Meet Sailor Peg. He’s the first in a series of four hand screen-printed postcards from my forthcoming set Heroes of Albion!
Since screen-printing in the studio can be pricey, I was keen to try some of the DIY home printing methods available. At first I considered Gocco printing, but discovered that the supplies (bulbs, screens etc) are no longer available to buy. That’s when I discovered StencilPro.
The StencilPro system allows home users to create their own screen-prints using a light-sensitive mesh that can be exposed with nothing but sunlight. The downsides are that the stencils can only be used for one design (there’s no removing the ‘burned in’ image like with proper screen-printing), and that they can be quite expensive this side of the pond.
For those that are interested, here’s an outline of what I did:
First, I print my colour separations onto the transparency – these are my positives. I bought the StencilPro starter kit and it comes with some acetate-type stuff, but you can use tracing paper, OHP transparencies etc. I’m going to be printing two colours on recycled kraft postcards that I’ve cut myself.
Next, I place the positives upside down onto the pink screen material and fasten them into the ‘exposure unit’ provided. This basically consists of a felt-covered base board and a piece of perspex secured with magnets to keep your positives flat on the screen.
The exposure timings in the guide book are for a “sunny afternoon in San Fransisco”. Ok, we’ve had a good weekend in Brighton but I’m giving them a little longer – about a minute in direct sunlight near the window.
I do this separately with two screens (for the two colours), exposing each one individually.
Once exposed, I take the screen to the sink and let it soak for ten minutes. After that the stencil hasn’t fully washed out so I gave it a thorough going over under the tap, particularly in areas of fine detail. I was surprised at how much fidelity in the stencil you can achieve using this kit, it came through pretty well.
I let the stencil dry, and now’s where it really starts to get DIY!
To keep my postcards in position during printing I’ve constructed a simple frame by cutting a postcard-shaped hole in a bit of 300GSM card. I then tape my screen onto it across the top, creating a sort of hinge. I made sure the image area on my screen was a little bigger than the postcard to ensure it runs full-bleed to the edges.
Next, I take the frame and stick it to a big piece of scrap paper taped to the living room floor! This is basically my own printing studio right in my flat, and it is very awesome.
On with the first colour.
Ok, so I’ve already run off a few prints here, hence the mess. One thing I will say about this process is that it gets very, very messy very quickly. Printing on your floor means you get into all sorts of weird positions and predicaments, and you need a lovely girlfriend / boyfriend / dogsbody to continue taking pictures for you.
In case you’re wondering, I’m using Daler System 3 acrylics and medium at about a 60 / 40 mix. I’m aligning the postcards top-left in the frame.
Forty prints later and I’m pretty happy.
There’s something really satisfying about seeing a load of prints all racked up together like this, especially when they’ve been cobbled together in your own flat!
I won’t bore you with the details of printing the black – it’s basically a second run through of this process with a different colour and another screen.
One thing that is worth noting is that I had to make another card frame for the second colour; the first one had warped beyond usable with the moisture of the first. Given my time again I’d make it out of thicker card and put thicker card down on the floor.
But here we have it. Thirty-five decent screen-prints out of forty using DIY gear and only one out of registration! Bring on the next postcard…
After the printing is done, you can wash out the stencil and keep it for another print run.
If any of you want more detail on how this was done, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment.