How to Screen Print a Camouflage Pattern

Nov 12, 2023 | Design Tips, Project Ideas, Screen Printing


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screen printing camo shirt

Ready to add some creativity into your screen printing projects? Here's a fun one to try: make your own camouflage print by randomly spreading ink across the screen.

If you have tried blending your ink colors on your screen, you will enjoy this twist on a similar process. Instead of blending the ink colors along the top edge of your design, this process blends the inks all over the screen.

Keep reading to learn how I achieved this look.

Mixing Camo Screen Printing Ink Colors

mixing speedball screen printing ink fabric

For those following my screen printing with vinyl methods on Instagram, you're familiar with my passion for blending new ink colors. In this project, I mixed 2 custom colors to complement Speedball black fabric ink and Speedball brown fabric ink.  I mixed olive from my Fall Ink Recipe Guide and lark from my Spring Ink Recipe Guide.   

The combination of olive, lark, black and brown made the perfect camo combination. You could create darker, lighter or even pink camo patterns by using different ink colors.  

Choosing Blank T-shirts

While screen printing works on almost any blank t-shirt, it's important to use a high quality shirt that you will love wearing (or your customers will love!). 

White t-shirts can be especially hard to find. Many are too thin and see-through – not something I would want to wear!  I wrote a post about choosing the best white t-shirts.

For this project, I picked a Gildan 100% cotton blank t-shirt

Setting Up the Screen

screen printing vinyl project idea tutorial

Now that the inks are mixed, let's get the vinyl on the screen and ready to print. For guidance on this step, head to my beginner page for detailed instructions.

I separated my design into two screens for this project.  The first screen includes the letters and deer for the camouflage pattern. Notice I used a bold, bubbly font and silhouette of the deer to allow for more area for the camo pattern to shine. 

The second screen includes black outline with a slight offset.  This offset creates a little overlap between your camo layer and the black outline, making it easier to align the two layers.

Step 1: Create a base layer

tshirt design hunting season camo

Typically, when screen printing a shirt, I'd squeegee the ink over 2-3 times to saturate the fibers adequately. However, with this technique, multiple passes would blend the ink colors and you would lose the defined camo pattern.

To get the best results, start by screen printing the lark color over the entire design. If you have a screen printing press, check your ink coverage to ensure no spots are missed.

Step 2: Drizzle your ink colors randomly over the screen

camo pattern ink speedball screen print

Once the base layer is down, add your darker colors in a random fashion. I prefer using a syringe for precise ink distribution. Drizzling the colors over the screen, as opposed to using large ink blobs, creates a more realistic camo pattern.

Embrace a haphazard approach – the more random, the more authentic and visually appealing your camo pattern will be. Don't overthink it; camo patterns are random and unique.

Remember, you don't need to cover the entire design with ink. As you pull the squeegee over the screen, the ink will naturally spread.

Step 3: One squeegee over the design

Aim for a single pass of the squeegee over the screen for optimal results. If a second pass is necessary, you will need to add fresh ink.

Pro Tip: Reusing the ink collected on the squeegee will cause your colors to blend and your camo pattern will not be as defined. Instead, use the syringes to add more ink. Try to match the placement of the colors that are already on the screen.

Step 4: Align and Print Your Outline

While the camo print stands impressively on its own, you can enhance your design by adding an outline. For more instruction on how to align your screens for mutli-color designs, check out my online course, deluxe screen printing kit, or ebook.

deer season shirt hunting

Frequently Asked Questions About this Technique

Can you make more than one shirt with this process?

Absolutely! The great part about screen printing is the ability to effortlessly produce multiple shirts using the same screens. Keep in mind, your camo pattern will be unique for each shirt using this process.

For designs with an outline, like mine, set up two screens using registration boxes for accurate alignment on each shirt, whether using a basic table setup or a 1-color screen printing press.

Start each shirt by applying the base color. The base layer ensures you have enough ink saturating the fabric over the entire design. Then you can be more conservative on the amount of ink you drizzle over the screen in Step 2.

For each shirt, add a fresh drizzle of the ink colors over the screen to achieve the camo effect without excessive blending.

Pro Tip: With a 4-color screen printing press, align the screens once and effortlessly print all your shirts. The beauty of a multi-color press lies in setting up screens once and consecutively making shirts. Learn more about the benefits of a 4-color press in this article.

What do you do with all of the excess ink?

save speedball ink storage mixing

As you squeegee over your mixture of camo colors, you will end up with an array of colors mixed together at the end of your screen. This ink can be reused or saved!  Stir that ink together and you'll likely end up with another color perfect for your next camo print. You can also store the leftover ink in an air tight container to use for a future project.

 Let your creativity flow, and have fun creating your own custom camouflage designs!

1 Comment

  1. What an awesome idea!

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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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