Mike, my fiance, is a huge fan of Conan O'Brien. Not only was he crushed when Jay Leno reclaimed The Tonight Show, steeling the coveted late night spot right out of Conan's hands, Mike denounced Leno's name for months whenever the slightest opportunity arose. So in an effort to help Mike support his comedic hero, I decided to finally try my hand at a skill that had been patiently waiting on my To-Do List: screen-printing.
My designs were largely based off of shirts designed by other Conan fans but were completely inspired by Mike's undying support of everything O'Brien had to say. During his very last episode hosting The Tonight Show, Conan made a heartfelt and honest speech that was summed up fairly well by one of his final lines "Work hard and be kind." Mike took these words to heart and I decided that, on top of making a simple but iconic "Team Coco" shirt, I would find a way to incorporate O'Brien's positive message. And surely enough, I actually found a design online that had those very words written across the chest, beneath a silhouette of O'Brien's infamous hair-do. And alas I came up with two perfect shirt ideas.
Screen-printing is a technique that can be completed through a wide variety of methods, ranging from quite simple, clean, and inexpensive to complex, costly and messy. I opted for a simpler route and still come out with an impressive final product that would look just as professional as a real silk-screened T-shirt.
All that you really need to complete this simple screen-printing project at home are:
- A design
- An exacto knife
- Freezer paper
- An iron
- A clean T-shirt (or other fabric surface you would like to print on)
- Cardboard or newspaper
- Paint brushes
- Fabric paint
First, finalize your design. Your design needs to have two clear and distinct areas: the cut-away spaces where the paint will and the areas that will stay the color of the fabric. A strictly black and white image works, however a grey-scale design would not.
Then you need to trace the outlines of your design onto freezer paper. To do this, simply put your design underneath the semi-transparent freezer paper and trace the areas to be cut away. Get your knife out and cut out the design on the freezer paper but be sure to think about the whole entire process before putting knife to paper! The areas that you cut out are the ones where the paint will go, so be sure to consider this when making all your cuts. And don't forget to save the inner portions of your letters that shouldn't be cut away but aren't attached to the rest of the freezer paper; a, b, d, e, o, etc. all have isolated portions that must be cut out and then ironed on separately, so don't throw the triangles in your "A" away!
Now that you have a fully prepared freezer paper design, use the highest dry setting on your iron to affix the freezer paper to your fabric. Lay the design down where you would like it to be and firmly press down with the iron. Make sure to give particular attention to the edges where you will be painting to ensure that you will have sharp lines and that no paint will spread underneath the edges of the paper.
Once the design is ironed-on and cooled down, it's time to paint. Be sure to place cardboard or a few sheets of newspaper inside the T-shirt to prevent paint from seeping through to the opposite side of the shirt. Then apply a thin, even coat of paint in the cut-away areas of your design. Apply a second coat if needed. Once the paint is completely dry, peel away the freezer-paper and wear your new shirt with pride!