Recommended Printing Materials
- Our premium grade glow crystals
- Screen-printing mesh
Use appropriate silkscreen to suit glow crystal particle sizes. Using a lower mesh size for larger glow crystals. To enhance the glow effect, a white base material or primer is recommended. The minimum thickness of ink should not be less than 100µm (micron), with 130 to 150µm being ideal. This can be achieved by printing twice.
Test materials thoroughly before large production runs or when using a unique fabric. The looser the weave of the fabric (cotton/poly blends), the better the penetration and hold the paint will have on the material. Thicker fabrics (sweatshirt-type weaves) should be slightly stretched with a backer-board to allow for better penetration of the paint into the material. To increase the adhesion onto any fabric a very light misting of water (e.g.-with a plant-mister) will increase the penetration into the material. Care should be taken with this technique, as over applying the water could result in bleeding of the color.
Choosing Your T-Shirt
Craft stores sell T-shirts in many fashionable colors, and the fabric is usually a good quality, opaque, preshrunk cotton. You want a preshrunk T-shirt so that your painting will not shrink with the shirt or warp out of shape when you launder the finished product. The only thing you usually sacrifice is color.
Preparing the T-Shirt
Use T-shirt boards that you can find at most craft stores, so that you can insert into the shirt. These pull the fabric taut and flat, which makes it easier to draw or transfer your sketch onto it. The benefit to using a T-shirt board is the lack of seepage; your paint will not soak through from the front of the shirt to the back in splotches, or onto your tabletop.
At the craft store or a fabric store, you can purchase a large embroidery hoop. This is a nice alternative to the T-shirt board if you are just going to do something simple like stamping or a stencil. If you are going to draw the design onto the T-shirt by hand, however, your best bet is the board. It will allow you to press down firmly with your pencil when you make your sketch. Use soft lead or charcoal pencils if you are going to draw freehand.
Pre-washing a T-shirt is essential if you are buying a shirt that is not preshrunk. You have to remove the sizing (starch that the manufacturer used to make the garment hang nicely from the hanger or hold its shape when folded and wrapped) before you paint. The sizing may also cause your paint to resist (i.e., prevent it from soaking into the fabric; it will sit on the surface and flake off when dry). Iron the T-shirt on high to remove the wrinkles (since it is cotton).
Insert your T-shirt board, or clamp the embroidery hoop to the front of the shirt, making sure that the inner hoop is inside the shirt, and the outer hoop is outside.
You are now ready to prepare your picture and your paints.
Preparing Your Image
If you are using a stencil, pin it to the shirt (inside the boundary of the hoop if you use one). If you are using sponges or stamps, make sure you have your water, test paper, and a cloth for daubing off the excess nearby. For pictures that you plan to draw freehand, it is a good idea to blow it up (if it is small) so you have a better look at the amount of detail. A quick way to transfer a picture that you have already drawn (or a photograph) is to turn it over, and scrub the back of it with vine charcoal or soft lead pencil, covering the entire surface. Then, lay it scrubbed-side-down against the T-shirt, and trace outline of each shape firmly with a ballpoint pen. This will press a faint outline of your picture onto the fabric. (For the record, this method of transferring a drawing also works for linoleum used in relief prints).
For your freehand sketch, make sure to press down firmly with the pencil. Make the sketch a bit bigger than you actually want it to be in the finished product, since even preshrunk shirts still shrink a bit after repeated washings.
Consult the customer service representatives at the fabric or craft store for brushes that are best to use with acrylic or fabric paints. You want soft and flexible bristles, made of either natural or synthetic fiber. Avoid the brushes with hard plastic bristles that come in children's painting kits. These are harsh, they don't spread paint color well across your surface, and they make scratchy lines.
Applying Paint to Your Shirt
Dip your brush generously, and tap the excess back into the palette. Press the brush firmly with each stroke. You will be able to tell if the paint is penetrating the surface of the fabric. You should still be able to see the texture of the fabric under the color. If not, you may have used too much. If you can still see the color of the T-shirt from under your paint, you may want to apply a second coat, making sure to press firmly so it will soak into the fabric more adequately. White paint on dark fabric will usually take a second coat. Some of the lighter shades of yellow will cause the same problem.
Make sure you have a test piece of paper to see how your stamp will look when applied to the shirt. Stamp a few impressions on the paper, and check to see if the paint is absorbed by the stamp in the prints. If so, you will need to shake off the excess.
You can make a simple stamp print on a T-shirt with everyday objects like sea shells, maple leaves, ivy leaves, a whole fish from the butcher department (you would roll one side of the fish in paint and simply press it against the shirt), a potato half with shapes carved into it, or half of an apple.
Washing and Drying
Let paint dry thoroughly (at least 4 days) before washing. Hand washing will dramatically increase garment life. Always turn garment inside out for laundering.
Avoid hot water washing. This will tend to soften and loosen acrylic paint from the garment. Cold water works best for automatic washing of the painted garment. Set washer to gentle cycle. Drip-drying instead of using the clothes dryer will increase the life of the garment.
Paint will not flex freely with the cloth of a garment. Therefore, you need a paint that has strong adhesion and at least some flexibility without cracking. This also means that you need to paint designs, letters, or small patterns as opposed to covering a whole garment to allow flexibility in the non-painted areas.
To accomplish this, you can mix our glow crystals with solvent-based acrylics as they have strong adhesion and moderate flexibility. Another alternative is to mix a custom brew that is popular among the craft experts. Purchase FabriTac fabric glue from a local craft store. Add acetone paint thinner to the mixture until it is the consistency of paint. Remove the amount you need into a separate container and add 5-20% of GlowStop.com glow crystals. Use it like you would any typical clothing paint.
Either of these methods should withstand a few wash cycles. To protect the art even further, you can purchase a clear sealer coat used by airbrush artists to seal T-shirts at most major craft stores. Some customers have also had good success with using an airbrush and airbrush paints on clothing.
A neat trick that increases the coverage of glow in the dark ink is to seal the porous surface of cloth with a less expensive paint. Apply a layer of standard acrylic gloss clothing paint that will absorb into the cloth and create a smooth surface. This surface can then be painted with the glow in the dark paint. Not only does this lower the overall costs, but also the glow is now more consistent and smooth.
Put our glow crystals into a very large plastic bowl. Put the material or garment into the bowl and work the powder into the material. Remove the garment and push it back into the bowl several times pressing hard to push the powder into the weave of the material. Continue this until the weave of the material is packed with glow particles. Spray the garment with clear spray paint called airbrush sealer to permanently seal the powder into place.
T-Shirt Painting Board Preparations
To prevent paint from bleeding through a shirt to the back, it is helpful to create a t-shirt painting board. To begin, tape a piece of plastic, such as a garbage bag, to a backing board (a flat piece of cardboard) with masking tape. This helps the fabric from sticking to the cardboard after paint has been applied to the fabric. Place the backing board between the layers of fabric to prevent paint from bleeding through the layers. Slightly stretch the fabric around the backing board to remove wrinkles from the fabric and hold in place with masking tape. The fabric is now ready to be painted on.
Application of Large Areas or Long Lines
Filling in large areas with thick paint will produce a very stiff, uncomfortable garment. Blend with screen fabric gel to reduce the stiffness of the acrylic paint. If painting in a thick manner, short strokes of paint will hold better than long lines. The longer the line, the greater the chance of cracking when washed. A washing machine's agitator may stretch the garment beyond its limit and thus cause cracking.