I recently took orders for a limited run Giant Bomb shirt that I'll be handing out at PAX. Well. They're done being made and ready for shipping to Boston and I figured I'd give ya'll a look at how screened T's (and pretty much anything) are made.
In the beginning, an image.
I made this spoof of Papers, Please a while back and I really dug its look so I decided to go with this one. Well, this one minus the text, options and arrow.
Once you know what you want to screen, you need to isolate the colors involved and create an individual screen. The way you make a screen is you build a frame, stretch some silk across it and then coat it with photo emulsion.
You then print out the individual colored parts of the image and run it through a dark room type process which will cure all the parts of the screen that is not covered leaving the covered sections uncured and able to be washed away.
The part where the colors go on the clothes
After the screens are set up, you load them into a machine/contraption that will allow the shirt to be lined up properly with all the individual screens. This alignment is obviously crucial. Typically, I'm told you start bottom to top layer. So in the terms of this shirt, you start with the Luchadeer, followed by the light green, then the dark green and finally the white to finish.
As the individual shirts have colors applied, they are flash dried on the machine. Every image is applied twice to get a really nice full coating and the flash drying readies the shirt for a second coat by drying the applied oils a little bit. This all works by rotating the shirt wheel so right after the oil paint is applied, it rotates to the flash dryer and then has time to cool off before it comes all the way around for a second coating.
The paint itself is applied by bringing the screen down on top of the shirt and then pushing the paint through the uncured section of the screen using a squeegee type device. Bigger places have machines that do this, my guy does it manually =P The cured sections that didn't wash away don't allow any paint through while the sections that were covered and then washed away do.
After all the layers and colors have been screened on, the shirt is sent down through this massive drying machine that'll cure the ink proper. We used something called "Plastisol" which is an oil based ink. There are two main other types of inks that are used in this process that are water based. Plastisol screens are a lot brighter and have a greater ability to be opaque against a black shirt which is important because a large portion of this is solid white on black and has the added benefit of being able to withstand way more cycles through the laundry before looking beat up. It does have a bit of an almost plasticy and raised feel as opposed to the water based stuff that you'd find on screened t-shirts at say J-Crew and whatnot. The third popular type is the one they use on shirts that are artificially faded. You know what I'm talking about.
After all that mess, we've got a shirt. + some hoodies.
See ya'll at PAX East =]