Toxic Burrito Screen Printing Extravaganza!

Last Friday morning, as the first snowfall of the season lay spread across the ground, the Little Lake Learning Community students and volunteers participated in a DIY screen-printing workshop.  Led by former student and current volunteer Paige Brown-Danovi, the workshop provided students with a hands-on opportunity to print their own T-shirts and back-patches! The screen-printing design was created by Paige herself as a reference to “Toxic Burrito”, a song she wrote with the legendary Little Lake-originated band, “The Krill.”  Among eager workshop participants were students Max, Jenna and Asa, as well as volunteer Amory Zhou-Kourvo.

The Sustainable, Locally Sourced, Free-Range, Made-To-Order TOXIC Burrito!

Workshop participants worked their way through three separate piles of clothing and accessories, using one of three colors of a special water-based, screen-printing ink for each pile.  The first pile was printed in white ink, the second in black and the third was printed in red ink. The ink is a pudding consistency and comes in a can, and, according to Max, “It kind of smells like mushrooms!”

T-shirts, ink and design frame all ready to start!

More T-shirts ready to go!

Paige walked the participants and I through the entire printing process.  First, the article to be printed was laid out on the printing surface. T-shirts were pre-stuffed with a piece of scrap paper in the area to be printed so that the ink would not bleed through to the other side of the shirt.  The screen-printing frame was prepped ahead of time by Paige and laid out over the desired area to be printed. Ink was then spooned onto the top portion of the screen-printing frame and a squeegee was used to pull the ink across the frame from top to bottom.

Paige demonstrates to Max how to spoon ink onto the design frame.

Using the squeegee to transfer ink across the entire frame.

Admiring the finished product!

Paige encouraged the participants to use both hands and to go over the parts of the screen which had ink coverage gaps until they were uniformly covered.  Once the printing screen had been sufficiently inked, the frame was carefully lifted up. Participants had a chance to admire their work and then transfer the finished article to a cleared section of table or floor space to dry flat, ink-side up.  The design frame was then carefully washed by hand between ink colors.

Jenna prints her own T-shirt!

Asa tries a hand at the printing process!

Amory is excited by the finished product!


Paige explained that once the shirts were all printed, they would first need to air dry and then heat-set in order to retain color saturation.  Heat setting options include either using an iron or a hair dryer for a minute on the air-dried article, or just tossing it in the dryer for twenty minutes.

According to Paige, industrial printing works the same way as the DIY process does, from spreading the ink to heat-setting, except machines take care of the printing process and shirts are heat-set in a giant oven!

Paige washes the design frame in between ink colors.


Paige originally taught herself to screen-print through a combination of Internet resources and trial and error.  She is currently taking a printing class at Eastern Michigan University, where she is studying secondary education in her final year at the Early College Alliance high school program.  She can often be found at Little Lake on a Friday, sharing her talents and interests with students! At some point in the next few weeks, she plans to walk student Adam through screen-printing a T-shirt with a custom design of his cartoon character, “Glerg.”

The finished T-shirts air-dry and await heat-setting by Paige.