February 21st, 2013 | By | 1,472 Comments

How To Screen Print Your Own Surf Tees

Its a right of passage for every surf grom or start-up business to screen print their own tees. Sure, its a mess and you could probably outsource it for cheaper, but whats the fun in that?

Raise your core-score by following these steps in learning the art of handcrafted tees.

We chose to further immortalize SWELL’s own Bill Laity, holding his official Guinness World Record certificate for his 26hr longest continuous surf session. We call him the WEEKDAY WARRIOR because he surfs mon-fri, rain or shine…but misses most weekend swells to avoid crowds and party.

screen printing digital illistrator
(additional supplies listed at bottom of page)
1. Creating Your Graphic:
Upload your art into Adobe Illustrator as a single color, OR import a photo and livetrace by selecting the image and following the menu options: Object > LiveTrace > Make > Black and White Logo. Size the image to fit on a 14″x 16″ artboard for a standard fit tee shirt.

2. Ordering the Screen
Expand the selection and send your vector image to a local screen printer. Explain that you want a screen burned for your own home production. This takes 1-4 days.

screen print set up

3. Printing Surface & Preparation
Your printing setup can be as simple (cheap) as laying it flat on a table, or building a custom stand with an adjustable arm lever, screen clamp, and pallet or sleeve to slide shirt on. However you set it up, use Super 77 glue spray to secure the shirt to your surface so it doesnt shift while you apply the paint.

The 3 Finger Rule. A normal logo should print no higher than 3 fingers below the neck line, or its what we call a neck print that you see in Affliction-esque loud logos. If the top of the logo begins more than 6 finger below the neckline, its an equally hideous belly print.

screen printing plastistol

4. Time to Print
-Use masking tape to cover any porous areas where excess paint may bleed through.

-Apply a generous portion of premixed plastistol just beyond the start of the design. Ensure the paint cover the entire width of your logo.

-Get your squeegee into the paint, and begin to firmly angle it at 45 degrees, applying most of your pressure in your fingertips.

-In one smooth continuous motion, pull the ink evenly accross the length of the screen. If you feel like you pulled it too light and the shirt never shifted, squeegee the ink through your screen again.

-With a flick of the wrist, scoop up excess paint with the squeegee and slowly remove the screen so the tee doesnt stick to it and fall.


5. Curing and Finishing:
Using a flash dryer and temperature gun, heat the shirt to 320 degrees to fully cure the ink. Anything less will dissolve in the laundry or easily crack after a short time.

The shirt will be ready for immediate use, and the process can be replicated at a rate of up to 60 shirt/hr.

Squeegees: 15″ with medium durometer blade
Quart Containers: For mixing ink colors.
Curable Reducer: For thinning your inks
Laser Temp Gun: Monitor drying temp
Flash Dryer: Cure Ink
Screens/Frames: 16×20″ pre-stretched screens. 110 mesh
Spray Adhesive – Low tack adhesive used to hold shirtin place
Printing board: 16×16 Platen:

Note: there are countless ways to screen print, this is just one (far from flawless) version to DIY. If you have a better method…write a book.

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