How to Screen Print on Santa Gift Bags

How to Screen Print on Santa Gift Bags main article image
Posted on November 21, 2021 by Joan Magcalas
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When my sister asked me to donate my craft skills for a good cause by making shirts and masks, I did not hesitate and said yes right away. It was for an organization for a missing woman in Southern California. As we brainstormed on material cost and the process of printing shirts and masks, I realized that if we would be making them in large quantities, the HTV process was not an efficient way to do it. Waiting for the machine to finish cutting the vinyl and then weeding the unwanted part is time-consuming. I knew that another way to fulfill customize orders is screen printing, but I need a refresher as it has been a very long time since I used this method.

I had done shirt screen printing for my group of friends in high school before, and I was sure it would be the most cost-effective and efficient way to fulfill bulk orders. So, I searched and found YouTube videos of Pigskins and Pigtails that teach you screen printing on fabrics, boxes, and even napkins. What I had experienced when I was in high school is very different from what I learned from her videos. I no longer needed to print the image on an acetate sheet and use a light-reactive emulsion on the screen. Instead, I can do screen printing with just a cutting machine like Cricut, a heat transfer vinyl, a mesh screen, a squeegee, and water-based ink. I ordered all the materials needed and started printing in batches. With the help of my sister, we were able to print more than 400 masks and 200 shirts to sell and help fund their search effort!

Do you want to try your hand in screen printing and make Santa gift bags for the children, nieces, and nephews this coming holiday? Let’s go!

Materials

  • Muslin Cotton Drawstring Bags –The bags come in different quantities, colors and sizes. Choose the size and quantities you need and the color you like.
  • Fabric Ink – I use Speedball fabric inks, but you can use any water-based fabric. If you choose to print on dark-colored bags, Pigskin and Pigtails have an alternative solution to screen printing white ink on dark fabric.
  • Screen Printing Frame – I use a 10-inch x 14-inch Speedball 110 monofilament screen printing frame, but you can use any brand with a 110 mesh. Just make sure to get a frame that will fit the size of the design or cover the material you are printing into.
  • Screen Printing Squeegee – This tool pushes the ink through the mesh screen to the fabric.
  • Butcher Paper – To be put inside the bag to protect it in case ink bleeds through.
  • Permanent or Removable Vinyl – Since we are not putting this on a shirt, any glossy or matte color vinyl will work for this project.
  • Easy Press or Heat Press – Once the ink is dry, we must press it with heat to make it permanent.
  • Blue Tape – To cover the exposed areas where the ink can go through.
  • Optional: Heat Gun or Hair Dryer – I sometimes like to run the heat gun over the ink for a few seconds to get the ink dry faster.

Want to know where to get the materials needed for this project in the US?

You can buy all these items from Amazon, Michaels, Joann’s, or Hobby Lobby.

You will also need these:

  • Design Software – I am using Cricut Design Space to create the file. You can use Silhouette Studio for Silhouette machines.
  • Cutting machine –I am going to use a Cricut machine. You can use the Silhouette machines to cut vinyl.
  • Cutting Mat –Regular mat is used for the smooth removable or permanent types of vinyl. A cutting mat is unnecessary if you use Smart Vinyl on Cricut Joy, Explore Air 3, or Maker 3.
  • Transfer Tape – Standard grip will be used.
  • Weeding Tool – To remove the unwanted vinyl pieces.
  • Vinyl Squeegee – To smooth and adhere the vinyl to the screen.

Instructions

  1. Clean and Prep

  • Clean the area or table you will use to make space for your items for this project.
  • Protect your work surface with flat cardboard or plastic table cover in case of ink spillage.
  • Get the cutting machine ready and gather all the materials and tools needed.

  1. Download and Cut

  • Download Santa Gift Bag Merry Mail by TaraReedDesigns. Make sure to unzip the file and save it by itself, as Design Space does not accept files in a zip folder.
  • Open Cricut Design Space and upload the file.
  • Resize the image according to the size of the gift bags and the frame you are using. For example, if the bag dimension is 12 x 16 inches, and using a 10 x 14-inch frame, resize the image to fit 9 x 13 inches.

  • Once the image has been resized, add a weeding box that is at least ½ inch bigger all around.

  • When you are done, save the file and send it to the cutting machine. Make sure to choose the correct vinyl option (premium or removable) and that the vinyl is placed on the mat with the color facing up. Also, do not forget to mirror the image before cutting!

  1. Weed and Vinyl Application

Since we are using vinyl for screen printing, we will be weeding differently.

  • Remove the vinyl where we want the fabric ink to go.

  • Put transfer tape on the top.
  • Transfer the vinyl to the center of the backside, which is the flat side of the screen

  • Flip it over and run the squeegee to ensure that the vinyl sticks on the screen.

  • Then gently peel off the transfer tape.
  • Any exposed areas on the screen should be taped so the ink won’t go through.

  1. Bag Preparation and Ink Application

  • Prepare the ink by taking off the cap, having the squeegee and popsicle stick within a hand’s reach.

  • Prepare the bags by putting butcher paper inside the bag to prevent ink from going through the other side.

  • Smoothen the bag and keep it lying flat.
  • Run the lint roller on the bag.

  • Grab the spoon and dab the ink across the image.

  • Lift the screen a little so you can spread the ink all over the image.
  • Press down the screen frame and hold the squeegee at an angle as you spread the ink onto the image.

  • Slowly pull the screen up after three passes.
  • Let it dry.
  1. Repeat Step 4 until you are finished screen-printing all needed bags.

  2. Use HTV to put the kid’s name.

  3. Dry and Heat Set

  • You can use a heat gun or hairdryer to help speed up the drying process or leave it for six or more hours to air dry. I usually let it air dry for 12 hours.

  • Once dry, turn on the Easy Press and set the temperature to 320 degrees for 40 seconds.

  • When it reaches the set temperature, put a clean butcher paper on top of the bag and press it with medium pressure.

  1. Now it’s done!

Final Note:

Using heat transfer vinyl (HTV) to customize any fabric quickly is convenient. However, it is time-consuming when making large quantities of the same image. The new way of screen printing that I learned this year is easier and the most efficient and cost-effective way of printing in bulk quantities.

Have you thought about screen printing? If you have any questions, write them in the comments below, and I’ll try my best to answer them!


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