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Did you know that you can screen print in denim? Whether you want to personalize denim shirts or add a design to your denim jeans, screen printing is a great way to add a permanent design.
For a special Texas wedding, I made matching bridal party shirts for the girls to wear while getting ready for the wedding. The oversized denim shirts were perfect for the girls to wear while getting their hair and makeup done.
Why screen print on denim?
If you have followed along on my screen printing journey, you may know that I love screen printing because of the way it feels on shirts. Unlike HTV, screen printing ink soaks into the fabric leaving a soft, smooth finish. Plus, no more peeling issues! Screen printing is a game changer.
Not only does it feel and look better, screen printing is great when you are making more than one shirt with the same design.
For this project, I repeated the “bridesmaid” and “flower girl” design to make 5 shirts. With one vinyl cut of each of these words, I was able to make all of the shirts with one screen. That saved some time compared to weeding the same wording with HTV.
I added monograms on the front of each shirt, which meant a new piece of vinyl for each one. This doesn’t really save you any money or time compared to HTV but you get that high quality look and feel. I think that makes it worth screen printing even when you are only making one print… especially when you are screen printing with vinyl.
Screen printing with your Cricut or Silhouette makes the setup process so much quicker than traditional screen printing. Just attach your vinyl design on the screen and you’re ready to print.
If you want to learn how to screen print with vinyl, be sure to watch my Intro to Screen Printing with Vinyl digital course to learn the basics.
What colors work best on denim?
I loved how Speedball opaque gold worked on the shirts. The ink looked great with the gold stitching. Opaque pearl Speedball fabric ink also looked great. I used white for the bride’s shirt.
With darker denim, I would suggest using the opaque inks for better coverage. Be sure to read about light color ink on dark shirts here.
If you have a lighter denim color, I think black or even Speedball’s denim (navy) blue ink would look great!
Supplies Needed for Screen Printing on Denim
- Screen Printing Frame (I used a 10×14 and 16×20 frame in this project)
- Squeegee (I used a 6” squeegee for the pocket designs)
- Fabric Screen Printing Ink (I used opaque gold and pearl white)
- Oracal 651 Vinyl
- Cricut Maker
- My Favorite Transfer Tape
- Painter’s Tape
- Screen Printing Press (optional)
- Blank Denim Shirts
- Easy Press2 or Heat Press
Tips for Screen Printing on Denim
For the most part, screen printing on denim is the same as printing on t-shirts. The main difference is when you are working on the pocket area where you run into thick seams.
When working on the pocket area, it’s important that you get your screen as flat and even as possible. These uneven areas can cause ink to bleed under the vinyl.
Using a smaller squeegee can help when screen printing in areas close to seams. I use a good bit of pressure on the squeegee when going over the area to make sure the screen comes evenly in contact with the shirt. You can even add a piece of scrap wood inside the pocket to raise it up. You can see how I use this technique when screen printing onesies.
I used a 1-color press for this project. The press allows you to lower the screen again if you need to add more ink. If you have tried screen printing and love it, I highly recommend getting a press.
Use a larger screen for oversized designs
I used a Speedball 16×20 frame to be able to print a larger design on the back of the adult shirts. The sized the bridesmaid wording to 10” wide. For the smaller flower girl shirts and the pocket monograms, the 10×14 frame worked perfectly.
Don’t forget to heat set your fabric ink!
After the ink is completely dry (2-5 days), you need to heat set the ink to make it permanent on the shirts. If you are in a hurry, you can speed up the drying process by putting your shirts in a well ventilated area, near a fan, or use a heat gun. I use the same settings to heat set the ink on denim and t-shirts. For more information about heat setting with a Cricut EasyPress, read “How to Heat Set with an EasyPress2”. Don’t have an EasyPress? You can heat set with a heat press or iron.
Hi! When you use the heat gun to speed up the curing process, how long and at what setting do you do that? How do you know if it’s cured enough to get heat pressed? Thank you! 🙂
This is a tricky one to answer. It may be slightly different for each person. I have my heat gun set on the hottest setting. I usually go over it for about 2-3 minutes…checking in between, making sure not to burn the material.