Jess Hutch.

Monday, July 24, 2006

screen printing

Hi there. I went away for a few days (I might post about that later this week), but now I'm going to share some photos of the screenprinting process. This won't be a tutorial, I'm not quite qualified to teach anyone just yet - there are many good guides online, however, and I'll point you to a couple. So I hope this inspires you to try silkscreening, just make sure to follow the instructions of a qualified professional! Printing is fun but can be pretty messy, and it involves a lot of strange chemicals, so keep that in mind if you have kids or pets (we put Chuy in the back room during a lot of these steps).

A few more points - I guess technically it's called "screen printing", since silk is not generally used anymore, but I like calling it "silkscreening" because it sounds cool and old-fashioned. It seems the terms can be used interchangably, at least that's what I've observed, so that's what I'll do too. Also, I recommend the Print Gocco kit if big messes aren't your thing - it's a quicker & easier way to do small screen prints - I just really wanted to make bigger prints and wanted to try the silkscreening thing. Both methods are marvelous.

Now for the tutorials. By far the best I've found online is this one at No Media Kings, by Shannon Gerard. The photos and written descriptions helped immensely. Speedball, maker of many fine screenprinting products, also offers an updated copy of its screenprinting manual online here, just click on "Screen Printing Instructions" which opens a pdf. It also helps a lot to have someone on hand who's done it before - I asked Jeff about a million questions.

So here are some photos of the process. These are pretty small - click on them to go to the flickr page for each.

Burning a screen (or rather, a stencil on a screen). You take your image(s) to your local copy shop, and copy them onto transparencies. Then you coat the screen with emulsion, let it dry, then expose it to light with the transparencies laying on top - the part of the screen under the image stays soft and rinses out. The emulsion on the part of the screen that was exposed to the light hardens, and creates a stencil. The ink goes through the open part of the screen and you have a print.

Here are the two screens I used with the images burned in. The blobby one with no detail was for the blue-green, the outliney one is for the red outline. There's a brownish-red box around the image on the larger screen because the glass I used to hold the transparency flush to the screen left a little shadow. No biggins, I just used screen filler to fill the lines in - that's the brownish-red stuff.

A lovely tip from Ms. Gerard - especially great for printing with fabric, which seems like it'd be hard to line up perfectly for multi-color prints - tape a sheet of acetate to your work surface, do the first print of the second color on that, then use it to line up each print after that. You need to make sure your screenprinting base is well secured, too.

Dabbity-dabbin' the ink. I used a spoon, but there are probably better tools out there. By the way, if you use red ink, prepare for a gory clean-up job. Yikes!

This is where the magic happens. It helps to have someone else hold down the edge of the screen to get a good solid print, but one person could do it no probs.

Here's a completed print! Stunning.

I laid all the prints out to dry (and kept Chuy far, far away from them). If you're printing on fabric, you'll need to iron the prints (or put them in the oven, whatever the ink instructions say) to set the image. The top middle print is off-register because I thought it would look neat; it does. I've been watching a lot of Pee-wee's Playhouse because the kind folks at Cartoon Network are showing it in reruns (bless them) - I think I was going for that look! So blame Gary Panter.

There you go! Process photos. More accomplished 'screeners, feel free to leave comments with suggestions, corrections, links to other tutorials, etc. And go ahead and email me if you have trouble getting started, and I'll try to help you out! It's really the most fun.

Many thanks to Jeff for taking the photos of me printing.


At 10:02 PM , Anonymous said...

In the process where you expose the screen there is a surefire way to get a clean result:
cut a piece of foam the size of the INSIDE of the screen. You place the screen on top of that and put your image on the "outside" of the screen. Lay a piece of plexiglass LARGER than the screen on top and voila! no marks to clean up. The foam is insurance that there won't be any gaps in the exposure.

Also, when designing the screens you can always create registration or "reg marks" in the corner of your design out of print range. When you make your two designs you put a little half moon in the upper right hand corner. You do the same with your second screen so when you place them (the images) both on top of each other they line up perfectly. When you place the images on the screen gets a little tricky but not too much:

On each screen draw a straight line in the direction of the flat of the moon ON THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR SCREEN. Don't worry, the pencil will NOT leave an emulsion spot. Place your half moon on the line and expose the screens. When you print just line up the moons and presto! easy perfect prints.

At 10:53 AM , jen said...

Gosh that's cool, I've always wondered how it was done! It looks fun, and your prints are very sweet :) I like the "not quite lined up" one a lot too.

At 12:16 PM , alyssa said...

This is so great and helpful! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

At 3:49 PM , Jeff said...

I'm so glad you posted this info...more people ought to give screenprinting a shot. It really is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

At 6:41 PM , cynic the lamb said...

How cool!

At 12:09 PM , cheryl said...

thank you!

At 4:55 PM , vegasandvenice said...

oooh jess I am in LOVE with these prints and it is so cool to see your process! Yay for you!

At 12:43 AM , sonia said...

great! thanks for sharing! just one question. I also want to screen printting in fabric, but with a gocco. do you think that i can use speedball ink? they have so many cool colours!



At 4:03 AM , sara aires said...

I can't wait to try it out! Thanks a milion!

At 12:29 PM , Nanc said...

This was a great post and I picked up a couple tips from it and the linked tutorial.

Here's our tutorial(s): (Actually, the link is to #3 of 4... we're slowly working on this last post.)

At 7:57 PM , Jules Knoblock said...

what sort of light did you use?
I've done some screen printing before using the same method. I kept my pre-exposed frames in a cardboard box wrapped in black plastic. Then I converted my laundry into a darkroom to set up the screen ready for exposure; and took it out into the sun to expose.
You can use a coin in the corner of the screen as an indicator. The emulsion changes colour when it exposes and you can move the coin to see if it has.
Also the tip using foam is excellent, it also helps to sandwhich it all together nice and tight so the image is hard up against the screen and you don't end up with blurry edges. I used a heavy piece of glass.

At 9:02 AM , hutch said...

i love this medium


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