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When I started screen printing, I put my shirt on a table, placed the screen printing frame on top, and squeegeed ink over it. When you lift the screen, you reveal your screen printed design. But… what if you missed a spot? Putting your screen back on the shirt, lined up perfectly, is nearly impossible (believe me, I've tried a bunch of times!).
This is where a screen printing press machine comes in really handy. After I became hooked on screen printing with craft vinyl, my first piece of equipment that I added to my craft room was a 1-color station screen printing press. This machine is a huge help in making sure your design is evenly coated with ink, taking the guess work out of deciding if you are ready to lift your screen. It also helps with the placement of your design on your shirt when you are making multiple shirts.
The press holds your shirt and screen in place. You lower the screen to squeegee your ink, then lift the frame. If you missed a spot, just lower the frame back down and add more ink! It's perfectly aligned every time!
My screen printing press came with an adult size pallet. I have been screen printing youth and toddler size shirts on a table, until now! With an extra bracket and scrap wood, you can DIY your own youth size pallet. Disclaimer: I am not very handy when it comes to building things (hence the reason I buy Speedball screens instead of making my own). I tend to eyeball it and don't do a lot of measuring and planning. 🤦🏻♀️ This is a very forgiving project and having things perfectly centered is not critical. You can adjust your board using the screws underneath to get everything completely straight in the end.
You are basically just screwing the bracket on a smaller board. However, I had to make a few adjustments to get the bracket to work with my particular press. Keep reading for the step-by-step instructions. If you're more of a visual learner, skip to my YouTube video below.
Supplies for this DIY project
- Pallet Bracket
- 9.75″x18″ Board (I used an old shelf that is laminate over a particle board core)
- Skill Saw (if you need to cut your board)
- Measuring Tape
- Super Tack
- Screen Printing Press
For a list of the screen printing supplies I use, visit my Screen Printing Supply List.
Step 1: Cut a board that will fit youth and toddler size shirts. The size that has worked well for me is 9.75″ x 18″. You can adjust this size based on the shirts you plan to screen print. I had a scrap piece of pressed board shelving that was 9.75″ wide and I cut this down to 18″ long.
Step 2: Remove your adult platen board and measure the distance from the back of the board to the metal bracket. On my press, there is a horizontal metal leg that interferes with the bottom bracket. Using the adult platen as a guide, it was easy to determine the placement of the bracket on my new board. If your press is a different style, this step may not be as critical.
Step 3: The bracket I purchased is not the same brand as the press I have. I had to make a slight modification to make it fit. I needed a little extra distance between the bracket and the board so that it would fit on my press. I added a couple pieces of scrap 1×2 wood as spacers. Again, if you have a different style press, this may be unnecessary.
Step 4: Screw the bracket to your new board.
Step 5: Fit your new board on the press. Adjust the board until it is evenly aligned on your press, then tighten the screws to hold it in place. Another modification I had to make was removing the hand screws on the bottom. They were too bulky to fit under my press (keep in mind, my press is a different brand so I've made modifications to use this bracket)
Step 6: Apply Super Tack to the top of your pallet. This sticky substance will hold on to your shirts so they don't move around between layers of ink. This is an important step! Without the shirt sticking to the board, it won't line up correctly when you lower your screen for a 2nd coat of ink!
Step 7: Screen print all of your toddler and youth size shirts with ease! You can now apply layers (drying in between with a heat gun) to get a more vibrant color on dark materials. Here's another tutorial I did explaining how to get vibrant ink colors on dark fabrics.
Here's a look at my construction process and screen printing using my new youth/toddler size pallet.
The Final Result
I can now use my technique for screen printing on dark fabrics with youth and toddler size shirts.