needed for the images. The image on back was cut into 2 images and I taped them together with transparent tape.
During the fight for opaqueness I experimented with running the same transparency through the printer twice, but in the end I tweaked enough settings, that I satisfactorily got an image with one pass. I printed it as a high quality photo and turned off the gloss. I also maxed out the contrast. For the life of me, I could not find a transparency option when selecting paper type, so I ended up choosing photo paper.

Now, I needed to coat a screen with emulsion.
I had to run 2 overlapping passes on each side with my scoop coater(I need a longer one for the size screens I have.) I don't have a dark room and let it dry over night inside a cardboard box. I still don't know if there's a level of dryness you are supposed to achieve.

Since I didn't have to do multiple colors I didn't make any registry marks. I eyeballed the location for my stencils using other shirts as a guideline. In a pretty good bit of darkness I attached the stencil to my screen and tried to put it in my exposure unit......MY SCREENS WERE TOO BIG. I never actually measured to see if it would fit. I just assumed it would. The screens I got were really bigger than I needed. There's another lesson learned.
So now I had to figure out how to expose in the sun.(Had a quick deadline for these shirts.)

Attempt #1 I didn't put a sheet of glass over the screen and left it in the sun way too long.(10 minutes or longer, hey I had no idea what I was doing)
I had to pressure wash out the emulsion and in a couple spots some broke loose that wasn't supposed to. DOH.
Luckily, my uncle is a really good artist and painted redcoat blocker where it was needed(important lines), and left a couple spots looking rough.

Attempt #2 was for the pocket design. I figured out that uv was what important and that the sun puts off as much or more than a 500w light.
Oh, also I put a black shirt under the bottom of the screen to block and absorb light.(was there for first, also) I exposed it for about a minute and a half, and it washed out perfectly with normal pressure through the pressure washer nozzle. Didn't have to turn it on.

Time to print the shirts. Positioning wasn't perfect at first, on my platten, but with trial and error I have that worked out. I still need a little practice to keep from warping larger images with the grain of the tshirt.

My conveyor dryer, it turns out, isn't properly grounded for some reason. I have to figure out why, but I had to completely avoid touching the metal or it would give me a little tingle, which is extremely dangerous since, this is running off a 220 or whatever.
I did the back image first and started putting them through the dryer as I was printing. I sent about 8 though before I realized I was scorching them. I turned the speed of the belt up to correct the problem, though, in hindsight maybe I should have turned the temp down.
I replaced the 8 I scorched(they were carolina blue) with 8 white shirts I had.

The results were not something I would give to a customer professionally. The back image was good enough for my uncle at less than 3$ a shirt, but not going to cut it professionally. The front image, though, was perfect and really boosted my confidence and shows that I have corrected all the problems with lack of experience and knowledge I've ran into so far.

Next step is figuring out how to do multiple colors(mostly registration worries)
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Old July 21st, 2008 Jul 21, 2008 12:15:42 PM -   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: "Printed my first shirts" or "An adventure in trial and error"

Make sure to get some test sheets so you dont end up wasting shirts to test prints out, or use old shirts that you use for working in the shop or whatever. Also if they are available try to make a few extra screens just in case you mess up an image burn or wash it out too much. This way you don't have to recoat the screen and let it dry. Screens normaly dry in a cuple of hours depending on temp and humidity. I built a dark room but before that i just threw them in a closet and used a foot heater to dry them faster.
Trial and error can be a waste of money and time but you do learn a lot from it. There are a lot of good threads here to get you started and make sure you are doing things correctly. There are also books you can purchase to have for reference when you are doing a job.
Main thing is not to get frustrated and keep on practicing.
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Old July 21st, 2008 Jul 21, 2008 11:53:21 PM -   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: "Printed my first shirts" or "An adventure in trial and error"

Yeah, extra coated screens was something else I figured out by trial and error
I did actually use an old shirt to test my first print.

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