My Yudu Experience: Making Custom Tee Shirts for the Kids

April 4, 2010

I received a Yudu Machine for Christmas. In case you haven't heard of Yudu, it's a device that helps you to create silk screens. With the silk screen you can apply ink onto tee shirts, tote bags, invitations, you name it. I would like to offer my recommendation and advice in regards to this amazing little machine. When used correctly, it can be fun and cost effective.

First, I really am excited to share my experience because I have a feeling some of you have considered purchasing one for yourself. My first warning is that the machine itself is quite expensive. If you can find it on sale, the machine will cost you about $200. However, that's nothing compared to the cost of the materials. If you purchase strictly Yudu products it can potentially cost you $7 per design not including the ink or the shirt itself. Including the shirt and ink, it's closer to $15. If you were using the same design for many shirts that estimate would change. However, I believe most people use the Yudu for one or two tee shirts per design.


With the introduction of Zazzle, the idea of making your own silk screened shirt has become less attractive. Zazzle can make a tee shirt with my own custom design in multiple colors for only $21.45 that's including shipping.


REDUCING COSTS

To make a screen you must use emulsion sheets (emulsion is a light sensitive chemical). Each sheet bought through Yudu costs $10 a piece! What?! That's a lot considering it's very easy to ruin a sheet and you must use one sheet per project. I looked for cheap sheets online and came across
liquid emulsion. So I bought some. It came in a 1 quart container. It says one quart will coat 30-50 screens but it also says to use one coat on each side of your screen which isn't necessary. So you could potentially get 100 screens out of one quart for only $35 including shipping. That's only 35 cents a sheet compared to $10 per sheet!

The inkjet transparencies are another cost issue. Yudu sells a pack of 5 for $10. That's $2 a sheet. I went on Stuff4print and bought 100 inkjet transparencies specifically intended for silk screening for only $37 with free shipping. That's only 37 cents a sheet. It's VERY important that you use transparencies designed for the type of printer you're going to print your design on. I'll explain later.

I've got the cost down to 72 cents a shirt rather than $7 AND I buy my tee shirts on sale for about $2.50 a piece at Michaels. So all together I can make a silk screen and shirt for a total of $3.22! Not bad.

As far as ink is concerned, it hasn't been a cost issue. I scrap off my unused ink and put it back in the bottle. I also use a 40% off coupon at Michaels (which you can get from the Michaels smart phone app). I only pay about $10 for three bottles which
 last for many uses.

THE LIQUID EMULSION
Using the liquid emulsion is much cheaper than using Yudu's emulsion sheets. It dries much more evenly and faster. It also coats your ENTIRE screen rather than a small 8.5x11 space.
HOWEVER, it is a lot messier and takes some hand and eye coordination to apply. That's your only drawback. Once you get the hang of the application, it's easier than using the emulsion sheets. The instructions that came with my kit said to coat both sides of the screen. I've found that to be unnecessary. I only coated one side, reduced my exposure time and achieved a good result.
MY TROUBLESHOOTING

When we first decided to try our hand at using the machine we were making a present for Brian's friend whom he visited the following day. This was a bad, bad idea. Our first few attempts were failures. I was up until 2am that morning with a cold doing the finishing touches on a shirt with many mistakes. Bummer.

Let me tell you my experience so that if you decide to try the Yudu you won't struggle as we had. Our biggest problem was rinsing off the emulsion after we had exposed the screen to light.


If you are not familiar with screen printing it works this way....you print an image on a transparency. You coat your screen with a light sensitive chemical (emulsion). You put an image underneath your coated screen. You then expose the screen and image to a very intense light placed underneath. The emulsion that is exposed to the light hardens. The emulsion that was hidden by your image remains soft and comes off easily when you rinse it with cold water. You're left with a screen that has a hole in the shape of your image. You then wipe ink over the entire screen with a squeegee and the ink seeps through the areas without emulsion thus creating your design on your printed tee!


Sounds simple. Right?
Every time we tried to do this we couldn't rinse the unexposed emulsion after exposing it to the light. IT WOULD JUST NOT COME OFF! And when we resorted to scrubbing, the finer details of the design were rubbed off too. After 4 or 5 screens I figured out my problem. First, my transparency wasn't opaque enough. Therefore some light was getting through the image while I was exposing the screen to light, thus slightly hardening the emulsion.

If the image on your transparency isn't solid black this will happen. At first, I had set my printer to "normal" on "regular paper". I then set it to "transparency" which was even worse. Finally, I set it to "fine", "regular paper", "vivid colors" and I got a very black solid result. However, I could see that some light was still going to make it through the image so I also reduced the exposure time to 5 minutes and 20 seconds rather than the recommended 8 minutes. After that the emulsion came out like butter. No scrubbing, no rubbing, just the spray hose in my sink.

One more thing! I coated my screen on the side without the lip and when I exposed the screen I placed the side with the emulsion against the transparency so that there was no space between the screen and the design. This reduces the amount of light exposed to your design.


SUCCESS!

Unfortunately, it wasn't before I had made the shirt for Brian's friend which came out smudged. But as you can see the shirts featured in this post came out great!

There are some faded areas in the letters but I think that can be solved by using more ink and a better squeegee. Yudu provides a hard plastic one but if you go to Michaels you can buy a soft rubber one. And always use their 40% off coupon.

So, I hope this post has helped someone who either has the Yudu and gave up or someone who was considering purchasing it but was on the fence. If you have any more questions just ask them in the comments below and I will try to answer them as best I can!


42 {comments}:

Sarah said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for sharing your experience! My husband and I have tried silk screening without the Yudu machine and have wondered if the machine would be easier. And we had the same problem trying to spray off the screen. Thanks for the tips!

Mandy McDonald said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for this! My brother and I have been wanting to get a Yudu but we weren't digging the cost. You've just done all the homework for us! I think we'll make the jump now from freezer paper stenciling to Yudu. Thanks again. We really appreciate it.

Angie said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I bought a Yudu last year, but the cost for the supplies were just too much to keep using it, and it has been sitting my crafting closet. Now I can get it back out!

Do you know if there are other inks out there that you can use on the Yudu screen besides the ones specifically designed for it? The colors are so limited. There's no navy, and the white ink is horrible.I'd love to know if there was another option. Thanks!!!

joolee said... Best Blogger Tips

Awesome tips!! I've been wanting to buy a Yudu, after having had a screen printing job every summer during high school and college (which I LOVED!). I was wondering about the whole process and how it would be different from a regular screen printing press. Do you need to heat dry the ink afterwards?

June said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, that was a lot of troubleshooting!!! I'm sure every Yudu user is going to google their way to this page. Good for you for sticking to it and figuring it out!

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

Angie,
I haven't researched inks as much....yet. For now, I have found another white ink for you here:

http://diyteeshirts.com/products/34

As for the navy, you could try mixing the black and blue inks. But I'll look into screen printing inks more and see if there are any better ones out there. Also, I'm guessing different inks require different curing methods so if you do buy another ink research how you should handle drying it before you are done.

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

Joolee,
I've never done screenprinting except with the yudu so I'm not sure how it differs from using a press.

But one thing that might not be obvious is that the yudu machine has a drying rack inside so you slide your screen into it and set the timer.

And yes, yudu does tell you to use a hot iron over a piece of cloth with your tee shirt underneath for about 30 seconds. It was easy enough. I haven't washed the shirts yet. So if I have problems with the ink staying on I'll let you know.

Mich said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks! I've been eyeing the Yudu for a while but I couldn't justify the cost. Have you tried using the Yudu on paper as well? I heard you can supposedly use it to make cards and such but I haven't found anyone that's actually tried that before.

Courtney Price ~ Vintage Ginger Peaches said... Best Blogger Tips

That sounds like a HUGE pain! I think I'll stick to freezer paper! I have a tutorial here, I'm not sure if you've posted something on it here or not:
http://www.vintagegingerpeaches.com/2009/08/tutorial-iron-on-madness.html
If you already have a machine that cuts (like a cricuit or something) freezer paper is super easy too because it does all the hard work for ya!

Heather said... Best Blogger Tips

I've been printing shirts for myself and for my roller derby league for the past 6 months or so, and since none of us are rolling in dough this is what I've done to reduce costs, with good results:

Transparencies - I have not used a single transparency yet! Vellum paper is an amazing substitute. I think I bought a pack of 50 sheets for around $2 at Michaels, using a coupon, that I found in the wedding invitation/fancy paper section.

The Speedball Emulsion kit works in place of the emulsion sheets, though I will admit that if I'm pressed for time the emulsion sheets can't be beat for how much faster and cleaner they are.

Speedball Fabric Ink is what I use instead of buying the Yudu ink (what a rip-off!)...I buy 8 oz. jars at Dick Blick. The Yudu white ink doesn't cover so well on dark shirts, I've found the Speedball ink gives you much better coverage.

Buy a better squeegee!! I bought a big heavy rubber one, with a nice wooden handle and found that my shirts came out nicer than with the sorry excuse for a squeegee they include with the machine.

marissa said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow thanks so much for the detailed feedback. By any chance have you tried regular old freezer paper printing? I wonder how it compares. Also I don't know if you have a cricut but I read somehwere about people using vinyl or freezerpaper cut on their cricuts in combination with their yudus

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

Heather,
I'd be very interested in trying your vellum suggestion! When I run out of the transparencies I will give it a try!

The speedball emulsion kit is basically the same thing I used but I think yours is cheaper. I'll have to try it the next time I buy some. My kit included a long applicator which made it easier for me. But I wondered if it would be just as easy to brush it on?

I will have to try the speedball ink! Thanks for the good tips! We used to have dickblick a couple blocks from my house but it moved. I think it's still close but I'll have to look it up to find out where. I thought they'd have some pretty good alternatives!

Thanks again for your good advice!

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

Marissa,
I haven't tried the freezer paper idea but I have heard of it. I think someone else left a comment about it and her tutorial link.

I'd be very curious how crisp the results were with the freezer paper compared to the screen.

One thing that would be a problem with using the cricut for cutting a design would be if your design had details in the middle of it. A complicated picture, like a person's face, would undoubtedly have pieces inside the shape.

Plus you can reuse a screen and save it for later. I think when you peel off the freezer paper it's unusable.

But it still seems like a VERY good alternative to purchasing an EXPENSIVE machine and great for small projects.

Paper Lady Invites said... Best Blogger Tips

What sweet girls! Thanks for sharing!
-chelsey

Myshell said... Best Blogger Tips

I just want to say that, "YOU LOOK SMOKIN" HOT!" for a mama with a fairly new little babe....cheers!

Ashley said... Best Blogger Tips

I don't know if this would work with you Yudu, but Ashley at lilblueboo give instructions on how to use contact paper for screen printing here: http://lilblueboo.blogspot.com/2010/01/screenprinting-techniques-using-contact.html. It sounds like it might be easier than the emulsion stuff (although I've never screen printed, so I wouldn't know!)

Angie said... Best Blogger Tips

Great information! Thanks Kathleen! I'll definitely look into the diyteeshirts for the white ink, and hopefully I can actually start to save some money instead of constantly putting it out!

matchgirl said... Best Blogger Tips

wow! you have solved my problem! I was going to get this machine and try it out on some projects but figured it probably wasn't worth the $$. Thank you much!

p.s. nice blog! just found it through a friend.

Julie said... Best Blogger Tips

YAY!! We have a Yudu and were using the emulsion sheets, but it was SO expensive...so then we bought some liquid emulsion, which per screen costs WAY less, but we weren't getting the results we did with the sheets. I think we'll have to try your tip of only coating one side and changing our exposure time.

*sigh* I DO love how easy the sheets are, though, even though that must be what makes it so expensive.

emmylou said... Best Blogger Tips

I love your bangs!

Cheilita said... Best Blogger Tips

First of all, I can't wait to try this with you. Second of all, YOU LOOK FREAKING GREAT! and you just had a baby how long ago. seriously. so pretty. hope to see you this friday. i'll be begging for your help with my stupid serger. ta ta!

Bella Loves Julia said... Best Blogger Tips

Love the t-shirts. The Yudu is too expensive for me, so I have to stick to heat transfers and the freezer paper. By the way, love your hair! You look amazing!!

Steph said... Best Blogger Tips

O.M.G that shirt is AWESOME. I forgot to breathe for a second there. BSG forever! I wanted to try screenprinting to try more complicated stuff than I can manage with freezer-paper stencils. Now I want a Yudu just to make awesome shirts like that. P.S. Have you seen Firefly? If you like Battlestar Galactica, you'll like Firefly.

SummersDesigns said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for letting us know how this worked and some ways to save on costs. I saw this on tv the other day and wondered how well it worked. Now, if I decide to get one in the future I will know what to do! Thanks again!

ChasingRays said... Best Blogger Tips

::birds chirping:: Thank you SOOO much for this, Ive been obbsessed with the Yudu since i saw the infomercial (but then again I am a HUGE infomercial sucker) and was planning on getting one, I think i will hold off till I want to make a lot of the same shirt for a birthday party or something, but this post will definetly save me A LOT of trouble when the time comes. Thanks thanks thanks for the review!

Jan said... Best Blogger Tips

I do silkscreening using emulsion and lamps. Does the Yudu come with screens you can coat. I usually stretch the screens with fabric, coat them with emulsion, and burn them. What do you use as screens? Thanks as I have thought about getting a Yudu.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Im having a problem with emulsion washing out that is not suppose to was out..its almost like my sheets are ddefected..anyone having this problem.what could that be? im ruining emulsion sheets and screens!

gabriela said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for your info. It is so helpful!!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I use my Cricut on some of my stuff instead of the emulsion. I take the vinyl for the cricut and cut out my image on the lined side and it work great, and very easy to clean up. My cricut cartridges gave me a lot more ideas to work with and I buy my Vinyl sheets on ebay. I got 12 x 12 and cut them in half. So I got 20 sheets for 17.99.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

You're cute.

katy jo. said... Best Blogger Tips

Did you have any problems with the liquid emulsion washing off completely? I've tried to use it on 6 screens now and every time I go to rinse off the burnt image the entire screen washes off.
I would rather use the liquid emulsion, but thus far it has been nothing but money and problems. When I put the emulsion on it's greenish in color, but I can't find any one with enough knowledge to let me know if this is right or not. Thus far your blog has been the most helpful and informative-even more so than Yudu's website! I appreciate the help and LOVE the shirt!

katy jo. said... Best Blogger Tips

Did you have any problems with the liquid emulsion washing off completely? I've tried to use it on 6 screens now and every time I go to rinse off the burnt image the entire screen washes off.
I would rather use the liquid emulsion, but thus far it has been nothing but money and problems. When I put the emulsion on it's greenish in color, but I can't find any one with enough knowledge to let me know if this is right or not. Thus far your blog has been the most helpful and informative-even more so than Yudu's website! I appreciate the help and LOVE the shirt!

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

Katy jo,
I don't know if you saw but I had that problem and I figured out that my transparency wasn't opaque enough. Therefore some light was getting through the image on the transparency while I was exposing the screen to light, slightly hardening the emulsion.

If the image on your transparency isn't solid black this will happen. At first, I had set my printer to 'normal' on regular paper. I then set it to 'transparency' which was EVEN WORSE. Finally, I set it to fine, regular paper, vivid colors and I got a very black solid result. However, I could see that some light was still going to make it through the image so I ALSO only exposed my screen for 5 minutes and 20 seconds rather than the 8 minutes that is recommended. After that the emulsion came out LIKE BUTTA. No scrubbing, no rubbing, just the hard spray hose in my sink.

JessieMomma said... Best Blogger Tips

I have just been loaned a YUDU machine from my kids' school. We are a small school and would like to print our own shirts for fundraisers. I've wanted to play with one for a long time and I'm excited to get one for the summer! Thank you for your great explanations! I am feeling much more confident now!

JessieMomma said... Best Blogger Tips

I have recently been allowed to borrow a YUDU machine from my kids's school - to try to figure out how to use it for making our own school shirts. I'm equal parts excited and nervous to try it. Thanks for all of your ideas and tips! You have given me confidence to jump in!

Excalibur said... Best Blogger Tips

This is great information about the Yudu machine. I got mine on sale and haven't use it yet. All the paint was on sale or I used a coupon. That is the only way I purchase items. I have had this machine for 2 years and now I am going to use it. Your instructions and items researched are exceptional and will help me defrail the cost and I like your example of using the liquid emulsion. Thanks

Alvin Payne said... Best Blogger Tips

Nice custom tees. Very cool. I'm looking to do the same thing. Where do you get your screen printing aluminum frames? I'm looking for the right kind to use for my business. Thank you.

Jen K said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for your blog. Your post really helped me, as the first screen I tried to expose failed miserably. After searching around I discovered I had a pre-sensitized liquid emulsion, Ulano QX-1, and hadn't paid attention to my lighting situation when I put the emulsion on (which happened to be broad daylight). So, I cleaned my failed screen and then after it was dry I put emulsion on at night in the dark, except for one very low light source (wasn't a yellow safe light, but it worked). Then I put my screen in the Yudu drying rack and let it dry overnight, without the fan. Then the next night I exposed my screen to 2 transparencies of my image taped together to make the impression even darker and also weighted the top down heavily. Then I only exposed for 4 minutes 30 seconds, and when I washed it out it slowly became a miracle - it worked! It looks very crisp and detailed. I haven't actually pulled a print yet, but was very happy to get to this point. So, thanks very much for your post - it helped immeasurably. Cheers!

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

@Jen KOh Jen, I'm so happy to hear that! I know how frustrating it can be. The machine itself is so expensive that you just CAN'T not make it work right?! So glad you (and I) figured it out. Not that simple though!

Micheal Jim said... Best Blogger Tips

It seems so helpful and I will surely follow your tips. Am so new for this but I can try on my t-shirts

southmom3kids said... Best Blogger Tips

I just got a yudu and I've been reading about how to use it and watching you tube videos. So, when I thought I was ready I tried to follow the instructions. I went to wash the cream after I burned the image and the emulsion sheet slid right off!! I don't know what I did wrong? I don't want to waste another emulsion sheet! It only comes with two :(

Kathleen Frances said... Best Blogger Tips

@southmom3kidsIt sounds like the emulsion sheet needed to be exposed longer. But I have to agree, it's really tricky to find the exact time because if you over expose then you the image won't come off either. The emulsions sheets are so stinking expensive that's why I bought the emulsion liquid. It's pretty much endless. The sheets are a rip off! But I'd just try exposing it for a few minutes longer. I'm used to doing it with the liquid so I can't give you an exact time but it should be dry after you take it out of the dryer.

 
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