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serigraph 101 : printmaking : screen filler reduction method

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May. 22nd, 2006 | 12:01 pm
posted by: nicci in ilovesmesomeart

from the drawing on the left to the print on the right

this started out as a tutorial for an 18 color serigraph. but life got in the way, and i haven't finished it yet. it's not going to be 18 colors in the end, but you can get the idea of how to do a multiple color reduction serigraph from this tutorial! it's a long one, with lots of pix.

progress with dialup at your own risk. xox

if you would like to view this tutorial as it first appeared in my LJ, follow this link day by day: http://anongrrl.livejournal.com/2006/01/14/

and so it begins: serigraph 101 : materials

step 01: gathering materials.

# old drafting table modified with heavy plexi + screen clamps
# metal screen taped off
# large A clamp
# squeegee
# rubber spatula
# not pictured: inks, paper, cups, stirs (disposable spoons or popsicle sticks), paper towels, mylar
# music

serigraph 101 : setup

setup, ready to go.

# note the mylar taped down to the plexi (with red tape). this provides both protection for my template as i block out colors and also nifty flip registration (which is by far the most low maintenance and accurate registration method i have ever used).

serigraph 101 : preparing your screen

trace your print area onto the screen.

# be sure that when you trace onto your screen, you use a plastic ruler, since it's less likely to punch a hole in your screen. be careful when you draw on the screen that you don't poke a hole with your pencil.
# you trace around the area you will be printing--the entire area--just the perimeter.

# the grid looking stuff on the screen is just a ghost/ink stain from previous printings. i was experimenting with some different inks. your screen will only be pristine once--and that's when you first get it screened new. this screen is well used, hence the stains.
# ink stains do not effect your printing. only ink or emulsion or filler clogs will interfere--so just be sure the screen is open, ie unclogged.

serigraph 101 : preparing your screen 2

taped on popsicle stick bits wrapped in tape to seal them, for snap distance.

# what is snap distance? it's the distance between your screen and the surface of your printing area. it's the distance your screen 'snaps' back in the wake of the squeegee which presses the screen and ink to the paper. too much causes uneven printing. too little causes sticking of the screen to the paper, and mooshing of the ink.

# here i used a popsicle stick cut into fourths, stacked two pieces on each side, and sealed with super tacky plastic tape to hold them onto the bottom edges of the screen (opposite the clamps that hold it to the table), and keep water from saturating them.

serigraph 101 : screen filler

painted & squeegeed screen filler into screen (it is orange-red).

# the red is the screen filler. it does that it says, fills the screen. this is a block that keeps the ink from going through. usually it's a little darker red. this screen filler seems to be a bit thin, like water was added to it. i am going to go ahead and try it. hopefully the ink wont break through.

# to apply screen filler, i like to first start with a small brush and go carefully around the edges of the area i traced. i paint out about 1/2 inch around it, and then use a tiny etching squeegee, or some sort of cut piece of small mat board and lightly pull the filler over the screen. i usually do both sides. sometimes i will do 2 coats on the front and one on the back if i know i am doing a large print run.

# if you splatter ink in the printing area, just squirt it with a water bottle very quickly, dab it with a paper towel, and lift the screen carefully to dab the other side. squirt and dab until the screen doesn't look pink in the printable area.

# if you need to remove the screen filler and redo, hot water takes it out. if it doesn't wanna come out, use mr. clean, soak for 5 mins, scrub with a hand brush or other hard bristled brush, then rinse with hot water. if that doesn't work, (which is silly, it should!) just take the whole screen to the car wash, put in your change, and pressure wash that sucker!

# i usually heat set my screen filler with a hair dryer to be sure it's dry.

# by the way, my screen is not blue. all that blue is tape. i taped the crap out of the screen a few inches away from the edges because 1) i print small anyway, 2) i hate trying to scrape ink out of the cracks.

serigraph 101 : placing your templates

template through screen.

# when you're ready to start your printing, re-attach your screen to your printing surface via the hinged clamps. you must line up your template below your blocked out screen. you can see through the screen, so it's just a matter of lifting the screen, adjusting the positioning, lifting, readjusting, etc until it's under there and lining up.

screen up, marking corners.

# next you want to lift the screen. since my table has a plexi coat, i used sharpie to draw directly onto the table, noting little angles where the edges of the template rest. (i didn't want t have to line it up each time i switch colors, so i made marks. theoretically you could register the template the same way i will show you to register the paper, but humor me ;).

# be sure you LIFT your mylar before you do this (assuming you are going to use the mylar flop registration). you want the template under the mylar, because when you are painting, you flip the mylar down to protect your template from getting any screen filler on it.

serigraph 101 : placing your templates 2

mylar dropped

# after i placed both of my templates, i carefully dropped the mylar down on top of them. i made sure not to shift them under the screen. this is a little tricker when you have two templates so close to each other. paper tends to shift easily. (some people like to lightly spray their printing surface/table with a dose of repositionable spray adhesive, but i don't particularly like it. it makes the back of prints tacky. ew.)

registration of both templates through screen

# drop your screen down to be sure your alignment is correct. If it is, and you're sure nothing shifted, you can begin printing. on this particular screen, i have a challenge because the ghosts of old printings are haunting me, and making it difficult to see certain colors through the screen. this isn't an exact method of printing. i am basically taking a colored pencil drawing and translating it into flat colors not with a pencil or photo stencil, but with a brush and some fluid. with a small enough brush, you can get pretty accurate, but it's still a translation, and the process changes the image--develops it further.

serigraph 101 : blocking before your first color (paper shows through)

blocked out screen--white

# i have some white areas in my print. i am going to preserve some of the white from the paper in my print. i could, if i really wanted to, print an entire base coat of white. i rarely do that. first i paint out, with screen filler, the areas in the screen that i want to remain white, as you can see here.

# depending on the size of your stencil, and the technique you're going for, you can use all kinds of things to apply screen filler. i like to use a small brush. i have a couple different ones.
# note: the reason it doesn't look lined up quite right is because the photo is taken at an angle for visual interest! ;)

serigraph 101 : mixing ink

ink about to be mixed

# when mixing ink, be aware that it always dries down darker than it looks when you're mixing it. also, if you start off two colors with the same amount of white and yellow in them, then you toss a little more yellow in one color, it may be vastly darker when it's dry, even if the wet ink looks pretty similar. ink's tricky. color matching isn't easy, so don't get your heart set on an exact color unless you have a color mixing book and you're feelin' uber meticulous.

# the materials i am using to mix my colors are: acrylic inks by speedball (some of my inks are textile inks... i use them interchangeably, though the textile inks are thinner, so you have to be careful about additives and pressure when printing. thinner inks tend to moosh under your screen more easily. i am also using jumbo popsicle sticks to mix the ink, plastic cups to mix the ink in, and rubbing alcohol only if i need to think my inks at all. i usually print with additives. sometimes i will use a little retarder base to slow the ink drying time. you can use transparent base to increase the transparency of your ink. you don't want to do this on too many colors, because then the colors under it will show. if you want to save inks, like i do, for multiple different screens (i am doing a set of prints), then you will need plastic sandwich bags and rubberbands.

# it's also helpful if you use a sharpie marker to label your inks carefully. always note what you mixed into them. you may save them to use later, and trust me, you will not remember what you put in them. (this is one reason i like to go without adding things... makes it less difficult to tell what's causing print errors down the line.)

# before you begin printing, be sure you have an adequate washing out facility for your screen. i was going to use the hose outside by the side of the house only to find, when i went to wash out layer one of the ink, that it wasn't hooked up anymore. doh.

# additional helpful materials i didn't list before: bounty paper towels (bounty, because it doesn't produce lint), a little blue squeegee (generally used in etching) or you can use cut up scraps of 4 ply mat board instead.

# mix thoroughly. mix more than you think you have to. be sure to scrape the sides of your mixing container. why? because pesky little globs of color stick around, and sometimes they create streaks in your ink. always mix well to ensure even color and consistency of your ink.

serigraph 101 : paper gets involved

the first pristine sheet of bristol board

# once you have at least your first color mixed as you like it, lift the screen and place your first piece of paper. i don't use registration for the first color, because i don't need to. if you wanted the prints to be in the exact center of the page, you would. I am going to cut them out, so i'm not worried about it here.

# i leave the mylar folded out of the way, here. the yellow ink cup is sitting on top of it, as you can see.

# by the way, when printing, you usually want to print from light to dark, warm to cool. you would print yellow before blue, etc. you can change this if you like, but it's a general rule to keep, say, a translucent yellow from printing over a dark blue and showing up as dark green because the dark dominates.

# as a general rule, you want to start with more pieces of paper than you would like to end with. you must account for errors in printing. i started with 25 sheets. i am doing 18-19 colors, so that is pretty brave on my part. i'm taking a chance beginning with an edition that small with that many colors and chances for error. extreme printmaking!

serigraph 101 : the first pull : yellow

squeegee, squeegee, first color -- yellow

# pour the ink along the tape on the screen. you can start at the bottom with the first color. hold your squeegee, handle toward you, at a 45 degree angle, and lightly push the ink up the screen. this is called a flood coat. do not press yet. you simply want to 'flood' the screen with ink.
# when you pour the ink, be sure that the pool of ink extends beyond the edged of the squeegee, as shown above. this eases the path of the rubber over the screen. if your screen grabs at any time, you don't have enough ink!
# once the screen is flooded, you are ready to pull your first print.

# tip the squeegee toward you, with the blade off of the printable area, either on the red block or your taped edge. press down, using the edge of the squeegee to apply pressure. draw down at an even pace, pressing hard enough to make the screen touch the paper. do not pause in your pull. if you pause, you could cause a line in your ink where it is thinner or thicker on the paper.
# after the pull is complete, and your blade is off of the printable area, but not all the way to the bottom of your squeegee. lift your squeegee carefully, then place it in front of the ink, closest to you. tip your squeegee again, handle toward you, at a 45 degree angle, and gently flood your screen again. if you are using an A clamp as i am, you can tip your squeegee back against it and lift your screen to reveal your first color. the A clamp keeps the squeegee from falling off the back of your screen and hitting the floor, ew messy!

serigraph 101 : the first pulled

pulled print -- yellow

# when you lift the screen, your paper should just be sittin' pretty under there waiting to be revealed. if it's sticking, you probably have too much ink, which means either your pressure is off, or you pushed when you were flooding, causing double the ink to go through your screen when you do the pull.

# remove your first print, then place a new paper in there, and pull. flood, replace paper, pull. repeat until you're out of ink or paper! or when you've pulled the number you wanna start with. i chose 25.
# when you are finished printing, do not do a final flood (doing one would just mean you wasted that ink and have to clean it out of the screen). instead, use a small blue squeegee to scrape the ink out. (see next step).

# if you look closely at the bottom square, you can see the contours of the face. =)

serigraph 101 : scooping up excess ink : cleaning a color off the screen

cleaning the screen - squeegee

# you can squeegee (with the little blue squeegee, modeled here) your ink down the edges of your screen. taped edges on your screen makes it ever so easy. i always scoop the ink out the bottom and pour it into the cup. i used a popsicle stick to scrape the ink off.
# you also can scrape excess ink off of your big squeegee with the little blue squeegee, this minimizing your usage of paper towels.

# give your printable area a little spritz with your water bottle to keep the ink from drying in the screen while you scrap the other ink out--just a light spritzing, not enough to reduce your excess ink to runny water.
# the beauty of my registration method is that you can remove the screen between colors and hose it down outside, thus reducing the # of paper towels you use in cleanup, and facilitating much easier/faster cleanup.

serigraph 101 : drying your screen between colors

drying screen -- propped up with a clamp

# when you've finished hosing down your screen and wiping it off carefully (be sure no streaks of ink dry in the mesh), you can prop it up to dry. if you have a hair dryer, you can give it a little blasting with that. don't get too close to the screen, cos there's always a chance it could melt if it gets too hot.
# i used my A clamp to prop it up to air dry. as you can see i propped it up backwards and upside down so i could clip my A clamp on. here you can also see the positioning of the snap aids. (red tape). when the screen is on the table in printing position, those will be between the screen and the table, on the edge of the screen closest to your body.

# your screen must be completely dry before you go painting on the next layer of screen filler.

serigraph 101 : screen blocked for 2nd color

screen blocked for 2nd color

# the next step in this process is to take your dry screen, reattach it to the table with the clamps (oops, i forgot to mention that unless you mark your screen where it lines up with your clamps, you might have to re-register your templates!), and block out the parts of the drawing you wish to remain yellow. this blocking will prevent the next color from covering the areas that have been blocked, thus allowing them to remain yellow.

serigraph 101 : registration : the flop method

registration template printed on mylar

# once your screen filler is dry, and you're ready to do your next layer, you put your ink on your screen, flood coat, then pull a print on your mylar.
  • carefully lift your screen and flip the mylar up, tipping it over and folding it out of the way, propping it with something so it wont hit the table (it takes a few seconds to dry--i would say somewhere around 30 without retarder).

    sliding the yellow print under the mylar register

    # leaving your screen up, grab your stack of dry yellow prints. choose one and slide it onto the table, then flip your mylar over again. you use the print on the mylar to register the yellow print below it, lining up the edges so you 'hide' the yellow edges under the orange. when it's lined up properly, you should only be able to see orange, and of course all of the yellow areas you want to be yellow.

    mylar 'opened'

    # carefully open the mylar out of the way again (note it's important that the side remain taped down. just open it like a book and fold it out of the way. make sure you don't jostle your paper out of register. close your screen slowly (doing it quickly will create a little breeze that jostles your paper), and reach for your squeegee to pull your second color!

    serigraph 101 : the second color pulled : orange

    2 colors of the print, orange over yellow

    # pull the prints as you normally would, registering each print with the mylar guide. be sure to open the mylar out of the way before you print the ink!

    # casualties in printing thus far: 1.5. i didn't keep even pressure at one point, and had to double screen one to try to fix the orange which was stripey. of course it caused my ink to bleed under the edges of my stencil. luckily didn't have to clean out the whole screen to do my last 4 prints. i used a scrap piece of paper to clear the printable area and clean the excess ink off of the bottom by printing 'dry' on it. (ie, without flooding).
    # since the salvageable part of the .5 loss is the face section, i am going to continue printing it, and give someone just the face piece, instead of the triptych.

    serigraph 101 : 3rd color : redr

    blocking the screen pre-red coat

    # after the screen is dry, block out all the areas that you would like to remain orange. allow the screen filler to dry. heat set if you wish.

    3 colors of the print, red over orange & yellow

    # print to your mylar after you have inked and flooded your screen. register as usual. then squeegee your edition of red prints!

    serigraph 101 : let's do the block-out again!

    blocking the screen pre-pink coat

    # i've blocked out everything that should stay red. you will notice as you progress in the printing, the area that ink squishes through shrinks more and more. this means as you get to your last colors, you can mix much less ink. =) unless, like me, you're doing multiples parts to one set that need the same color scheme.

    # please note when applying screen filler: sometimes when you put it on thickly, it will bead on the other side. be sure to lift your screen and smooth this a little with your brush. if it beads up too much it will not dry as fast as the other areas. you may think it's dry, then when you print, it will stick to your paper. also, if it beads up too much, it may cause a 'skip' in your squeegee pass. and nobody wants that!

    # i made a little mistake and blocked out a large portion of the sun. oops. that was supposed to be dark pink *cough*. just pretend you didn't notice. i am going to hand alter this print anyway later, with prismacolors and pens, probably. but still. oopsie => heh. heh. heh.

    would you have noticed if i hadn't told you? (*snaps fingers*)

    serigraph 101 : fourth color : bring on the pink!

    the pink registration print

    # this is the next color, pink!

    the fourth color -- pink

    # here's the application of the fourth color.

    # no casualties in this group! the pink printed down a lot darker than it looked, but it might still work!

    serigraph 101 : blocking the pink

    blocking out the pink areas

    # blocking again. this time i am painting out everything that should stay pink!
    # as you can see, very little shall remain pink.

    serigraph 101 : fifth color : maroon-ish

    the 5th color--maroonish

    # note this looks pretty dark on the stencil. it printed down way darker than the mixed ink. see, what i said before is true! it really does that!

    the print with 5th color

    # this ink is taking a long time to dry. i am worried something is funky with my blue ink. hopefully all will be well by morning, and i can print more tomorrow. if this was going to happen, i would rather it happen at this color than the 16th. i'll let you know.

    # i will know with the first run of the next color if i will need to wash out my screen and lay down a layer of white to act as a primer for the reds and greens. stay tuned!

    serigraph 101 : 6th color : deep purple

    screen blocked out for maroon

    # here i've blocked out everything that should stay that maroon-ish color.

    the deep purple print register

    # this is the registration print. you can see here which areas are printed in the dark purple.

    the 6th color--deep purple

    # here's the print with the 6th color--deep purple. you can see from the detail how it relates to the maroon.

    serigraph 101 : seventh color : sky blue

    the pale sky blue register print

    # as you can see, i decided to skip the 'picture of the blocked out screen' here. nothing much changed--i just blocked out all of the face.

    the print with the 7th color--pale sky blue

    # here is what the print looks like with the blue on top of it. this is the 7th color.

    # i was a little worried this wouldn't be opaque enough to print over that dark purple. luckily the white ink is very opaque, and there is a lot of white in this ink. it provides a base for the other colors.

    serigraph 101 : do not stop printing just cos you have a birthday
    i was sick throughout the process of printing this, and had my exhausting birthday on the heels of being sick. i stopped printing for a while, and didn't get back to this particular print. so i made it to color #7, so far. i still have my screen with the red block and a big stack of prints waiting to be finished.

    so. this is how far i have gotten. =) this should be enough to tell you how to, in detail, do a screen filler type print. there are other tricks with screen filler that i didn't use for this print which i may show in a later, and shorter, tutorial.

    if you have any questions about any of the steps, please feel free to contact me.

    serigraph 101 : clean your screen
    hot water and Mr. Clean should take this stuff right out of your screen. spray both sides in Mr. Clean and allow to sit for about 5 mins. then you can run hot water through the screen. it should not be boiling water, just hot to the touch. you may have to soak in Mr. Clean once more, but probably not. if any sections get really pesky, take it to the cheap do-it-yourself car wash and give it a pressure wash (though screen filler comes out pretty easy, so you shouldn't have to.)
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    Comments {4}

    ☽☽  ☆☆☆  ☾☾

    (no subject)

    from: nzgoddess
    date: May. 22nd, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)

    another brilliant tutorial .. thank-you so so much ♥

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    (no subject)

    from: nicci
    date: May. 22nd, 2006 11:10 pm (UTC)

    glad you enjoyed it! =)

    Reply | Parent | Thread


    (no subject)

    from: abluemeanie
    date: May. 23rd, 2006 04:33 am (UTC)

    It's the tearduct area I keep getting stuck in... The in process instuctions are excellent, makes me wanna try it, but on a smaller scale than the print your doing. I did enjoy suicide block printing and it seems much the same just with a screen instead of the linoleum.

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    Jürgen Hubert

    (no subject)

    from: jhubert
    date: Nov. 11th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)

    Added to the Art Tutorials Wiki.

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