Students can screen print to stand out on campus


Photo: Jordan Maurice/Iowa State Daily

Don’t forget to cover the surface you’re working on with old newspaper or the like to prevent paint from getting on the surface.  

Katherine Klingseis

Many students are looking for ways to be different and stand out on Iowa State’s large campus. Screen printing your own designs onto your clothes is one way to do this. Here is a list of materials and a step-by-step tutorial that you can use to help you screen print.


Clothing item (a t-shirt is a popular item that is easy to screen print on)

Fabric ink

Embroidery hoop

Mod Podge glue

Curtain fabric




1. Choose an item on which you would like to screen print

You don’t want to screen print for the first time on an expensive item, because you may mess it up. A cheap t-shirt is an ideal choice.

2. Decide design and colors

Screen printing is all about freedom. You can design anything and put it on a piece of clothing. Simple designs are easier to screen print. For your first few screen printing attempts, I would recommend trying a simple design, like some shapes or block letters. Using a limited number of colors will also help prevent errors. One you decide your design, draw it on a plain piece of white paper. 

Additional tip: You should understand that many logos, designs, symbols and artistic works are protected by trademark or copyright laws. To prevent being fined, avoid copying someone else’s work. Creating your own design is more fun anyway.

3. Buy your supplies

One of the most important tools for screen printers is a screen. Buying a screen made specifically for screen printing can cost you $30 or more. To save some money, you can make a screen by using an embroidery hoop, which you can buy at Hobby Lobby for less than $5, and curtain fabric, which is available at Hobby Lobby for less than $10.

The next thing you want to buy is some fabric ink, which usually ranges from $5 to $20 in price. You also need to buy Mod Podge, which you can find at craft and fabric stores. Mod Podge is about $8. You will need some paint brushes and a sponge to apply the paint and Mod Podge.

4. Prepare your screen

Unscrew your embroidery hoop and separate its two loops. Then, take your fabric curtain, and stretch it over one of the loops. Place it on the other loop to secure the fabric. Cut around the hoop to get rid of any excess material.

5. Transfer your design onto your screen

Place your design in the center of your screen, and trace the design onto the curtain fabric. Using a paint brush, apply Mod Podge over any space on which you do not want paint to appear. Allow the Mod Podge to dry for a few hours.

6. Apply paint

Before you apply any paint, make sure to place a piece of cardboard inside your t-shirt to prevent ink from soaking through to the back of the shirt. Then place the screen on your shirt wherever you want your design to be. Use your sponge to apply the fabric ink to large areas, and use your paint brushes to apply the ink to small areas. After you finish painting, lift up your screen. Finally, place your t-shirt in a safe location and allow the paint to dry overnight.

Additional tip: Don’t throw away your stencil! You can reuse your stencil as many times as you would like.

7. Wash and wear

After the paint dries, wash and dry your t-shirt. As soon as it’s dry, try it on!