Thursday, September 18, 2014

Screen Printing Hats and Caps

Screen Printing is FUN!  I've gotten pretty good at printing t-shirts, so I thought I would try printing my own hats.  Here is a video showing the 10-Step Process that I used to get some pretty decent results.



Shopping List!  If you would like to try screen printing, below is a list of the supplies that I used with links to where you can purchase them.


Money Saving Tip!  Hobby Lobby has a small selection of screen printing supplies in their stores.  If you have a store nearby, check their website for a 40% off one item coupon to save on ink, fabric, squeegees, and other supplies.


Instructions!  After watching my 10-Step Process video, read through the steps below for further details.
  1. Print out your logo and get a transparency made at the copy shop.  Avoid using extremely small text and thin lines in your logo if you can.  If you use fonts and artwork that look worn and rugged, like the Cheap Trick logo, then that helps to conceal misprints because they look messed up anyway. Make your entire logo solid black with no shades of gray or blends/gradients. For a hat logo, a good size is about 2.25” tall and up to 4” wide.  I printed 4 versions of my logo to make use of the entire sheet.  The copy shop will simply put a clear transparency sheet in the manual feed tray of a copier, then make a copy of your logo.
  2. Make a small wood frame for the logo.  Sides should be about ¼ to ½” thick so that your logo does not print too far up on the hat.  You could also use a small picture frame or artist canvas frame.  A 4x6" frame is a good size.
  3. Stretch sheer curtain fabric tightly over the frame and secure it with a staple gun.  You can get this material from a fabric store.  Trim the excess material and remove any stray threads that could get into the emulsion..
  4. Order some EX1 emulsion from screenprintingsupplies.com.  It comes with light sensitive diazo powder that you need to mix in thoroughly.  Spread a thin layer onto the screen and remove as much excess as you can.  Make your last squeegee pass on the inside of the screen.  Let it dry in a dark place flat side down.  A sealed box is good for keeping it in the dark.
  5. Place the dried screen flat side up about 18” under the 150 watt light.  Put your logo transparency on it backwards and use a clean piece of glass to hold it down.  Turn on the light and expose it for about 25 minutes.  Note:  This time could vary depending on how thin or think the emulsion is on the screen.  It make take you several tries to get a usable screen, but don't give up!
  6. Run water over the whole screen for a few minutes to weaken the emulsion in the logo area.  Carefully spray the emulsion out of the logo area.  Spray as little as possible so as not to damage the surrounding emulsion.  Hold the screen up to the light to make sure the logo area is clear of all emulsion and not blocked.
  7. Hold the screen up to a light and inspect for any stray pinholes.  Use a small brush to fill them with emulsion.  Place the screen under the light again until it is dry.  This additional exposure to the light will also help cure the remaining emulsion.
  8. Cover the frame with duct tape to make it easier to clean.  This also prevents ink from squeezing through the sides and corners and any overlooked pinholes.
  9. Make a platen that will hold the hats flat while you print them.  (Refer to the photo and dimensions provided at the end of this post.)
  10. This is the fun part.  Print your logo onto hats.  Order 5-panel hats that do not have a seam in the front for a smoother printing surface.  Fold out the lining strip that goes around the inside of the hat and slide the brim into the platen.  Work the hat so the front is flat on the platenThe hat needs to be as flat and tight as possible. You can use spray tack adhesive and spring clamps to help hold it in place.  Center the screen and make 2-3 passes.  Carefully lift the screen to see how you did.  After it dries, heat-set the ink with a blow dryer or a heat gun for a few minutes, but be careful not to burn it.  You can print multiple hats one after another, but when you are done printing, wash the ink out of your screen immediately!  Do not let the ink dry in your screen because it will ruin it.
Pro Tips!  Below are some great tips from professional screen printers who have seen my video and commented to help out us hobbyists.  I will update this section with more tips as I receive.  Thanks to the pros for taking the time to share their knowledge with us!
  • "You need "off-contact" for a cleaner print. This means a space between your printing substrate and your screen. Normally about 1/8th of an inch. You can achieve this by taping coins to the bottom of your screen." (Thanks Richie R!)
  • "You also want a really tight screen - you should be able to drop a coin on it and have it bounce. The tight screen will help shear the ink for sharper prints." (Thanks Richie R!)
  • "Tape dimes on the underside corners of your screens to lift it off the hat a little, that way the fabric snaps back up after the squeegee passes. Gives you a cleaner print." Thanks Rick M!
Platen Instructions!  I made my platen out of a 6" wide piece of 3/4" thick MDF.  The base is 6"x6".  The upright is 6"x5".  The platen support is 6"x2.5".  My platen is 6"x3.5", which is mainly based on the size of my screen.  Make sure the screws in the platen are near the sides away from the logo printing area.


Challenges!  Screen printing is an art and it takes practice.  Allow yourself to mess up a few screens and hats when you’re just getting started.  Keep practicing, try different techniques, and don't give up!

My Results!  In the video, you can see the first four hats I printed and they got progressively better.  It took me four tries to get one that looked pretty decent.   I need to get some more hats so I can keep practicing and tweaking my technique.  I will get one that looks perfect!  :o)  Oh, and you can also use these screens to print on shirts, bags, shorts, and other fabric items.  Flat stuff is a lot easier to print on.


That's a Wrap!  My screen printing method may not be the best method, but it will get your new hobby started on a limited budget.  Try printing some stuff for your family and friends, and if you enjoy it, maybe you would like to eventually invest in pro-level supplies and equipment and start your own screen printing business!  Good luck and most importantly HAVE FUN!

22 comments:

  1. wow thanks for the info and supplies are so cheap too......i will be getting into this soon that is for sure.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it doesn't cost that much to get started. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

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  2. Awesome video and very informative!!!!!!

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  3. I print all my shirts handmade and I do them with a brush or with the applicator tip of the paint. I bought a $100 Tulip shirt maker but it was just a waste of $ becse the screens don't work at all! I was just right now making lots of shirts when I saw your tshirt screen video. Those were 28 minutes well spent! Thank you! I will definately make my own screen stencil.

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    1. Thank you Dueloyana! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

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  4. Hey Steve, I know the links are old so it looks like they are no longer working. Do you have another link to the emulsion you use? I am having real trouble finding any in the price range you have in the article! Thanks for any help with this!!!

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    1. Hey, I updated the link and the emulsion is about $20 for a quart. It will do lots of screens for that so it's the most economical way to buy it. Thanks!!! http://www.screenprintingsupply.com/EX1-Dual-Cure-Emulsion-w-Diazo_p_15487.html

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    2. Thanks Steve! Really appreciate the update! Just wanted to make sure I was getting the same thing you recommended! Time to start printing shirts! Also, Thanks for always having great and creative content! I don't know when I will ever need to make a wooden sandwich but I loved watching and learning from the video just the same!

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  5. Making teeshirts, is it a good way to make money? Do you do good with sales? Can you make a living off of a teeshirt business these days?

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    1. Hi Patricia! There are lots of t-shirt shops that make money. The ones I've seen also do embroidery, uniforms, and other types of printing services. I don't sell them, just print my own. I use Spreadshirt.com for my t-shirt shop. I think you would need to invest in pro supplies and equipment to make it a business, instead of hobby level stuff. Thanks!

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  6. Hi Steve i love your videos especially this one!
    I have a question what type of material does the curtain have to be and what colour? and does the light bulb have to be 150 watts? do you have to buy a transparency made at the shop or could you order it online?
    I appreciate your videos and am a subscriber thank you so much

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    1. Hi - Color of material doesn't matter. I used sheer frabric from hobby lobby that comes in ivory or white. That's the light bulb I used, if you use a different wattage, you might need to experiment with exposure time more. You can buy transparency sheets for inkjet or laser printers and print your own. Thanks for subscribing!!!

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  7. is this curtain alright to use? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Extra-WHITE-draping-fabric-WEDDING/dp/B01AT9X97C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483966548&sr=8-1&keywords=%2B+White+Sheer+Voile+Home+D%C3%A9cor+Fabric

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    1. I don't know. You'll have to try it and see. You could just buy real screen printing mesh to be sure you get something that works. It's not that expensive I don't think.

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  8. Also is this emulsion alright to use https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/1b3/Screen-printing-diazo-emulsion-2-part-1-Kilo/B017THMXZ6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1483966362&sr=8-3&keywords=screen+printing+emulsion Sorry for all the questions lol

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    1. That looks similar to what I used, so I would say go for it! Good luck! I like questions! :)

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  9. When you cut the platen how much do you cut off? I am having trouble with the dimensions when you cut the platen into a 8 sided figure. What are the measurements per side? Please help

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    1. It depends on the size of your screen. I started with a rectangle that was 6"x3.5". On the long sides, measure in about 2.5" from each corner. On the short sides, measure in about 1" from the corner. Connect those marks with diagonal lines and cut them off.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. how much would you charge to make me a hat platen ?

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    1. Here ya go - https://www.etsy.com/listing/508062253/diy-screenprinting-hat-platen

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