Printing a Two-Color Design with a One-Color Screen Printing Station

Earlier this month, I received a request to print fourteen two-color t-shirts for a charity event. Despite only having a single-color station at home, I thought I would be able to work out a way to print the two-color design. My initial thought would be to mark the shirts with a piece of tape at the collar and somewhere around the middle of the shirt. The marks would have a small line on them, and I would use those lines to ensure that the shirt was in the same place for each subsequent color that I needed to print. Because the design did not require each color to be perfectly registered, I had a small but comfortable margin to print both colors while preserving the design.

55 Thomas Two-Color Shirt

To print the first color, I printed the blue, which was the dominant color in the design. On my computer, I opened the original artwork I used to burn the screen and then added a solid line that ran down the middle of the design. Using my laser printer, I printed this modified version of the artwork on a plain white sheet of paper. On my screen printing press, I have a line that runs down the middle of the printing board. I aligned the laser-printed artwork with the line on the board, taping it down with scotch tape. I then aligned the screen with the laser-printed artwork ensuring that it matched perfectly. When it did, I locked the clamps into place and began to print the shirts.

After letting the shirts dry (about 45 minutes in this New York summer heat), I began to prepare the screen for the second color. I repeated the process with aligning the screen with the laser-printed sheet of my artwork. As I was about to print the second color, I found that I could see my laser-printed artwork through the white t-shirt. That made the process a lot easier. I simply aligned the shirt so that the first color matched with the laser-printed sheet underneath the shirt. When it aligned, I screen printed the second color.

Clearly, this would not work with a dark color, but I think that my initial strategy of using tape could have worked, but I think there would have been some spoilage. With the shirts being white, I could easily see the laser-printed sheet through the shirt and print without any mistakes. Learning this will open a whole new set of printing possibilities for my little sweatshop.

Update: I have posted an illustrated description of this process, which I did for the Yonkers Marathon and Half-Marathon.

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