Expectancy: The Screenprint Process

Expectancy: The Screenprint Process

With the release of my newest Expectancy print, I wanted to share with you a behind the scenes the process I used to screen print it.

Before I get to the screen printing part of my process there is a lot of ideating, sketching, and digitally creating the artwork.  But that’s another story for another time.

Once I have the artwork complete, I create layers in Illustrator for each of the colors I’d like to use. While there I either create an offset path or use the trap feature under the pathfinder tool so the first layers are slightly wider than the actual image to create a trap in case of a slight misalignment. 

Then I go through and double check the layers and create registration marks. These marks help me align the image on each layer as I print. Then I turn each layer to a black and print them separately to an acetate transparency. The images are ready to be used with the screens but first I have to prep the screens.

I have several different size screens with different mesh counts. For expectancy I used the 230 mesh screen because the detail on the leaves and flowers was more intricate. 

To prep the screens I first degrease them, then using a scoop coater, I coat them with an emulsion meant for water based inks. I then let these dry.

Once the emulsion is dry, I choose the first layer’s transparency – it’s usually the lightest color – and lay it along with the screen and a piece of glass under a light so that the image can burn onto the emulsion. 

While the screen burns I play with different colors, mixing the paints and trying to get the colors right for each layer. They will have time to dry as I wash out and prep the screen. Then I adjust them if needed.

Once it’s burned, I wash out the unexposed parts of the emulsion (the black part of the transparency). You can see in the screen above, the third layer of Expectancy burnt and washed out of the screen and prepped with tape.

Once the image is washed out, I let it dry completely. Then I tape up the screen using contact paper and painters tape so paint doesn’t leak through. 

Then it’s time to secure the screen and line up the prints for printing.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see the printing process in video. The first layer is usually straightforward. Making sure the paper is square to the image, I create registration tabs for the paper to butt up against so the paper is set in the right spot each time. Then I start printing by putting an ample amount of paint on the screen, lowering it slightly, doing a quick swipe across the screen with the squeegee to flood the screen, then I finally lay the screen down and take the paint back across the screen with the squeegee pressing the paint through. I repeat this through the amount of paper I want to cover. 

The second and third layers are slightly different in that I line up the transparency of the first (using the registration marks on the transparency) to the screen of the second layer. I place registration makers down where I deem the paper should go based on the alignment. Then I tape down a clean piece of acetate and flood the screen and print down on the acetate. I place the prints with the first layer against the registration marks and double check the alignment by flipping the acetate over the print. I adjust if needed and flood the screen and print. The third layer was done in the same way. Each print is laid aside to dry.

After all the printing is done, I go through each print searching for misalignment, ink that didn’t fully squeeze through the screen, and other errors. I seperate out the good prints and sign them. They are ready to go! If you are interested in purchasing a print of Expectancy, I released them to my email list first so if you hop on there, you’ll have until Monday to snag one up!

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