Crafting/ DIY/ Great Gifts/ Hallmark Home and Family/ Upcycling

DIY Small Batch Screen Printing Tutorial — Using Embroidery Hoops

P1050795 Pink Shirt in Window

I am thrilled to share my latest obsession: screen-printing. It’s fun, easy, and sooooo creative! I’m familiar with fabric paints, but never knew that bold, graphic, repeatable designs were something I could do at home with items I already had in my craft closet. Helloooooo gift giving!

Screen Printing Collection

There are other tutorials available, but I think I’ve improved upon the home-printing possibilities.

Some techniques recommend using pantyhose for screen fabric. I found they stretched too much and the spaces between fibers in the fabric were too large, creating messy-looking images.

Some folks found success using white glue on their screens. For me, decoupage medium is sturdier, more reliable, and holds up to repeated screenings and cleanings.

As for creating the mask, most suggest tracing the image onto fabric, then hand-paint decoupage medium outside the lines. For me, this method was imprecise and very time consuming. What I’ve come up with is faster, easier and creates a better, sharper design. This allows me time to make lots of screens and many prints!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Embroidery hoops

Sheer woven fabric – organza, voile

Decoupage medium – Mod Podge, etc.

Clip art images – silhouettes, bold shapes, etc.

Full-sheet stickers – available at office supply stores

Scissors, large punches or Sizzix/Cricut cutter

Screen printing ink made for Fabric

Expired gift card or credit card

Foam brushes

Small paint brushes

Paper plates

Heavy paper or cardboard

Items to print on – onesies, t-shirts, dish towels, aprons, totes

Pull organza fabric over the smaller of your embroidery hoops, and secure with the larger.  Once in place, adjust and pull until fabric is taut. Make sure there are no wrinkles or gaps in the fabric.

Choose your print design.  Simple outlines, bold shapes with minimal detail work best.  Here are some silhouette designs (from my Cameo blog).

Print designs on the sticker paper and cut out with scissors, or use a Sizzix/Cricut, etc. to cut out shapes. (My fleur de lis is from my Sizzix.) If you’re using letters or something that has a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ direction, make sure that designs are printed in mirror-image as they’re being apply to the underside of the hoop.

On the ‘flush’ or ‘drum’ side of the fabric, apply your sticker.  Turn over the hoop and fabric, and burnish the underside of the sticker with a credit card to make sure the sticker is … stuck.

Burnish Fleur Sticker

Turn over the hoop and with a foam brush, apply decoupage sealer to the fabric on flush side of the hoop. At this point you can use one of two methods:

-Apply a thick coat of decoupage sealer. This is an easy method, but drying will take several hours – and in some cases overnight.  My latest batch took nearly 8 hours to dry, so plan accordingly.

-Alternatively, you can apply two thinner coats of decoupage medium, letting the first coat dry at least 30 minutes before adding the second.  This method will dry faster, but requires more attention.

Screen with Podge

P1040459 Fleur with More Podge

When painting on the sealer, make sure it coats the edges of the sticker completely. If not, your image will have bumpy edges. Carefully turn over the hoop and check the underside to make sure there are no holes or voids in the fabric where you don’t want them.

P1040492 Cupcake Underside

Lay the hoops flat to dry.  Do not prop the hoops vertically … the decoupage glue will run!  (I learned that the hard way.)

P1040517 Multi Screens Drying

When the decoupage medium is dry, carefully remove the sticker.  You may have to pick a bit at the stubborn edges. Once most of the sticker is removed, run the screen under water to help rub away and remove the extra bits.

Screen Printing,  Peeling Sticker

P1040509 Finished Fleur Screen

What you’ve created is called a “mortise mask.” That’s a big fancy word for a cover that leaves your ‘subject’ area exposed, and the area around, masked.

After the sticker is removed, you can begin printing!

Place a piece of cardboard under the item you’re printing (or inside, if a t-shirt), to keep the ink from bleeding through.  Place the hoop flush-side-down on top of shirt.

Put Paper In between layers

I used the tag to help me position the screen.

Hold the screen in place with one hand. With a foam brush, dab ink into the voids in the mask.

P1050734 Screen Printing,  Add Ink 2

Using the credit card, scrape off the excess.

P1050737 Screen Printing, swipe with card

Screen Printing After Swipe 4

Carefully lift the screen off, and look at your beautiful work! If there are any spots that got missed by the screen, use a small paint brush to fill in.

P1050725 Filling in Mustache with BrushP1050771 Fill in Green Fork with Brush

P1050730 Fleur Finish wout Tag

P1050781 Red Fleur on Tote

Follow manufacturers instructions for heat setting your image – usually you just have to pop the t-shirt in the dryer for a bit, or iron for 3 to 5 minutes.

Once used, you can get many images from one hoop-screen.

P1050807 Hero Collection Later


For the screens, you’ll need fabric. You can get new pieces from the fabric store, but here’s a great tip: Use old sheer curtain panels! They’re pretty easy to find at thrift stores, and a terrific way to upcycle.

I sometimes test my screen on a piece of scrap paper to make sure there aren’t any undesirable holes in the mask. If you do find some, cover with tape, and begin printing. If you want to reuse your screen, reapply another coat of decoupage medium to the unwanted voids in the screen.  Let dry completely before printing.

P1050733 Fleur Fix Screen with Tape

Screens can be washed and re-used if rinsed quickly and carefully.  Don’t let them sit more than 5 minutes with ink on them, or you’ll be too late.  Also, take care not to wash away the decoupage glue. Rinse, rub lightly with fingers to remove ink, and let dry.

P1050775 Rinse green Fork Screen

Tips on silhouette clip art:

You can find them all over!

I found this dinosaur one here:

Folks sell beautiful ones on etsy – just search for silhouette clip art.

Search online for silhouette ‘vectors’ and you’ll find zillions.

P1050804 Tamara on Set

Enjoy your art!  And remember, it’s supposed to look hand-made.  Little rough edges add to your piece’s personality!

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  • Reply
    How to make a recycled embroidery hoop silk screen · Recycled Crafts |
    June 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

    […] “paint” on the screen to form the barrier. Well thanks to Tamara for sharing an awesome tutorial on how to make a silk screen from an embroidery hoop we all can start popping images onto all sorts of […]

  • Reply
    June 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this amazing tutorial! I’d never thought of doing anything like this, now I can’t wait to try!

    • Reply
      June 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Lynette… you’re gonna love it! But beware: Screen printing is addictive! Best to you!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2013 at 5:02 am

    I have wanted to try screen printing but it is too expensive. Thanks for these excellent instructions!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Thank you ever so much for your tutorial, Tamara. I feel like I could actually try screen printing now! (I’m going to cheat a little and use my Silhouette & sticker paper to make the clip art portion). Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Reply
      June 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Silhouette isn’t a cheat… it’s recommended! Have a blast… you’re gonna love it!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    The fact that mod podge is water-soluble was the main reason why I have never tried this, but I’m glad you included information about cleaning off the screens because now I might actually try it! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      June 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Yes, water soluble, but also water-resistant! That’s the great thing, and that’s what makes it work!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Wow, it’s a simple yet fabulous idea! I’m so going to try screen printing with my embroidery hoops. Thank you so much for sharing this! ^_^Y

  • Reply
    July 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    My sticker didn’t “stick” to the organza. What kind of sticker material did you use?

    • Reply
      July 17, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Oh no! I used Avery white shipping labels, #5265. I had no problems with the sticking. Be sure to use your giftcard/credit card/etc., to burnish the sticker against the fabric.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Hi Tamara!

    What kind of paint did you use? I tried Martha Stewart “Multi-Surface” craft paint and the fabric felt kind of stiff afterwards. Also, have you ever tried washing your T-shirts? Does the paint stay on?


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