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Have your very own hand-made screen-printed DIY electronics T-Shirt!
I’ve been wanting to make a batch of these for a while and eventually found the time and space to start making them. To do this I had to learn how to screen-print, taught a silk-screen printing course at Nottingham Hackspace and made plenty of mistakes on the way. £1 from the sale of each one goes to Nottingham Hackspace.
Show your inner geek and keep it DIY.
I visited the Bristol Bike Project which is a very awesome project, space and people (I was helping teach a pedal power course with Magnificent Revolution). I picked up one of their ‘Do It Yourself’ bicycle T-Shirts which had a load of parts of bikes on it and the DIY slogan. It became my favourite T-Shirt. I decided to shamelessly rip it off (copying is the highest form of flattery, I think), but with electronics tools and parts as the theme, rather than bicycles.
You can buy the T-Shirt here, screen-printed by my own hand, using good-quality long-lasting ‘plastisol’ inks. At the moment I’ve only done a small batch of them. They are all orange logo printed on brown T-Shirt.
I have some Large size organic, fair trade cotton T-shirts available for £12 (plus £3 postage and packing) here:
Please email me if you would like a different size.
I also have a number printed on second hand T-shirts, in sizes small through to XL. The sirts are not perfect and might have marks, discolouration or imperfections. They are available at a greatly reduced price (£8, plus £3 postage and packing) here:
Eventually, I came to the design shown here. You can download the .pdf of this image here:
Learning to screen-print then became my next challenge. There are loads of guides and tutorials on the web about most of the process, so please have a look around. I found this guide from Wicked Printing Stuff to be very helpful. The main steps in the process are:
- Make a screen and attach a mesh of the correct size and thickness for your material.
- Add photo emulsion to this screen and leave to dry in a dark environment
- Print out your image as a black image on a clear background. I used tracing paper, as it just needs to let UV light through.
- Place your image onto the screen. Keep it flat with a sheet of glass.
- Expose the screen to a high intensity light source. UV would be best. I used 2 x 200W bulbs.
- Wash off the non-exposed photo emulsion (this will dissolve in water, whereas the UV exposed areas will not)
- Use the screen and a squeegee and some inks to first ‘flood’ then put down the ink onto whaterver you want to print onto.
- Make LOTS of mistakes – use newspaper and cheap acrylic paints.
Here are some photos to show a bit of the process:
I was printing a relatviely light logo onto a dark material. Firstly I used some water based fabric paint. This was bright orange in the pot, but when printed only showed up as a dark patch and was barely visible.
So I needed something a bit better. After a bit of research it turns out that most (95% ish) of printed T-Shirts use ‘Plastisol’ inks. These inks must be heat treated (at around 180 degrees) to get them to set. This stops the ink setting in the screen (which would make the screen un-usable. They are also much more opaque than the water-based inks.
The plastisol inks I obtained (via the magic of eBay) were a bit thick and did not easily go through the screen. I also had to purchase some ‘cureable reducer’ which can be added to the inks (up to 5%) to make the inks less thick and so work through the mesh a bit better.
I also needed to refine the heat-treatment, as I was using a hand-held heat-gun. To ensure the ink had set correctly you need to ensure the whole design reaches 180 degrees C, or else the design will wash out. This took a while and it would be best to have some kind of over-head heater, as used in professional set-ups.
I’ve been pretty pleased with the results, but it has definitely been a learning process and doing screen-printing is definitely something that you have to try out to get a feel for it.