How to Screen Print With Plastisol Ink

While many schools and clubs resort to printing shops for t-shirts, you don't have to. Printing t-shirts can be an outlet for creativity and personal expression as well as a fun way to spend some spare time. Whether for a recreational ball team, a work fundraiser, or just for fun, knowing how to screen print with plastic ink is a fairly simple process when you have the right tools and guidelines.


  1. 1
    Apply a layer of emulsion to your screen. You can do this with a spatula. Keep a clear border around the frame. This should be about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) wide. For this step, you need to be in a darkroom.
  2. 2
    Pull the squeegee along the screen to get rid of any surplus of emulsion that accumulates. Allow the screen to dry.
  3. 3
    Design the picture you want on your shirt on a computer and print it off. This image needs to be black and white, not gray scale.
  4. 4
    Place the printed image on your screen. Make sure it is lying down smoothly and there are no bubbles, folds, or any other places where it does not lie flat.
  5. 5
    Layer a piece of foam and a flat weight over the screen.
  6. 6
    Wrap the screen, foam, and weight in a black trash bag. The trash bag makes clean up much easier. Should any emulsion run off, it will be caught by the bag rather than making a mess.
  7. 7
    Start the UV lights and allow them to run for about 10 minutes.
  8. 8
    Wash the screen carefully. At this point the layer of emulsion should stick while your image comes out clear on the screen.
  9. 9
    Allow the screen to fully dry.
  10. 10
    Cover any places that show clear through the screen, such as the borders around the frame. Painter's tape works well for this.
  11. 11
    Lock the screen into the printing press.
  12. 12
    Put the t-shirt on the printing stand. Make sure the material is smoothed out without any creases or folds, as this could ruin the outcome of your printing.
  13. 13
    Lower the screen.
  14. 14
    Apply Plastic ink to your design.
  15. 15
    Pull the squeegee along the screen.
  16. 16
    Dry the t-shirt thoroughly with a heat gun. Plastic ink dries at around 340 degrees Fahrenheit (171 degrees Celsius).


  • If you are working with a single color and don't want to use a computer, you can draw an image on a piece of paper with a black permanent marker.
  • While Plastic is not the only ink you can use, it is generally cheaper and more effective than others.
  • To wash out screens, you may want to use a garden hose with pressure settings rather than using an indoor faucet, which may not have enough force. If you choose to do your washing with a hose, place the screen in a black trash bag to protect it from natural light that may affect exposure. Rinse it out while it is inside the bag and discard of it after you get inside and are ready for the next step.
  • If you do not have access or the money for some of the equipment you will need for this project, there are many art facilities where you can take classes or apply for membership. Membership will give you access to some of the on-site equipment you will need for screen printing t-shirts or other garments. A good place to find such facilities is at a local college. Note that access to this equipment will cost you a little bit of money.
  • To print in multiple colors, you will need to have access to a computer with software for manipulating images. You'll pull your image up in your program and utilize special features that allow you to separate each individual color. Make a printout of the areas that are the first color and use that to make a screen. Make one screen for each color. Apply the color with the first screen and then let it dry. Change the screen to the one for the second color and apply that color. Repeat for each color.
  • Before printing your t-shirt do a trial run with a piece of paper.
  • T-shirts that are 50 to 100 percent cotton will give you the best results.


  • Apply emulsion in a darkroom, as it is photosensitive.

Things You'll Need

  • T-shirts or other material to be printed
  • Screen printer
  • UV lights
  • Plastic ink
  • Squeegee
  • Emulsion
  • Spatula
  • Heat gun

Article Info

Categories: Fabric and Clothing Decoration