Garrett Shirts

Video: How To Stencil Screen Print T Shirts

When I started the GarrettShirts site I did lots of research on screen printing "how to’s," looking for someone who used the same techniques I do. I found some folks who came close. None that I found tried to get multiple uses out of their stencils though.

Further, since most people use computers to "stencilize" their artwork I didn’t see any discussion about how to design strong, durable stencils that will withstand multiple printings.

Documentary filmmaker Neal Hutcheson and I traded services to make this 6 part video on stencil screen printing, a tedious but very low-cost way of mass producing t shirts. This is how I make all my shirts, from the Super Berry Bun Buns to the Echoboy t shirt series.

So grab a tasty beverage, pull up a chair and come with me on a journey to the wonderful world of stencil screen printing (and watch for special appearance by my kitty cat Jack Jack).

How To Stencil Screen Print T Shirts (1-2)
1) Image to Stencil
2) Prepping to Cut Stencil

How To Stencil Screen Print T Shirts (3-4)
3) Cutting Stencils
4) Prepping the Shirts

How To Stencil Screen Print T Shirts (5-6)
5) Printing with Screen and Stencil
6) Clean Up/Setting the Ink

Categorised as: Interviews


  1. Mark says:

    Hey Garrett,

    Great videos! You inspired me to give it a try. Yesterday, I made three Jesus Christ Superstar t-shirts. The third was the clearest print (I pressed harder each time), but the first one has a vintage look. You can see number 2 of 3 at

    I would not have, could not have, done it without your vids!

  2. admin says:

    Mark… wow! I was blown away by your work – you want to trade shirts? I love JCSS and I think your interpretation is amazing! I’m going to put up a post about this!


  3. Mark says:

    Thanks, Garrett! The design is not my creation, though. I ripped it off the album cover.

  4. JP says:

    Very nice Garrett, you keep learning new skills that border on magic!

    Loving your creative direction and energy. keep it up mate!

  5. admin says:

    Mark – well, I’d still like one ;P

    JP – thank you! There’s more cool design stuff I’m cooking up for SparkCon… I’ll be live printing some new designs. Maybe way down the road there will be more movies too.


  6. […] Mark Brown (check out the Mark Brown solo music projects and his band, Red Shade Blue) watched my stencil tshirt making tutorial and then made and sent me a […]

  7. Candacea says:

    Do you clean the stencil after printing?

  8. admin says:

    Hi Candace,

    I don’t clean the stencil, no. I let it dry and then store them in a big stack. It’s much easier to store stencils than screens!


  9. Ed says:

    Love your how-to’s! Very informative and easy to follow. Can you tell me exactly what material that is that you’re making the stencil on? Thanks!

  10. Thanks for the compliments! I’m glad you found the videos straight forward. Credit goes to Neal Hutcheson of who edited about 4 hours of footage down to what you see 🙂

    If I understand your question correctly you want to know what material I use for stencils.

    The brand name (like Kleenex) is Mylar.

    The guys at the art shop had a generic name for it that I can’t remember.

    The important thing is that it’s basically a very tough plastic that does not permit liquids to pass and holds up well over time. Also it cuts beautifully with an xacto. I’ve tried transparency plastic but that proved to be too brittle. Back in the day I used brown paper bags but those didn’t last very long.

    I buy my Mylar in rolls that cost about $50. Well, I bought a roll a couple years ago and that’s served my needs through about 25-30 stencils and is still going strong.

    If you’re asking what I’m cutting on, that’s a cutting mat. It makes all the difference in the world. I used to cut on top of cardboard but that dulls xacto blades very quickly.

  11. Simon says:

    Kia Ora Garrett, I live in New Zealand and did a screenprinting appenticeship when I left school. I stopped to do other things for the next 16 years but have always thought about starting it back up as a hobby. I have not really had the experience in T-shirt printing but have always thought about coming up with my own design that I could possibly sell, maybe even go global. Stumbling upon your tutorials has inspired me even more, thanks! Can you please tell me one thing about the mylar, is it adhesive on one side to stick to the screen or is a spray used on the screen first to adhere it?

  12. admin says:

    Hi Simon, Kia Ora to you too 🙂

    Thanks for visiting, and I’m glad you found the tutorials useful!

    As for your questions, the ink I use provides enough adhesion to the mylar stencil that it holds pretty well in place. the mylar does shift on the screen – especially over longer runs (10+ shirts, and if you have small, minimally bridged pieces…). This gets tricky because you have to make minute shifts to the stencil while it’s on the screen. Sometimes you get ink on your fingers which can get on the shirt if you’re not careful… sometimes you shift the stencil too much and little rumples form.

    Also, the weight of the screen holds the mylar close enough to the shirt that there’s very little bleed – though you have to be careful not to press too hard.

    I use what’s called Spray-Mount when I do roller printing (no screen, just stencils and a trim roller… less clean up and I can do it live, at art fairs and galleries). I use the spray mount to keep the stencil stuck to the shirt and minimize bleed. It works well – I haven’t done any tutorials for this method yet.

    Let me know if you have any more questions, and be sure to send me links to your pictures so I can post them on my blog!


  13. […] said he’s been working on some shirts using the stencil method I discuss in my stencil screen printing videos… Until I get those pics, here are some tshirts he did with photo […]

  14. Nu'u Tilo says:

    Talofa Garrett, I live in American Samoa and I’ve come across your stencil process which is the same thing I used to do when I was younger. When I came back to the islands after college I found it hard to find all the things needed for silk screening and so I did it the same way you did. I hardly do t-shirts anymore but through the years I found using a blow dryer to dry the shirts was better for me because sometimes the material covering the t-shirt when ironing tended to stick if you didn’t pay attention to how hot the iron was. You’ve got a great site, keep it up.

  15. Shawn says:

    Is that parchment paper you’re using? I’m sorry if that was not clear enough for me, I’m deaf so I cant hear you talking. But I did learn a lot from this! Pls let me know. Also is there other ways of stenciling using similar technique?

  16. admin says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Thanks for writing in!

    The brand of the material I use is called “Mylar,” and it’s a sort of nylon paper used for drafting very very fine architectural drawings.

    I get it at an art store.

    I’m not sure of its generic name, but they should know what you mean by Mylar.

    The material is fairly sturdy, stores well if left flat and doesn’t get mushy in ink.

    I hope that helps!

  17. admin says:

    Hi Nu’u Tilo! Very cool to hear that you discovered this process too! Interesting tip on the hair dryer.

    When I do live printing I use stencils and ink rollers and then use a heat gun to spot-dry the ink so people can leave with their shirts right then. I’ve never tried a hair dryer!

    One other thing I’ve noticed – if you let shirts sit for a month or more they pretty well dry and “set” without heat. It’s not a perfect solution, but if you’re, um, willpower-challenged and don’t want to iron you could just let your shirts sit for a couple months 😉


  18. Sara Kelly says:

    Wonderful Video!

    I have never done this before and am looking to start.

    How long does a print on a T-shirt last with regular machine wash? Does it depend on the ink?

    Where do you get the framed screen? What name would I ask for at a store (an art store…?) or type on ebay if I wanted to obtain it?

    What is your advice for putting a design on a pair of sneakers or a hat?

    Thank you,