Screen printing t-shirts may seem to be a job for a professional printer, but building your own t-shirt printing press is a project that is actually well within reach of the average home hobbyist with a few tools. For a relatively low materials cost, you can build a simple press that can produce high-quality printed shirts with up to three colors.
Cut a shirt board
- Cut a t-shirt board to hold the shirt in place for printing. Start by measuring 14 inches in from the left side of a 4-by-4-foot plywood board. Make a 22-inch deep cut. Then measure 2 1/2 inches more toward the center of the board and make another 22-inch cut parallel to the previous one. Cut away the 2 1/2-inch side of the long rectangle to open up the left side of your t-shirt board.
- Repeat this long rectangular cut on the right side of the plywood to complete the basic shape of your t-shirt board. It should be 15 inches wide by 22 inches long.
Shape and sand
- Outline a 4-by-4-inch square at the inside of each 22-inch cut and cut it out using a jigsaw. Start at the back outside corner and work inward toward the center of the t-shirt board. These openings will allow the shirt to stay in position without bunching up while printing.
- Attach a 2-by-4-inch board for support lengthwise to the under side of the shirt board from the front to the far end of the board. Cut a 45-degree bevel into the support board at the front edge of the t-shirt board, and sand all the rough spots to protect your shirts.
Attach the printing surface
- Attach a smooth 15-by-18-inch piece of 1/4-inch particleboard to the upper surface of the t-shirt board using wood glue and brads. Take care to keep the brads away from the center printing area where they can catch and damage your t-shirts.
- Round off the corners of your t-shirt board with the jigsaw and sand all edges.
Attach the screen-printing clamps
- Place three sets of clamps around the left, back, and right sides of the t-shirt board. Mark the center of each side edge with a pencil, then measure outward and mark a spot four inches from the center in each direction along the edge of the shirt board. Screw one of the clamps into each marked location.
- Build two sawhorses to support your press using 2-by-4-inch boards. Attach the t-shirt press to the sawhorses with wood screws for stability and your press is done!
- You may want to adjust the press to waist-level height for comfortable and efficient printing.
To screen print shirts, place one, two or three screens into the clamps, put the shirt on the t-shirt board, and start printing