When it comes to art, there are countless ways to approach the same craft, but in the end all roads lead to Rome. Printed t-shirt manufacturing is no different. The goal is always the same: to make a good-looking garment, but methods can differ greatly.
Ever since the industrial revolution, human beings have always been looking for the faster, cheaper and most productive way to do things and for obvious reasons we tend to think that the answer is technology, but it isn’t necessarily the case.
The most primitive of techniques can be the answer to our problems. Sometimes it is so simple that even a child can do it — no, we’re not talking about finger paint, although we might save that one for another time: It’s Potato Printing!
A brief history of Potato Printing
The true origins of potato printing can be traced back to a relatively unknown artist by the name of Peggy Angus. This creative artist was an art professor in the North London Collegiate School after the Second World War, but she couldn’t teach because, as with almost anything after Hitler, art supplies were in highly short order. Potatoes, however, were not, and so miss Angus decided to get creative. Along with her students, Peggy would make playful designs and patterns on old newspapers using only potatoes and paint. This later evolved into the simplified version that we see today, in which children carve simple shapes in potatoes and use them to create art. Nonetheless the creativity of Miss Peggy Angus is undeniable, and the printing method does not have to be reserved just for children.
If you ever find yourself with some free time, and want to try something you probably haven’t done since you were in Kindergarten, give the good old tuber a printing a try.
How to print with tubers
To accomplish this task, you will only need four to five things: A potato, a knife, your T-shirt or garment of choice, and an optional cookie cutter design.
Take your potato and slice it in half (long-ways or through the middle depending on what kind of design you want). Safety always comes first, so if this is something you are doing with your kids, obviously do the cutting yourself.
Cut out your design about one cm into the potato. The parts of the potato that you slice away will not appear in the print, so you want the part sticking out to be your design. This is a kind of relief printing, so basically you are making a potato stamp*.
*You can also use a cookie cutter for this part, although you will not be able to get as creative. Simply stick the cookie cutter into the potato half, and cut around it to remove the excess.
Apply paint to the design on the potato. If you are trying to print a garment, screen-printing ink is the best choice, but acrylic paint will also do the job if you can’t find the first. If you are just doing this on paper or something disposable with your kids, then any kind of paint will do and finger paint will probably be the safest option.
Press down on your fabric with the potato. You’re going to want to press hard and hold it for a few seconds, unless you’re looking for an imperfect stamp of your design (which can actually look pretty cool if done right).
Depending on what kind of ink you are using; the print may need to heat-set your design. This can be done by taking an iron (without steam) to both sides for a minute or two.
And that’s it. This is a simple and easy process, and you may even have some fun while your doing it.
Got any more tips on Potato Printing? Then please let us know in the comments below or send us a message via any of our social media outlets. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.