Modern Makers Blog - Part 4: Screen Printing


Written by Modern Makers participant Emily Tough.

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It was lovely spending the day with Katy and Colin in Colin's studio. It was a sunny day and we took it in turns to recommend folk songs.

As Colin had warned; screen printing in 3 primary colours to achieve 9 colours proved to be very confusing. We had come with our preliminary sketches, each of us using a numbering method to help us determine where each colour would be going.

After a cuppa, we proceeded to trace these out. Being very careful to think about which part of the screen was to be blocked in. The initial colour was yellow, being the lightest of colours, then red, then blue. It was important to think about which bits to leave blank to achieve the desired colour, i.e. leave out the red if you're expecting green. We used Laskaux screen blocker, you paint this over your screen in the areas you would not like the paint to be transferred. So you're thinking in negative images while you paint.

Screen printing works basically through a stencil method. The ink cannot be transferred through the screen after the blocker has been applied. To transfer the ink you attach a frame with the screen to a suction bed, place your paper on the flat of the suction bed, fill your screen with acrylic ink and squeegee the ink through the mesh screen. You create a steady rhythm of paper transferral, ink flooding and ink transferring when screen printing. It’s very satisfying to enter this rhythmical zone of art making and its rewarding watching each print be produced. One of the exciting aspects is not quite knowing what you're going to make as you push the squeegee over your paper, I enjoy the surprising nature of this way of making. I know for Colin it’s the challenge of getting the prints to look the way he expects which he likes.

It’s of full importance to keep your registration right when using screen printing in this reduction method way. You do this with registration markers and a thorough use of masking tape. Something me and Katy both managed to mess up a little when moving onto the second half of our screen. The result is a slightly overlapping image, and it took a decent amount of time nudging our prints back and forth to get them centred.

Colin was very good at showing us the best methods of keeping the screens and equipment clean and nice. We used parcel tape to cover the unused bit of the screens, thus stopping any of the ink getting in unwanted areas. We were also advised on using the right amount of water and soap, also not to waste money on good brushes here, as the blocking fluid is lethal to a paint brush.

I really enjoyed this way of making and would love to do more! I must admit I had a hard time of planning my piece out, and in fact had to cheat by using an additional colour to save my prints (the red fish tail). But I know that this is just because I use a very serendipitous way of creating. However I think that my philosophy of haphazard making could be used effectively on the screen beds and I would be interested in experimenting more with them.

Written by Modern Makers participant Emily