Easy DIY Screen Printing with Your Cricut or Silhouette Machine

Did you know that you can use your Cricut or Silhouette machine to make awesome and unique T-shirts or personalized towels?

Yes, you read it right, and in fact, it’s fairly easy.

Image: hambluscreenprints.com 

Why screen printing? Well, this technique allows you to cut a single stencil and use it to produce multiple pieces. It’s also great for those that prefer the printed look and soft feel of the ink over heat transfer vinyl.

Choosing the Best Die Cut Machine

If you don’t own a die cut machine yet and you’re wondering which of these two options is better, the correct answer would be – both. They are quite popular even though they have some different features.  

The decision on which one you should choose depends on your personal preferences and long-term goals. For instance, if your hobby is creating food art or greeting cards, then Silhouette Cameo 3 is the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you like experimenting with different materials like jute and leather, then the Cricut is a far better option.

Reading a detailed comparison between Cricut and Cameo before making the purchase is highly recommended.

Easy DIY Screen Printing with Cricut or Silhouette

Before starting your printing session, make sure you have all of the necessary tools and materials by your side. You will need: 

  • Screen printing ink
  • Screen printing frame
  • Painter’s tape
  • Squeegee 

Step-by-Step Process

Step 1- Cutting 

The design can be cut on several different materials like regular ‘sticky’ vinyl or parchment paper. However, bear in mind that each material needs to be used differently with the screen printing frame. 

Step 2 – Purifying

Everything you don’t want to see in the ink needs to be weeded out. 

Step 3 – Putting the design on the frame

Use transfer tape to attach your design onto the screen printing frame. To keep things clean, use painter’s tape to border your design. If you don’t have painter’s tape, duct tape will work just fine, as long as you make sure it’s well taped around the image in order to prevent ink stains on the T-shirt outside of your design. If you don’t border the design with tape, you’ll need to be extra careful. 

Step 4 – Inking

Pour some ink on top of the tape at the top of your design. Use the squeegee to pull the ink down to completely cover your design. Don’t go overboard with the ink; you just need a small amount. Scrape off any leftover ink and return it to the jar. 

Step 5 – Finishing up

Remove the frame carefully, then leave it to dry. The usual drying time is anything from a few hours to a day. When it is completely dry, heat the ink in order to set it. Press the shirt on a heat press, heated to 300 degrees °F for about half a minute. 

Step 6 – Cleaning up

Rinse the squeegee and the frame immediately after you ink each design. The design can definitely be reused before it’s taken off the frame; all you need to do is reapply some more ink to another T-shirt. This is great for those who always try to save a few bucks, or make the same T-shirt for a number of people. 

Note: Don’t expect the first T-shirt you make to look absolutely perfect (unless you’re going for a vintage worn-out look). It will take a few tries and a few fails to even make it look decent, so don’t get discouraged.

Using Different Materials

You can also use the backing of the vinyl, but since the backing is not sticky, you won’t be able to attach it to the screen print frame and it will probably result in a messy design. The best option is to place the design directly onto the T-shirt and place the frame on top of it. 

The advantage of this method is that the design is on the opposite side of the screen print frame, so you don’t need to be worried about parts of the design being accidentally peeled or damaged by the squeegee.

Different Materials

Main Takeaways

  • The surface you’re working on has to be completely flat. If that’s not the case, the ink will be applied unevenly.
  • Be careful with the amount of ink you’re using. Begin with just a little bit of ink, then apply some more if necessary. Return the surplus ink back into the jar and use it for future projects.
  • Use the squeegee to pull the ink down slowly. If you do this too quickly, you could end up scraping up pieces of the design.
  • When filling the design with ink, apply strong pressure. If the pressure is light, there won’t be enough ink passing through the screen onto the fabric.
  • Be sure to distribute the ink evenly across the entire design to avoid uneven distribution of the ink, i.e. the ink being thinner in some places and thicker in others.
  • Ensure the design is covered with ink just as you want it to be before pulling up the screen. If you put the screen back down and try to reapply ink, the lines might not align and you’ll be left with a blurry design.

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