Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(You Can) Use Scratch Foam to Print a T-Shirt

The kids and I have been decorating lots of t-shirts lately. We started with sun print shirts, but I'd had the idea in the back of my head to try printing with scratch foam and textile paint. Before I tried it with the kids, I stole some time for myself and tried it out. I used a plate that's been knocking around the studio for a couple of months, so it has some extra lines in it. A fresh plate would look even better, although I don't mind the extra texture. We'll call it rustic, or something like that.

What you need: A t-shirt; some textile paint (I used Speedball Water-Based Textile Screen Printing Ink), although I think you could try this with liquid acrylics; some scratch foam; a palette and brayer--although my brayer did not seem to like the screen printing ink and jammed up on me.

What you do: First, scratch a picture or design into the scratch foam. This couldn't be easier. Experiment with different mark-making devices, like the pointy end of a paintbrush, a bone folder, a comb--anything that will indent into the foam. Remember that your image will print in reverse, which is especially important if you're thinking about including text.

This is what my plate looked like (it's still got ink on it) in its just-created, pristine days:

I prewashed my shirt, placed some freezer paper inside so no ink bled through to the back, and taped some guiding marks with painter's tape. Then I mixed my color--I wanted a blue-grey. Ink your plate so you have a nice, even layer, not too thick (or it will squoosh out the edges when you make your print).

I'd planned two prints, so I made the first print. Carefully place your foam plate, ink side down, on your shirt, then gently press all over it. Try not to move it while you're doing this. Lift it straight up when you remove it so you don't smudge. Remember to keep your fingers as clean as possible--wipe or wash your hands as much as necessary in between prints--because you're using textile paint, and if you touch the shirt with inky fingers you'll make permanent fingerprints on it.

And re-inked the plate to make the second.

Meh. I wasn't crazy about the streakiness (darn brayer!!) or the space in the center, although I'd originally thought I wanted it that way. So I mixed up some grey and re-inked the plate.

I slightly offset the second set of prints so they met in the center, getting rid of that space.

Hmm. Still not sure--really, a fresh plate would have been better--so I left it to dry, then set it with the iron according to the directions.

Now this, I like. It's very subtle, but it's definitely recognizable as a plant sort of thing with leaves. (It's just a doodle; I drew it in about 30 seconds while my kids and I were scratch foam printing a couple of months ago.) Here's a closer look.

And a much closer look.
You can see the plate was kind of beat up. I think something must have been on top of it, leaving a slight depression that I couldn't see until I printed with it. The foam really is designed to be easy to scratch into! And the stubborn brayer didn't help matters any. But it's got a certain look about it, with lots of texture, and I'm pleased with it as a first try. I think I'll be experimenting with more scratch foam printing on fabric in the future.

Shared with Our Creative Spaces; see more creative spaces here.


bells said...

oh yeah! That works! Walking through the post I was going oh dear this isn't going to work out like she hoped - and well, it didn't look as though it did but you got something interesting and a bit different. I like it!

Donna Lee said...

I like the look of the multi layered prints. Your initial design shows through but isn't assertive. The shirt came out great. I've never heard of scratch foam but I'm going to look for it. It looks like it would be fun to play with.