Step 1: Select, prepare, and print your digital image
Let’s work backwards for a second. Now, one of the biggest challenges to getting a brilliant t-shirt print stems from getting a brilliant stencil. To get a brilliant stencil, you need to get a brilliant imprint, or in screen printing jargon, “exposure” a.k.a “burn”. However, you can’t get a brilliant burn unless you have a brilliant image printed out first. Make sense?
So before you do anything, the first and most important step is to be able to get the “perfect” digital print.
Ink jet or Laser Transparency paper, vellum, or Overhead Projector transparencies
If you noticed, I highlighted the word “perfect”. In screen printing terms, this means getting the most opaque, most solid, blacker than black image possible. Why? To keep out the light that’s why. Read on. My first prints were from my trusty 3-year-old HP Deskjet D260 printer which I had fed third party ink jet transparencies. I remember getting paranoid thinking it wasn’t black enough, so I printed another page and paired it up. Alternatively, you could use a Sharpie or an all-surface marker pen to darken your image. * A tip to Illustrator users, in print setup, make sure to specify that you’re printing on ‘transparency’.
After trying out everything in the market, I’ve come full circle to say, ink jets not only produce decent opaque images, but is also the most economical of print methods. Laser printers uses heat to set the ink onto paper, and this would sometimes cause the transparency to shrink and therefore skew the image. Alternatively, you could bring your image to a photocopier. Of all my tests, this method produced the most opaque images. But, like the laser printer, heat is involved, and I’d rather not make excessive trips to Kinko’s.