For my latest project, I’m playing with all kinds of new materials! I haven’t screenprinted in over a year, and so it was quite the experience trying to remember how to do it after so long away, and especially only having done it a whole one time before. Well, I can’t believe I stayed away from something that allows me to use protective material for so long.
The first thing I needed for this was, obviously, an image – and this is where my love for photoshop and how easy it is to transfer images comes in. You see, as I’ve been working I naturally make up a metric TONNE of thumbnails for potential images. Given that I decided that this endeavour into the world of printing would need to be a whole test, not just one artists proof, I decided to simply take a photo of the thumbnail I was going to use, whack it into PS, then turn it into the art necessary for screenprinting which is actually pretty easy, because at least I remembered THAT part of it all.
As you can see, the image itself is pretty simple, and yes, most of my thumbnails do look like this, or even simpler, with things simplified into weird blocky shapes that I think look cool. Anyway, I put this into dropbox, then opened it in Photoshop, blacked out each part of the image I wanted to be a new colour (this was going to be a four colour screenprint, so that meant four separate layers of blacked out parts) and then separated each layer into its own document to print on my very boring household printer, and that was that.
The next day was the actual screenprinting business, so with images in hand I set about making my somewhat ambitious dreams a reality. Luckily, my university has wonderful technicians on hand to help out of we need it, so if (and, inevitably when) I got horribly, horribly confused, I knew I had someone to attack for answers.
Doubly luckily, there was a screen that was already coated and ready to go when I arrived, so I didn’t have to worry about coating it with emulsion myself, though it would have been good practise. Maybe next time.
I taped the images I had made to the outside of the silkscreen, though I didn’t leave enough room between one of my images and the edge of the screen but I wouldn’t learn this until later. I then placed the screen on the exposing unit, double checking the exposure times. You have to lay the screen on the unit so that your images are between the glass and the screen, then close the top, secure it with the clamps, and switch on the vacuum. Then it’s just a matter of switching it on, waiting for the lamp to come on, and watching the timer (or timing appropriately) til it’s done. Then you just remove it from the unit, wash it off with a decently pressurised cold water tap, and watch in awe as everything that was black on your printouts breaks away to show where you’re going to print through the coating on the screen. It’s really quite great actually.
After that, it was into the drying unit for a while then out again to have two more exposures, minus the vacuum and printouts, as a hardening process to keep the screen as well as possible after I abuse the heck out of it.
Once this was done, I was pretty much ready to print! Though I still had a lot to learn. It was easy attaching the screen to the table, and getting everything sorted and ready to go, though I totally forgot how to register my screenprints so everything lined up properly. It was only later that I got some help how to do it, and honestly, the answer was so obvious that I was kicking myself for not thinking about it. It was simply a matter of screenprinting my first image, using it as a registration proof by attaching one (or two) long strips of paper to the back of it, and manoeuvring it under the screen until it all lined up nicely. Really Dáire?? You couldn’t have thought of that yourself??? Anyway, self punishing aside, once that was done, I just marked the spot with some registration tabs and everything went swimmingly. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to make more!
I’ll be selling some of these tests for a reduced price at the start of May in my shop! So keep an eye out for that!