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Anthology: Designing the cover

Ages ago I said I'd post a step by step to designing and printing the cover. I had planned to do it while I was printing the cover but that didn't happen. So better late then never here's some comments and images on silkscreening the anthology cover. I'm sure I've left something out for the silkscreen part so please comment if you spot something missing.

I started with this photo a friend of my Dad's had emailed me.

I really liked the scale of the image and the size of the figure. My first thought was to posterize the image and silkscreen it that way but I didn't want it to look so much like a photo. I thought I might try doing it as an etching so I drew the image free hand on to a plate.

Then I worked into the plate with soft ground and aquatint to get the tone.

I really liked this print, I used it on the inside of the anthology and I also pulled an edition of 10, one for each of my Dad's brothers and sisters to have. I didn't know how they'd react to the prints but they were all deeply touched by them. Still I didn't think it screamed "cover". I would have to add the text digitally and I just didn't think it would blend nicely with the etching so I decided to silkscreen it after all. Rather then posterizing the photo I drew the figure and rocks and then posterized the trees from the etching not the photo. I did this mainly because I wanted the trees to read as trees but not very literal trees.

Step one in the cover design was redrawing the figure. I felt the pose looked odd in the photo and too big in the etching so I spent some time redrawing the figure and making it, for lack of a better word, more cartoony.

Once I was happy with the design I had to transfer each colour level on to a sheet of velum [you can use various different materials when printing as long as its transparent so the light can pass through] I photocopied the levels on to the velum but you can draw free hand or use paper cut outs. Your aim is to create a stencil allowing light to pass through were you don't want to print and stopping the light passing through where you do want to print.

The different levels overlap because in silkscreening you can make new colours on the paper. By adding certain chemicals to the inks you can make them more or less transparent. So if you have an image that has blue, yellow and green, you only print two levels, yellow and blue and everywhere the yellow and blue overlap you will get your green.

For this print I used photo emulsion so I needed to coat the screen with the emulsion in a dark room at least 20 mins before I wanted to expose it.

We then exposed the screen to a light source. Here I'm using a big exposure machine that has a vacuum pump, timer, UV lights etc etc If you have access to a print shop that has this step up then by all means use it but you can build a very simple set up at home using blankets and heavy books. Have a look online esp on youtube as there are several videos of peoples home print set ups.

You put the velum down on the glass right reading ie the way it should print - print methods like etching and litho you have to work backwards but not in silkscreen.

The vacuum makes sure that the screen and velum are pressed super tight together so your lines don't go fuzzy. At home you can place a heavy blanket over the screen and then a pile of heavy books on top of the blanket.

This machine had a timer set on it, with a home set up you have to play around with exposing your screen a bunch of times to see how long to leave it. Can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 mins + depending on your light source. Leave it to long and you risk burning out some of the finer lines, not leave it long enough and your lines won't wash out clean and you'll end up with broken lines on your print.

Now we get ready to print. The screen is clamped in place so it doesn't move while we're printing thus making it easier to register the levels with each other. Use the paper you will print on and the sheet of velum with the level on it to line up the screen with the paper. This can be tricky depending on the image but once your happy tape you paper in place and make some registration marks for yourself. Not shown in the photo, I have small metal guides I tape on three sides, each piece of paper then slots into the guides when I got to print. You can use masking tape or cardboard to make your guides also.

Mix your ink and have it within easy reach. Make sure to have plenty of proofing paper/newsprint to make test prints on - save your good paper until your happy with how the screen is printing.

Pour some ink across the bottom of the screen [Some start at the top, I like to start at the bottom and flood the screen first before printing] Place some newsprint/scrap paper under the screen and print. Pull the squeegee towards you in one smooth motion, lift the screen, then push the squeegee back very lightly. Check the paper to see how your image printed. If there are any spots of inking leaking from the sides of the screen or spots on the screen that exposed that shouldn't have, cover them with tape. If you find the paper is sticking to the screen add cardboard squares to each of the bottom corners of the screen. If the paper is still sticking check the thickness of your ink. Print a couple of tests on scrap paper until your happy with how the image is printing.

(that's not me in the photo by the way :))

Print your image until you've printed the number you want. You can keep printing forever if you like but the ink will start to dry on the screen and some of the lines might stop printing and your arms will get very very tired. Silkscreening is hard work!

When your finished, wash all the ink off your screen. This is very important if you want your screens to last. You can then place your screen in a plastic tub filled with a knock chemical for around 15 mins [depending on what brand you are using] then wash again with water using a high powered hose this will remove the emulsion and leave you with a blank screen and you can start all over again. You don't need to do this step right away, you can leave your image on the screen for as long as you wish. If its an image know you'll be printing again the leave it on the screen, however, screens are expensive and they take up alot of space so be aware of that before you start keeping every single screen.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
Wow- this is the best blow-by-blow of screenprinting I think I've ever seen. :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )