How to Screen Print Using Craft Vinyl

Oct 23, 2018 | Screen Printing


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how to screen print vinyl cricut silhouette tutorial

Have you been making HTV (heat transfer vinyl) shirts with your Cricut or Silhouette?  I have been designing shirts for my girls for years.  While I enjoy creating shirts with HTV, I have always preferred wearing screen printed shirts.

Recently, I tried screen printing and I’m hooked!  It’s a rather simple process and you need just a few new supplies.

You’ll continue to design and cut your vinyl with your vinyl cutter (like the Silhouette Cameo, Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2.) but you use Oracal 651 outdoor vinyl instead of HTV.  The adhesive vinyl sticks to your screen.

When you squeegee ink over the screen, it goes through the screen except where the vinyl stencil is covering.

Screen Printing with Craft Vinyl Using Your Cricut or Silhouette Machine

I’m excited to share my process for DIY screen printed shirts.  You can learn more about these steps along with a tutorial for multi-color shirts and troubleshooting advice in my ebook, “Beginner’s Guide to Screen Printing with Craft Vinyl.

I use my Cricut Maker to cut a design on Oracal 651.  I then attach the vinyl to my Speedball screen printing frame to make multiple shirts, totes and so much more.

how to screen print with craft vinyl pigskins and pigtails

Supplies You Will Need:

For more details on the supplies I use, visit my Screen Printing Supply List.


Why Choose Screen Printing vs. Iron-on Vinyl?

Have you ever needed to make multiple shirts?  This is where screen printing becomes more economical (and time saving) over iron-on vinyl (HTV).  HTV can get expensive when doing a bunch of shirts.  With screen printing, you can reuse the same stencil over and over.  I’ve been able to use the same screen to make 75+ shirts!

For more tips on screen printing with your vinyl cutter, visit my beginner’s guide.

A few last tips before you give it a shot….

  1. Be sure to wash your screen and squeegee right after you are finished so the paint doesn’t dry in your screen.
  2. If you wish to layer colors or screen print on the other side of your shirt, allow the paint to dry for several hours first.
  3. It will take some trial and error to get the hang of how much ink to use.  I usually make 2-3 squeegees with the ink.
  4. If you want to screen print with multiple colors, here are some tips for multi-color designs.
  5. UPDATE: Even though I use white ink in this tutorial, I recommend trying a dark ink first on a light color shirt.  You’ll get a better feel for the process this way.  Here is some information I’ve since learned about white ink.

I’d love to see your screen printed projects.  Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@pigskinsandpigtails).

Lots more of screen printing tips and tricks

how to screen print with craft vinyl pigskins and pigtails

 

128 Comments

  1. I had no idea it was that easy! We went out and bought an actual machine and it’s so big and takes a lot of time.

    Reply
    • It is so easy, right! It’s been so much fun to make shirts this way. Plus they last wash after wash without peeling (like HTV does sometimes)!

      Reply
      • Once it’s dry do you need to heat press it?

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        • Yes! You’ll heat press in order to make the ink permanent and the shirt washable.

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          • If using an iron would you put parchment paper down then iron?

          • I do. Once the ink is dry, it shouldn’t transfer to your iron. Just to be on the safe side, I would put something over it.

          • Temp and time?

  2. Thanks for making this simpler with step by step instructions. I’ve always thought these were cool but never thought I could make them!

    Reply
    • So glad you found this helpful! It took my vinyl cutting obsession to a whole new level when I realized I could make professional looking shirts right at home 🙂

      Reply
      • If you making multiple shirts with the same design do you have to wash your screen out after each one?

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        • No, you’ll just lift the screen off the first shirt and place it on your next shirt. Repeat the process as many times as needed. Then when you are all done with that design, wash your screen.

          Reply
          • Can you Wash the screen with the stencil and store it for another future date To print more of the same shirt

          • Sometimes that works if you are really careful. If you have any small detail pieces, those tend to come off as soon as it gets wet!

        • Do you use a heater or heating element to dry shirts after design has been applied?

          Reply
          • You can use a flash dryer if you have the space for additional equipment. I usually let mine air dry then use my heat press to set the ink.

      • What do you do when you get bubbles in the vinal that won’t stay down?

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        • I usually just keep working the vinyl down with my scrapper tool until I can work out all of the bubbles. I’ve noticed that I tend to get bubbles when my screen isn’t super tight. Keeping the screen really tight helps me get the vinyl on much easier!

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  3. Which design last longer when you wash it, screen print or htv.

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    • I’ve had mixed results with HTV. Some of my shirts last many washes, but most start to peel up a bit after washing. With screen printing, the ink is permanent so you don’t have to worry about it peeling up. I’m sure different types/brands of ink will have different results. So far, I haven’t noticed any fading after several washes using the Speedball inks. Screen printing is definitely my go-to way for making shirts now.

      Reply
  4. I absolutely love it! I tried (much less successfully, haha) my hand at adding a stencil paint layover onto a tank top for Halloween last year and ended up with a splotchy mess. Clearly now I see that I didn’t have the right for or tools for the job!

    Reply
    • Haha. We’ve all been there! The screen and squeegee are the key to getting professional looking results. Hope you’ll try it again sometime. It’s a fun hobby 🙂

      Reply
      • This is Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, can’t wait to try it!

        Reply
  5. This is a great tutorial and awesome idea! What happens to the screen when your done with a particular design? Can it be washed and used again? I would love to try it.

    Reply
    • Yep, just peel the vinyl off, wash it off with cold water, and you can reuse it tons of times. I’ve had the same screen since I started!

      Reply
  6. What about a design with multiple colors? Would you need multiple screens, a separate one specifically for each color, to mask over the already printed colors as each section/color is printed, or just peel each vinyl stencil, and then wash screen and reuse with next color stencil after first color dries?

    Reply
    • If you want to avoid buying multiple screens, you can clean and reuse the same one for each color. You’ll need to let your shirt dry between colors anyways, so that gives you time to wash the screen.

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    • Did you have to cut your stencil backwards to get it to stick to the screen correctly?

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      • I cut mine mirrored so I can apply the vinyl to the bottom of the screen. That way I don’t have to worry about pulling up a piece of the vinyl when I squeegee over the screen.

        Reply
  7. Love it. I always have so many quotes that I would like to see on my t-shirts, but didn’t know how to do it. Any other tips for beginers?

    Thank you very much

    Reply
    • Be sure to follow me on Instagram: @pigskinsandpigtails. I’ll be sharing more tips and tricks there. You can also keep in touch by signing up for my newsletter if you haven’t already. Happy crafting!

      Reply
  8. I see you put the vinyl on the underside of the screen hence the mirroring the image. I just bought a kit and thought I would put the vinyl on the top side instead of the underside, because I thought that this way the ink might make the sticky part wet and then the vinyl would fall off. Does this not happen? Why do you like putting it on the underside over the top side?

    Reply
    • I put it on the underside so the vinyl doesn’t come up when you run the squeegee across the top. Sometimes with little pieces, it could catch the squeegee and come up. It also makes taping off the edges a little easier. I haven’t had any problems with the vinyl coming off during the process. I recently made 12 shirts with the same stencil!

      Reply
      • Excellent thank you!! I hadn’t thought about the squeegee pullin up the small vinyl. This is why I love when people do videos and blogs we can all learn from!

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        • I’m all about jumping in a trying things to figure out what works and what doesn’t 🙂 Follow along and I’ll share more tips here. If you figure out any along the way, I’d love to hear!!

          Reply
  9. I have a screen and have tried this method, however I can’t get my vinyl to stick to the screen, it just stays on the transfer tape. I don’t know how to fix this.

    Reply
    • It can take some patience working the tape off without losing your vinyl. You can try different types of transfer tape that aren’t quite as sticky or maybe don’t press the transfer tape on quite as much so it will release easier. I will sometimes reuse my transfer tape and after the first use, it’s not as sticky and will come off a little easier the 2nd time. I hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Jennifer, may i ask what type of transfer tape you use? I’m having the same issue with my design not wanting to stick to my screen! I’ve been using contact paper and it just seems way to sticky esp for little pieces?

        Reply
  10. So happy I ran across this! I usually make shirts with the freezer paper method and it’s so time consuming. Can’t wait to try this. Do you think acrylic paint would work still for this method? (That’s what I use for freezer paper method). Thanks!!

    Reply
    • I have never tried acrylic paint on shirts. I would imagine it would work just the same with the screen. If you try it out, let me know!

      Reply
  11. Hello, first thank you for simplifying the majesticly difficulty of the screen printing world, I have a vinyl plotter and have been trying to get into the htv or screen print world but it has seemed so costly with the fear of thousands of dollars invested and no sales or just a lack of nope this is to difficult for what it’s worth in profit.

    What is the type of “fabric” or “screen” that is used to apply the stencil vinyl too? Does color matter? Would a lace flower decorative silk pattern work to fad out fabric design onto shit giving it a even more custom screen print apreance? Is a screen Templet ok for one shirt clean and dry and reuse again down the road or only good for a product run at one time till vinyl or screen fails? Clean with soap and water or only water? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • This is a great way to screen print for beginners or hobby shirt makers. If I were starting a screen printing business, I would consider a different technique that would allow you to save your screens and reuse them. Using vinyl on your screen allows you to make one or multiple shirts at a time, but you do need to wash the screen off and remove the vinyl after you are done. I just peel the vinyl off and wash my screen in cold water. You don’t want your ink to dry on your screen so washing immediately after use is important.

      It doesn’t matter what color Oracal 651 that you use. The color of ink that you choose to use will be what shows up on your shirt. If you try it out, let me know how it works for you!

      Reply
  12. Do I have to wash the screen in between making multiple shirts with the same design? Does it run or smudge if I pull it up and then try another shirt?

    Reply
    • No, only wash the screen when you are all done with that design. The vinyl will come off when you get it wet. After you make the first print, lift up the screen and put it on the next shirt. I try to be careful not to move it around, just set it down and go.

      Reply
  13. Do you heat press after it dries?

    Reply
    • Yes! You need to heat set the ink after it has dried!

      Reply
      • what heat setting do you use if you use an iron? Low? High? Cotton? I don’t own a heat press.

        Reply
        • An iron will work just as well. I would put your settings on whatever type of material you are using (cotton for a cotton shirt, etc.). You’ll want to put a piece of parchment paper or newsprint between the design and your iron. That’s just so your iron doesn’t get any ink on it. I would iron for about 1 minute, making sure to move the iron around to cover the entire design.

          Reply
      • Hi where can I buy the ink that you use

        Reply
  14. Hi Jennifer,
    I just followed you on Instagram. Thank you for sharing your technique’s.
    I just got a cricut to make my own vinyl designs and want to do some screen printing with them. When you have finished doing multiple shirts/bags or whatever can the vinyl be saved for a future project (how?) or is it only good for so many?
    Becky

    Reply
    • Hi Becky,
      Thanks for the follow! So glad you are excited to give screen printing a try. I’m obsessed 🙂 Unfortunately, you can’t save the vinyl/screen using this method. You’ll want to wash the screen right after making your prints. When you wash it, the vinyl will come off. I tend to make one or two shirts of any design and wouldn’t want to tie up my screen with an old design anyways, so removing it isn’t a big deal for me. Plus, the Oracal 651 is pretty cheap so when I want to remake one of my designs, I’ll just cut it again. If you are looking to do this commercially and want to save your designs on the screens, you can use the more traditional method of screen printing with emulsion which would allow you to wash your screen and reuse it. Keep in touch and let me know how your projects go!

      Reply
  15. After 6 shirts my large stencil started to have a pooling issue. How did you combat this?

    Reply
    • I would try using a little less paint and make sure the screen is pressed firmly against each shirt. Any little gap can cause ink to seep under the design. If it does happen, you can try to gently wipe the ink off with a paper towel. Just be careful not to wipe too hard and remove your vinyl design!

      Reply
  16. What advice do you have on washing the shirt after printing on it?

    Reply
    • You want to make sure the ink is completely dry then heat set it. You can use a regular iron or heat press for this. Then, you can wash it like normal. Ideally, you want the ink to dry for 5 days before washing. I’m not always that patient and have washed it sooner without any problem.

      Reply
  17. Hi! Just watched some videos out of curiosity as I am preparing to create family tees for Disney and think I want to give screen printing a try(I have time to play/experiment before i need the shirts)…quick question…have you ever used Cricut stencil vinyl…you’re supposed to be able to cut and reuse the stencil numerous times…and how did it work for you? Are you able to reuse your stencils when cut from Oracal? Excited to try this versus HTV and see how it works!

    Reply
    • I use Oracal 651 because it sticks to the screen really well. Stencil vinyl may stick too, but I think 651 is a cheaper! The beauty of screen printing vs HTV is that you can cut the design once and make multiple shirts. You’ll attach the vinyl to your screen, ink the first shirt, lift if off and put it down on the next, ink and repeat. You’ll wash the screen right after you finish your last shirt so the ink doesn’t dry on your screen. In the process of washing it off, the vinyl comes off. I’m assuming the same would happen with stencil vinyl….plus once you have ink on the stencil, you probably can’t save it and restick.

      Reply
  18. Do it matter what side you put the design on? I see that you have it underneath. When I make mine, I have it on too.

    Reply
    • When you have it on top and run the squeegee over it, there’s a chance some of the small pieces could come up. I cut the mirror image and put it on the bottom so I don’t have to worry about it coming off when I squeegee.

      Reply
  19. What brand of transfer tape do you use?

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    • My favorite transfer tape is Conform Transfer Tape. Available on Amazon here. It is sticky enough to transfer the vinyl but still comes off easily when it’s time to peel away the tape.

      Reply
  20. What heat press do you use?

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    • To piggy back on this question: at what setting and for how long? TIA

      Reply
      • Hi Jennifer. What temp setting and for how long do you set your heat press for?

        Reply
        • Hi Rachel, I have my press set at 320 for 20 seconds.

          Reply
  21. How many times can one use the screen on different projects? How can we get the paint out of it.

    Reply
    • With the vinyl attached, you can use the screen to make multiple prints of the same design. You’ll just want to make sure you make all of the prints while the ink is still wet. As soon as you are done, you’ll remove the vinyl and wash the screen.

      Reply
      • Thank you very much for the response

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        • I did as you said, but I haven’t been able to wash away the paint from the screen, I even soaked it for days, please is there anything I can use to clean out the paint

          Reply
          • Some colors will stain the screen. Do you think yours is stained from the paint or is it actual dried paint? If you look at some of my photos, you’ll notice my screen has all sorts of stained colors 🙂 It doesn’t effect the quality of the screen at all. If you think you still have dried paint on yours, you can always replace the screen: Screen Replacement. To replace your screen, you will also need this Screen Rolling Tool

  22. Thank you for making this video. Can you make a video using more than 1 color?

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  23. Do you need to clean the screen between shirts if you make a whole bunch?

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    • No, you’ll just lift the screen off one shirt and put it down on the next. Once you are done with all of your shirts, you’ll want to wash the screen.

      Reply
      • How do you clean your screens when using this speedball ink? I purchased it and used this method and it worked perfectly! But when I google cleaning the screen, all I can find is emulsion remover. This is not emulsion, so do you just use water?

        Reply
        • All you need is water! I use the sprayer attachment on my sink and it usually all comes off with just that. If you have any ink that is still on the screen, you can use Dawn dish soap and a soft brush to get it off.

          Reply
  24. This is a great tutorial! Was wondering if you had a video using a heat press to cure the ink?

    Reply
    • I don’t have a video but I’ll add one soon! It’s very simple… once the ink is dry, put it on your press at 320 degrees for 20 sec. That’s it! You can wash and wear it like normal after that.

      Reply
      • Hi Jennifer! How long do you allow the ink to dry before setting it with heat?

        Reply
        • At least 24 hours if you are letting it air dry. Speedball recommends 48-72 hours drying time but I get impatient sometimes and heat press a little sooner than that.

          Reply
  25. Can you recommend a great place to buy quality t-shirts to screen print?

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  26. How long do you let the ink dry before adding another color?

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  27. Do you need to use an emulsion?

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    • No, this method allows you to make stencils with vinyl so you do not need any chemicals!

      Reply
  28. Hello, do you put something inside the shirt when screen printing to prevent bleed through? If so, what do you use?

    Reply
    • I do… I use a sheet of parchment paper.

      Reply
  29. Hello Jennifer,
    I’ve been following you on insta and love the screen printed shirts! I finally decided to give it a try and I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I seem to lose the center of letters ie: the middle of a d,p,o or g etc. in the ink on the shirt. . Any idea what I might be doing wrong?
    Thanks so much for all of the info and encouragement on your blog and insta account!
    ~Allison

    Reply
    • Thanks for following along! Would you send me an email (hello@pigskinsandpigtails.com) or DM on IG? I have a few questions to ask so we can get to the bottom of the issue 🙂

      Reply
  30. This is a cool technique, I usually use HTV but would like to screen print for some larger orders I just don’t want the mess. How does this process hold up for many shirts? Can you print 50 shirts with the basic screen printing press from amazon or does the vinyl get loose by then?

    Reply
    • The process is great for large numbers of shirts. The most I have tried with one screen is 45 and I could have kept going. I have other readers who have done 50+ with success. If you plan to reuse the same design over and over, you can also use HTV on the screen to make a permanent screen for that design. That would allow you to wash and reuse it. You can see that process here: https://www.pigskinsandpigtails.com/2019/06/make-a-permanent-screen-printing-stencil-with-htv/

      Reply
  31. I have been wanting to screen print for a while but the whole set up with the lightbulb and burning the screen, etc., was just overwhelming and too time consuming so I haven’t moved forward. You have NO IDEA HOW EXCITED I AM TO HAVE THIS METHOD IN MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    I soooo prefer screenprinted over vinyl and will now screen print so many things that I will drive everyone even more nuts with customized items! This will be amazing on hats!!!!!!!!!

    THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

    Reply
  32. Have you done multiple colors? I am wanting to do some but am not sure how to make sure my stencil is in the exact same place.

    Reply
  33. Hi Jennifer
    Do you know about how many tshirt (about the same size as your demo video) I could make with one 8 oz jar of paint?

    Reply
  34. Love the tutorials, tips & videos. However, I’m having an issue getting the vinyl to stick to the screen. It seemed to be sticking fine until I started taking the transfer tape off. Looking for any tips you may have. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  35. How do you mirror the image?

    Reply
  36. Hi Jennifer….I just tried doing the screen printing method with the vinyl. I have multiple shirts to do with the same design. I thought this would be easier. However, I had no luck doing more than the 1st one as the ink got under the vinyl and when I put it on the 2nd shirt, it was a mess. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    • The ink can ooze under your design if you don’t use enough pressure on the squeegee. It can also happen if you squeegee over the design too many times – forcing too much ink on the shirt. Try using a little more pressure to push the ink into the shirt, going over it maybe 2-3 times max. Reach out again if you are still having trouble!

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for the advice.

        Reply
  37. Hi Jennifer, what’s the proper way to layer multiple coats of the same color? Do I need to let each coat dry before the next? Thank you

    Reply
  38. Wow! I create T-shirt’s as a hobby, and didn’t want the bulky machines…thank you so much for this!

    Reply
    • So glad you found my page! That’s exactly how I started screen printing…making shirts for my family for fun.

      Reply
  39. I am excited to try this. Would you happen to have that SVG available? Love it maybe it would help in my room. For a minute!

    Reply
  40. Question. I was wondering, if I used contact paper to cut a design/word and then peeled the backing away and only had the ‘stencil’ part, could I stick that directly onto the screen? I’m just trying to logistically think if I ‘have’ to use a transfer tape. I can’t quite wrap my head around how to avoid it. I guess any words/letters that had a ‘center’ (i.e. D, B…) I’d have to ‘put the center pieces on to the screen.. Ugh – not sure if I’m even making sense. I’m just trying to see if there is any way to cut a word using contact paper and NOT use transfer tape… thoughts?

    Reply
    • I’ve always used a transfer tape to keep the design fully intact. I haven’t tried with contact paper. Oracal 651 and my trusty transfer tape have been the key to screen printing success!

      Reply
  41. I have done this and it works great but the trouble I have run into is lining up the print on the tshirts. Is there a quick easy way to line up the design on the shirts.

    Reply
  42. I could hug you!! This tutorial has given me so much hope that I’ll be able to do this for my small business rather than having to run pre-orders and lose out on profit by going to a print shop to have screen printing done for my tees and sweatshirts.

    Would you say that the finished product with this method is comparable to professional screen printing? I’m sure you get better over time, of course! Thank you again!

    Reply
    • Hi Bree, Yessss!!! This is a great way to offer tees and sweatshirts but keep the production in-house! You can print 1 or 100+ with this method. The only difference is that screen printing shops typically use a different type of ink (plastisol) where I recommend Speedball ink (water-based). Water-based absorbs into the shirt rather than plastisol sitting on top of the shirt. It is safer and easier to clean up water-based inks at home. It still looks professional but it feels even a little better than plastisol in my opinion! This is the ink I recommend: https://amzn.to/2IGsQUV

      Reply
  43. Awesome video! Can you use the template again immediately or do you have to clean it between uses? I’m worried about bleed.

    Reply
    • Yep, you can reuse it right away. Don’t wash in between! Just lift it off one shirt and put it directly on the next. I’ve been able to get 75+ shirts with one screen this way!

      Reply
  44. Hey! I am excited to do this process but I am wondering how do you get the vinyl off the screen when you are done?

    Reply
    • Just peel it off and throw it in the trash. It can get a little messy peeling off the screen so you’ll want to head to the sink right after to wash up.

      Reply
      • Hi! I love your tutorials. You inspired me to start screen printing. Question. Do you remove the tacky glue from the tshirts press after you print?

        Reply
        • No, I usually just leave it there and it comes off after the first wash. It’s usually just the first couple shirts that get tacky on the inside. After that, it shouldn’t leave any residue.

          Reply
  45. Just purchased the ebook – it’s fantastic! I used the links in your list to purchase supplies. I’m having trouble with the vinyl sticking to the screen. It’s pulling off when I peel off the transfer tape. Any tips? Thank you!!

    Reply
  46. I have a YUDU do you think this will work with it

    Reply
  47. Hello Jennifer! I love your tutorials! I have been interested in learning to screen printing for MANY years! I have begun the transition from HTV to screen printing recently and your tutorials have helped me immensely! I have a question… maybe you have mentioned it but I missed it…. where do you buy your speedball ink?

    Reply
  48. Any tips on how to keep bleeding from happening? Thanks!

    Reply
    • It takes some practice with the amount of ink you use and the pressure on the squeegee. Just keep practicing! If you are looking for more in-depth tutorials on this, I have a couple in my Maker’s Circle Membership group. You can find out more about it here: https://www.pigskinsandpigtails.com/makers-circle/

      Reply

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