Designers are getting fed up with the limitations of digital and heading back to traditional methods like screen printing. Meryem Meg reveals how to get started with this beautiful process.
Words: Meryem Meg
In a design world dominated by aethetic perfection and digital technology, there's been a recent trend to turn back to more traditional and bespoke printing methods.
Screen printing, also known as silk screen, is an ancient printing technique that saw daylight in the west in the 18th century. Popularised by Andy Warhol, it has become a dominant tool for many creative’s today and adds to the quality and signature of their work.
In this article, I'll walk you through the fundamentals of screen printing and suggest some expert resources that can help you get started.
Screen printing is one of the earliest methods of printing. It involves the passing of ink through a mesh or 'screen' that has been stretched on a frame, and to which a stencil has been applied. The stencil openings determine the image that will be created.
One of the fundamental aspects of screen printing is the use of layers. Each colour/design separation has its own layer, to which you add onto each time, giving the print that extra depth, and room for playing around with, overlayering and producing multiple colours onto the final print staring with a basic set.
Screen if you want to go faster
Screen printing is not only a cheap way of producing a vast quantity of work, but also a rich art form that represents an era and creative culture. The texture and possibilities to consistently develop and experiment with the final result of the print - plus the unwilling mistakes and off-prints that occur each time you pull a screen - all add to the unique nature of the craft.
Here are a few resources to help you get your hands stuck into this beautiful and artistically fulfilling process.
Print Liberation is a full service creative agency that works at the intersection of art, design, community and commerce. Their 144-page guide to screen printing gives you comprehensive tips and instructions on how to make your own prints, and on printing to various surfaces such as tees, cylinders, wallpaper, and more, along with some sample images to get you started.
This book is a comprehensive introduction to fundamental printmaking techniques including relief, intaglio, collagraph, lithography, screen print and monoprint. Each chapter has clear, step-by-step illustrations with extensive case studies, which help you follow the technical aspects of each printmaking technique.
This 400 page book, with over 1,000 full-colour photos and illustrations, explains every variety of printmaking technique practised today. In-depth instructions are accompanied by profiles that show how working artists create their prints. Along with historical information, troubleshooting tips, and an extensive resource section, this is a great place to start learning about screen printing.
This book places screen printing in a modern context, showcasing eye-catching examples of contemporary work and profiling the craft's most exciting practitioners. With informative sections on techniques and applications, this is a great primer for screen printing enthusiasts.
If you're looking for inspiring examples of screen printing this is the book for you. In this volume, Mike Perry collects the work of more than 40 of today’s most talented designers who are pushing the boundaries of screen printing, including Aesthetic Apparatus, Deanne Cheuk, Steven Harrington, Maya Hayuk, Cody Hudson, Jeremyville, Andy Mueller, Rinzen and Andy Smith.
Describing itself as "thinking person's favourite online resource for interesting printmaking miscellany", this blog is full of inspiring examples of the latest screenprinting work. A must-bookmark site for anyone interested in screenprinting.
Screen printing is a bit intimidating at first, but it's easier than it looks and it's possible to set up a printing area in your own home for cheap. This Lifehacker article demonstrates you how you can do it with a minimum amount of materials.
Wicked Printing Stuff is a great source of screen printing supplies, equipment, and advice. Its customers range from hobbyists to schools to large firms and the company prides itself on its customer service.
If you’re a beginner at screen printing it's a good idea to attend workshops that introduce you to the process and make you familiar with the terms and equipment. The basic steps require preparing your film positives and burning them onto your screen, after which you register your screen against the paper and finally ink it up.
The Print Club
The sessions allow you to work in a professional environment alongside staff that know the in and outs of the process, offering you a good foundation to then experiment on your own.
Similar studio spaces are available in most cities, and if you are lucky enough, many art schools have screen printing facilities, so don’t hesitate to sign up for a session and get pulling.
- Meryem Meg is a Leeds-based graphic designer and illustrator whose inspiration lies in melodic word play and typographic experimentation. Follow her on Twitter at @meryemmeg.
Have you fallen in love with screen printing? Let us know about your experiences and projects in the Comments!