Saturday, 14 December 2013

First try at screen printing

I can see already that there are lots if ideas I would like to explore more, and I've started on the first in my sketchbook today.

This advertisement from Elle was interesting to me mainly because of the background. It is made up of light coming through a screen (relevant for a screen-printing module), and has something of the quality of houndstooth check, but with odd pattern-ground repeating shapes.

I wanted to try different ways to capture something about this. First I tried coloured pencil,  and rapidly found that it worked best to use three colours rather than just two.

Then I tried using paper with holes punched in it. It was obvious that part of the impact is because of the regularity of the holes.

The ideas I tried the worked best were the two with regular patterns of holes in more than one colour, with varying sizes of hole.

I can see that during his part of the course I'm going to have to focus on working out how to screen print as well as I can, and that this will involve doing a lot of practice with various different materials and dyes/ inks. It makes sense to try it out early at least once, so I know what kind of things can be varied while using this technique.

I have a simple acrylic screen printing kit at home, which I tried (without a lot of success) to use last year. So after reading the instructions carefully this time, I decided to do a quick screen print just to give me an idea of where I'm going to have to concentrate my attention.

This was the pattern I decided to go with to start with - texture from the first page of my new sketchbook, aimed at putting a design onto a t-shirt. I wanted to do two colours, to give it a feeling of depth like in the sketchbook piece. I drew it freehand, liking the way the shapes were in lines in two directions, but that the spacing was not so regular or predictable as if I'd measured it out. I think the G is the important part of this design in the context of a t-shirt and that the increasing distance between the lines in both directions, and the corner without texture, would emphasise this. I hope.

I went by the instructions for the acrylic screen-printing kit, rather than the ones in the course work, mostly because they were clearly using different mediums and different kinds of paints/inks.

The first thing was to prepare myself for messy work, cover the outer part of the screen in duct tape, and then trace the part of the design which would be printed, onto the screen using a blue sticky liquid.

When this dried, I spread a clay-like substance as evenly as I could over the top of it, and then let that dry. 

Once dried, I sprayed it on both sides with a water bottle, until the blue stuff was gone. All these different steps were to allow the clay to block the paint from going through to the paper underneath. It was quite confusing as to whether I was getting it the right way round or not. 

You can see that I had previously used this screen once and had left it unwashed for too long so it was a bit stained before I started.

These are the first two imprints I did of this screen, using purple as in the original cut paper 'sketch'. 

And this is the first try on a t-shirt. From this I learned that you have to protect the area around the print from transfer from the frame. Which was in the course instructions but didn't make much of impression when I read it. Now I know!

This is the same screen at the next stage, where I painted in the parts I wanted to be the greyer paler purple, and then spread on the 'clay'. This is it drying.

The next step was to overprint the grey on top of the purple. At this point I learned the importance of marking the position of the screen on the fabric, to ensure it goes in the right place!

T-shirt 1 - two colours screen printed onto t-shirt

This looked interesting, but didn't show up the letters in the way I had hoped.
And the texture was quite stiff - at which point I realised i had used the wrong medium.

I was washing out the screen and thought the way it washed out unevenly was interesting, so I printed another second layer using the half-washed screen.

T-shirt 2 Printed with half-washed screen, giving a more intense textured finish to the bottom half. The second colour did not allow the first to show through. So the texture is because of the extra layer of paint under some parts of it.

Texture after printing t-shirt 2

This is a detail from t-shirt 1 showing that I did manage to capture some
of the repeating irregular holes with shadows that I intended.
What didn't work was the contrasting sections of lettering.
Oh, and I took a photo of the paints I used for this, just to show I'm working on improving my colour skills deliberately every time I make something.

The colours for these screenprinted t-shirts were mixed
from primary colours and white

What I learned from this first try (in no particular order)
1. Two screens are better than one. I'm also wondering about splitting a screen into 2 sections, as my screen is quite large. But that is probably asking for mess. 
2. Don't forget the textile medium.
3. Mark the position of the screen on the fabric/ paper the first time.
4. Protect the background
5. Wash the screen as soon as possible. 
6. Try out small repeating images and find out how they work printed in various ways. In layers, rotated, different colours, on different kinds of fabric and patterns. 
7. Look up what artists have done with screen printing. 
8. This try made interesting texture, but the image didn't come through like it would have done with stencils, or block printing. I need to do a simpler image until I'm better at it. Or try stencils.

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