Screenprinting doesn’t require a press. However, it DOES require a bit of equipment, which can be made by the handyman, and a certain amount of physical effort. Here is an edition of one of my own prints hanging up to dry in the studio I was setting up in Cambridge before plans changed and I moved up here:
The equipment consists of a stout board. to which the screen itself is hinged, using 2 partable hinges so that a number of screens can be used on the board in succession.
The screen itself is rarely silk nowadays – more often a synthetic material such as terylene, nylon or polyester, specially manufactured for the job. This material is stretched on a timber frame with a good, even tension overall. The frame itself must lie perfectly flat to the backing board, although the screen is raised up from the board about 1/4 in by small pieces of cardboard attached to the back of the frame before the hinges are fitted.
Printing can be done with oil or water-soluble inks used at a fairly thick consistency. Briefly, the printing paper or cloth is placed on the board under the frame, the ink having been poured full width into a ‘well’ constructed at the top end of the screen. The ink is then forced through the screen by means of a squeegee pulled first towards the operator, to draw the medium across the screen, and then away from the operator, to retun the medium to the far end of the screen again.
The medium will pass through all parts of the screen that have not been blocked out. The very simplest way of creating a print, if not many prints are required, is to place a shape of some sort – like a leaf or a cut-out design, on the paper under the screen. On the first pull this “stencil” will adhere to the screen and the shape of it will remain as a reverse-out image on the paper.
Obviously if more complex designs are needed a more permanent form of stencil is required. Here is a one-color print of one of my own designs, with the color forming the background and the paper showing through as the main subject. This screen was created by painting out the non-printed area with a liquid stencil, as described below.
There are several options for creating more durable and complex stencils like the above.
# Film stencils can be made from special screenprinting film, cut to shape and adhered to the screen by heat. These are not affected by ink cleaners, but they can ultimately be removed using special solvents.
# Liquid stencils such as glue, tusche, melted wax or shellac can be applied using brushes or coating troughs.
# Photographic stencils can be made by coating the screen with a special light-sensitive material and blocking out the areas to be printed. The screen is then exposed to light, which hardens the uncovered emulsion. The emulsion can then be washed away from the covered areas to allow the printing medium through.
Of course, all of these processes become more complex when 2 or more colors are being printed, and a separate screen is required for each. All of the screens must register with each other when hinged onto the board, so there are no sloppy overlaps or misses between the colors, and care has to be taken to register the sheets of paper on the backing board so that when they come back for the printing of successive colors, the prints are immaculate.
The original design can be created the right way round, but because all forms of stencil are made on the bottom of the screen, the final creating work is done in reverse.
This is a fair drama of a process. It produces great results, and a good number of prints can be made, if the screens are properly set up first.
The design style lends itself to clean-cut designs, and good detail can be achieved if you put the effort in when making the screens. Fades can also be created by laying out the ink in the well so as to create a fade as the work progresses. With the photographic technique simplified prints of photographic images can be produced.
Here are some of my own screen prints. For larger sizes and details, click on the images: