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Today is a cold, rainy day here in Texas. It's the perfect day to wear… and talk about screen printing on long sleeve t-shirts.
If you are looking to DIY your own branded t-shirts or maybe you want to sell them, I have a few tips and tricks to share with you so you have success screen printing at home on the sleeve of a long sleeve t-shirt.
Choosing the Best Long Sleeve T-shirt for Screen Printing
I'm picky about the fit of my t-shirts and long sleeve tees are no exception. I like a loose fit where the sleeves aren't clinging to your arms. It must be the Texan in me. I'm use to wearing short sleeve shirts almost year round. The Hanes Beefy-T is the perfect long sleeve fit for me. The body fits just like my favorite Nano blank just a slightly thicker material. The sleeves are a loose fit. I love that it comes in various bright colors. The clean mint was the perfect color choice to match my branding.
Tips for Screen Printing Long Sleeve T-Shirts
If you are going to screen print a bunch of long sleeve shirts, you can get a Sleeve/Leg Pallet to attach to your screen printing press. You could also DIY your own pallet following this tutorial I shared about making a toddler size pallet. But, if you are like me and only plan to print long sleeve shirts for fun, you may not want to invest in more equipment.
Here are some tips to help you screen print on the sleeve without any extra equipment.
Tip #1: Iron a Crease in the Sleeve to Use as a Guide
To help you line up your wording or design down your sleeve, start by laying your shirt flat and ironing down the sleeve. This will create a crease that you can use as a guide to make sure your wording is going straight down the sleeve. I used my Easy Press Mini but a household iron would work just the same.
Tip #2: Use a Board Inside the Sleeve for Smooth Contact
You may notice when you spread out your shirt to screen print on the sleeve that there is a seam that runs down the inside of the arm. This makes it difficult to lay flat and get a good, even print. To avoid the seam, I slid a 22″x5.5″ board inside the sleeve.
Tip #3: Adjust the Height of your Clamp to Work with the Board
Since I just occasionally make a long sleeve t-shirt, I wasn't quite ready to invest in a Sleeve/Leg Pallet for my screen printing press. I found a temporary solution that allowed me to still use my 1 color screen printing press. I placed a board inside the shirt sleeve, then set that on top of my screen printing pallet. Doing this required a slight adjustment to the clamp on my press. I loosened the bolts on the back of the clamp and raised the clamp to the highest position. My clamp now lowers evenly on the board allowing my screen to be flush with the shirt.
Tip #4: Use Super Tack on the Board
If you are using your press, don't skip this tip. Whether you got the Sleeve/Leg Pallet, made your own DIY pallet, or you're using my method here, you want the shirt to stick to your pallet. This is what allows you to put the screen back down for another coat – ensuring that it is lined up in the precise spot. I use Super Tack and spread a thin coat over the board. You can also use spray adhesives but I find this a little easier and you avoid overspray.
Tip #5: Use a Larger Screen
If you want wording down your sleeve, chances are you are going to want to use a larger size screen. While I typically use the Speedball 10×14 frame for most of my projects, I used the Speedball 16×20 frame for the sleeve so I could make my design a little longer.
Using the board inside the sleeve and placing it on top of my screen printing press pallet worked and was a cheap alternative to having a sleeve pallet. However, it does make lining up the next shirt tricky. Once you put the board in the next shirt, you have to eyeball lining up the wording on the next shirt. This wasn't too challenging but if I am making a lot of shirts this way, I would use a modified version of my dot trick to more consistently line up each shirt.
If you don't have a press, you can still screen print on long sleeve shirts. You will still want to add the board inside the sleeve to avoid the seam. Lay your shirt flat on the table and place your screen on top. Make sure your screen surface is laying flat and even on your shirt before adding the ink. When screen printing on a table, you really just have one shot to get ink over the design. After you lift the screen, it is nearly impossible to line it back up for more ink. For this reason, I recommend using a dark ink on a lighter color shirt. The dark inks cover much better with one coat of ink. White ink is difficult to get a solid coverage without the press.
I hope these tips give you the confidence to try screen printing down the sleeve. If you have any questions about this process, comment below!