Screen printing is a welcome alternative for artists who want to take it slow and explore handmade. Whereas digital art gives creatives the opportunity to work quickly and produce perfect images, there's something about taking the time to prepare a screen print by hand that has a unique appeal.
Perhaps, as designer Anthony Peters suggests in this new book from Print Club London (opens in new tab), screen printing has awoken a "dormant need to be among tactile, real objects."
Set up in 2007, the Print Club London studio was founded on a relaxed ethos where artists could experiment and make mistakes. From humble beginnings with a handful of salvaged tools, Print Club London has expanded to represent over 500 artists and runs workshops to welcome newcomers to screen printing.
The studio's hard-won wisdom is presented in its recently released book, Screenprinting: The Ultimate Studio Guide (opens in new tab). Its 288 pages are overflowing with clearly explained screen printing tutorials, which make it useful both for beginners and old hands. If you're looking to pick up a new artistic skill in 2018, you've come to the right book.
From the design of the book alone you can tell that Print Club London loves what it does. Sandwiched between its covers, which have been lovingly made to look like silkscreen frames, there's a playful display of paint splatters that don't get in the way of the text but keep the whole book personable.
This doesn't mean the guide is thin on the ground in terms of practical content. While the short history of screen printing section that opens the book certainly lives up to its name by managing to cover the medium's thousands year long story in a couple of pages, it's important to remember that this isn't a history book. We're here for messy artistic advice.
Before diving into tutorials, we're given a run down of the tools of the trade. Screens and emulsions are covered, along with sweets and beer, to remind you that it's a good idea to have fun while you print. After a quick introduction to the materials you'll be printing on (paper and textiles), it's time to get down to the workshops.
Screen printing tutorials
The main screen printing tutorials explore how to artwork a design, as well as covering the basics of how to print on paper and t-shirts. Each section guides you through carefully, assuming a basic level of artistic skill on the reader's part.
Accompanying photographs help to smooth out any confusion you might encounter from reading the instructions alone. These are a welcome addition, as sometimes artistic tutorials can rattle through everything too fast and appear more complicated than they need to be.
Along the way we're introduced to an array of screen printing tips and terms, but only when we need to learn them. This helps to keep the whole process understandable, and given that there's a lot to cover, it's no mean feat that the guide doesn't come across as overwhelming. The balance between precise technical advice and friendly encouragement is maintained throughout.
To build on these tutorials, the book is capped off with refreshing Artist Spotlights. These see an artist covering a screen printing technique they're known for. It's a welcome change of pace compared to profiles that just give an artist the opportunity to show off. The artists here are talented, but they're not above sharing their secrets.
From these creatives we also learn how to put on a show and promote yourself online. It's a great way to round off the book. By looking forwards beyond just practical tips, you come away from this guide with a real sense that screen printing is an equally useful art to master alongside in-demand digital skills. Go grab a squeegee and get pulling.