How to Create a Brushed Background Effect with Screen Printing

Jan 13, 2020 | Cricut Projects, Project Ideas, Screen Printing, Tutorials, Vinyl Projects

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how to screen print at home cricut silhouette

I love getting messages from readers asking for advice on projects.  This project was inspired by a DM I received on Instagram from @nolatate.designs with a question about creating a watercolor/brushed effect for the background of a screen printed t-shirt.  I hadn't tried anything quite like this before so I was excited for the challenge.

First, I decided to thin down my Speedball ink in order to make it a little more transparent.  Using a paint brush, I brushed the ink on a sheet of wax paper.  The ink, mixed with water, beaded up nicely as I spread it on the wax paper.  This gave it a nice washed look.

I flipped over the wax paper and pressed it on the shirt.  After it dried, I screen printed my wording on top using Speedball Blue Denim Fabric Ink.

how to screen print this look tshirt

Supplies Needed for this Project

watercolor background effect tshirt technique

How to Make a Brushed, Watercolor Background on a T-Shirt

  1. Mix your ink color.  I used the “Crystal” color from my Ink Recipe Guide mixed with some opaque white ink.  I wanted a background color that wasn't too bright so you can see the screen printed words on top.
  2. Water down your ink.  I used a spray bottle and added a little water at a time until it was a thinner consistency.  This will help give your ink the watercolor effect.
  3. Paint a thin layer of ink on a piece of wax paper.  I used the wording on my screen as a guide so I would know what area to paint.
  4. Flip the wax paper over and press it on your shirt. I used my Cricut Brayer Tool to make sure the ink was pressed on well.
  5. Remove the wax paper to reveal your background color!
  6. Allow the ink to dry for at least one hour (you can speed up this process with a heat gun).
  7. Screen print your wording or design on top.
  8. Allow your shirt to dry for 2-5 days (again, you can speed this up with a fan and/or heat gun).
  9. Heat set the ink using your Easy Press 2 or Heat Press or iron.  More details on how to heat set can be found here.

screen printing idea background color

Process Video

The Final Result

screen printing effect washed faded watercolor

If you are making more than one shirt with this technique, each background will look a little different.  You'll want to brush the ink on a new piece of wax paper for each shirt.  There are so many ways you can use this so get creative!  Be sure to tag me on Instagram @pigskinsandpigtails so I can see what you make!


  1. I am loving this idea! You’ve just made my head spin with possibilities! Thanks bunches for sharing!

  2. Love this! So creative.

  3. This is so creative. I love it. Thank you for sharing!


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I’m Jennifer, your go-to for all things vinyl screen printing. I offer both in-person and online classes to help you craft better quality shirts. This blog is full of screen printing inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to learn all about screen printing with vinyl!

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