Category Archives: Screen Printing

Wolves in the Throne Room Screenprint and Taint poster

for those that didn’t make it to the gig, here’s one of the screenprinted posters for the Wolves show. I’ll put these up for sale on my website in a sec, so go grab one!

I’ve also just designed a poster for the next fatout show (not including the one tonight, which everyone should go to), featuring the rather thundering Taint, with support from Manatees and Loss Leader.

Here’s the pencil sketch I used to make this:

Currently listening to:  Miles Davis – Aura

screen-printing FATZINE Issue 3!

Take a look at these mothers!

We’ve finally finished putting together the third issue of Fatzine, which has the theme of politics, for obvious reasons. The last few days I’ve been at Hot Bed Press in Salford, screenprinting this 4 colour (3 separation) design on the front of every fresh copy… that’s 150 copies, so yeah, it took a while.

It looks so good though.

Polly wanted some graffiti done for the front cover to tie in with our interview with Manchester-based street artist kElzO, and the graffiti theme we ran with inside, so she got in touch with Nathan Thoday, one of our friends from school, who whipped up this amazing design for us:

Nathan’s always been so good at lettering and this is no exception, I love it. You should also definitely check out his new enterprise, ATD Apparel (Attention To Detail), which has a group on facebook, and I think he’s making a website soon.

we wanted to spray the front covers, so Nathan also made this intricate stencil:

unfortunately polly forgot to mention it had to be small enough to fit on the A5 front cover, and this one was more like A3 in length. We decided that it was gonna be too hard to cut out a stencil at A5 size, so I went about preparing some separations so I could screen-print it instead.

First I photocopied the stencil and reduced it..

Then I drew three separations from this on bits of tracing paper:

I wanted to use the gradient shading from the original drawing but you have to do it as little dots, which works with screen-printing.

I decided to go for red, yellow and blue, seeing as it’s the politics issue after all, but then when I was setting up the last drop shadow layer, I couldn’t resist getting some green in there, so the shadow has a green to blue gradient.

I really like the texture of it, it looks kinda rough but it’s a hand drawn design and it suits that;  it works without needing to be polished and graphic.

Here’s a little preview of what you will see in this issue:

You’ll be able to order one of these for £1 (to cover postage) or download a pdf version at fatout.co.uk

Also I’ve got a few of those Master Musicians posters left for only 7 quid at mjfchance.co.uk

Currently listening to: Gonjasufi – A Sufi and a Killer

Screen printed posters!

thought I’d better get a couple pictures of these up. This first one was done for the ala muerte show on april fools day, which was awesome. I managed to sell a couple of prints and swap a few for various albums and other things on the night.

This next one was a bit trickier, and it took a couple of goes to get the exposure right for the line work. The print outs I had weren’t good enough so I just drew over all the linework on the positive with a sharpie, which worked brilliantly, although it meant the lines were a little thicker than I wanted them to be. I started out printing a yellow-ish skin colour which covers the legs and snakes, then mixed the blue with more medium than usual so it was more transparent, and printed that over the background and snakes. This means the snakes come out a greenish blue colour where the blue ink has semi-covered the yellow. I started out printing the linework in black, but because the lines were slightly thicker than intended they were a bit overpowering, so I mixed it down to a softer slate grey, which works well with the blue also I think.

I apologise for the slightly poor images, it’s hard to capture colours of course, but you get a good idea. Unfortunately, although the night was amazing in musical terms, it was a Sunday and there weren’t many people there, so I only got to sell a couple of posters, but I did also manage to swap one with Bill Horist for his album Covelant Lodge, which is a beautiful collaborative chamber piece with some pretty fancy finger pickin’.

To do both these prints I’ve been going to Hot Bed Press, an open-access print studio in Salford. It’s a really friendly place and they’ve got equipment for almost any kind of printmaking, and it costs £1.50 an hour (excl. materials) which isn’t too bad.I’m really excited to start printing the wolves in the throne room posters; I think tickets are selling fast and it looks like it’s gonna be quite a night.

I’ve got a couple of the ala muerte ones left and about 8 of the master musicians ones, so I’ll be putting them up in my shop on my website soon for dirt cheap! If you’re interested, they’re printed on 300gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, and measure, at a guess, about 80 x 30cm.

Currently listening to: Bill Horist – Covalent Lodge (North Pole Records)

This Was House – Finished Screenprints

It’s about bloody time I put these up really, and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.

Here’s the image exposing on the screen:

It’s a pretty big image (almost A2) so I had to get a massive piece of glass to press it down, luckily I managed to get hold of this old coffee table top for only 2 quid, bargain.

Unfortunately, with such a big image, it imperative that the light source is centred above it, and mine was not, which resulted in the near edge being somewhat overexposed, while the rest of it was perfectly done. This meant that some of the detail was lost on the left hand side, so I used some emulsion to paint directly onto the screen. This actually turned out really well, and means that there are some more painterly marks mixed in with the more detailed drawn parts.

It was quite tricky getting an even print on such a big image, but I quite like the fact that each print is slightly different. The black was screen printed over hand painted backgrounds. Check it out (click on images to see them fullsize):

These prints are now on sale on my website: mjfchance.co.uk

and on my new Etsy shop!: mjfchance.etsy.com

tell your family and friends!

Currently listening to: Mount Kimbie – Maybes EP

Prints Charming

It’s taken me a while to update this, but there’s been a few gigs and christmas and new years happening. We played I AM YOUR WEEKEND in Liverpool which is rather like atp in one freezing building, and it was good, most good… David provided some intense sax improv during our set which was insanely good. Some great bands played, and Action Beat were amazing of course.

Anyway, here’s the printing process. The first thing I did was to paint some background colours to print over. I wanted to paint mine rather than print them because I quite like having a painterly element in the finished prints.

I used the tracing paper transparency to make a stencil out of cardboard, and taped up the edges to make it withstand more painting action.

I then took my stack of paper, and placed the cardboard template in the centre. Then you can push the point of some scissors or a pen into the paper and indent onto the sheets below; this just means all your prints will be in the same place on the paper.

You can now paint each sheet with the stencil, by stippling paint through with a thick brush:

Once the first colours were dry I took them down and painted a blue background on each.

Now you can prepare the screen for printing, so attach it to the base board hinges. Now make a flap of transparency which will lift up with enough room to let your paper underneath:

This will be printed on so we can see where the paper must sit.

Prepare some ink (I am using acrylic paint mixed with some printing medium, which lengthens the drying time so it doesn’t dry up in the screen) and run it along the edge of the inside of your screen:

Now lift the screen and pull the ink across the screen using the squeegee – this is called flooding the screen.

Now, making sure that there are some pushpins at the corners of your screen to make sure the screen sits a little above the paper, lower it and pull the squeegee across the screen to print onto the tracing paper underneath:

Now we can put the paper under the tracing paper and line up the image with the background:

Once it’s aligned, tape some bits of card to the base board at the corners of the paper, so that you can quickly place a new sheet in exactly the right place each time. Now remove the tracing paper thing, and prints away! Make sure to re-flood the screen between prints, to ensure it doesn’t dry out. You’ll probably be able to do between 10 and 20 sheets before the ink starts to dry up in the screen and needs to be washed, depending on how quickly you can work and how good your ink is.

Here’s some of the finished Quadraturin prints:

I was pretty pleased, the stenciled backgrounds worked well, and mean that each print is quite different. It’s definitely better to colour the backgrounds first and print over the top, because if you try and colour over the top it takes away some of the crispness of the printed linework.

These are now on sale on my website here, along with a couple that are without the blue background colour:

Which I think look pretty cool as well.

Currently Listening to: Flying Lotus – 1983, Los Angeles

Indecent Exposure

Coating the screen can be tricky at first, and my first attempt was, honestly, just plain shit. I’m gonna go through my first few attempts to show how it can go wrong, then go through a better method properly at the end.

NOTE: The mixed emulsion must be left to settle for at least an hour before applying to the screen, just give it a stir to make sure that all the bubbles have dispersed.

The correct tool to use for this job is a coating trough, but you can do essentially the same thing with a squeegee (or bit of card for the squeegee-less fools).

This video is quite handy to show you how to use a coating trough, although the guy that does the narration sounds like the most boring bastard ever and makes screen printing seem about as exciting as playing Bridge with the corpse of a snooker player’s accountant.

The bad thing about that video is that it led me to think that quite a thick layer of emulsion was needed on the screen, which is absolutely not true. I put a shit load of emulsion on my screen, and when I spread it around, it was dripping all over the place like a lusty hound, making a god-awful mess and a screen that was frankly bollocks. Here it is in all its glory:

Crap

If you make this mistake, it’s probably not even worth exposing the screen because it’s just gonna be a waste of time; the results are never going to be good. If  future me had been able to go back and advise myself, I would have slapped myself in the face and told him to wash it clean and start again like a good boy. However, temporarily unaware of my own incompetance, I continued with more blunders and idiocy. Westward Ho!

Once I left this screen to dry, things went from bad to worse; the thick emulsion pooled and dripped through the screen until it resembled the face of a 15 year old World of Warcraft gamer; a blotchy, spotty, hideous mess of shame and regret.

I then exposed the screen in daylight for about a day (probably about 6 or 7 hours):

First exposure

After washing the screen out this was the result:

Balls

Not only was the emulsion thick and patchy, but the screen was overexposed. You can tell this because all the fine lines of detail have been mercilessly obliterated, while the any other lines come out semi-transparent, rather then truly clean (which is obviously what you want, so that ink can pass through). The stencil needs to be cleaned off the screen with Stencil Strip fluid, which is relatively cheap because you dilute it with water 1:30. I think you can use bleach to do this, but I take no responsibility if you do use bleach and your screen turns to trash somehow. Oh yeah, remember to wear some fetching rubber gloves while doing this job.

My next attempt was a bit better. I realised that only a relatively thin layer of emulsion is needed on the screen, and devised a better method.

Firstly, push some drawing pins into the corners of your frame on the bottom side (the side to which the mesh is stapled):

This means that you can work on the bottom side of the screen without it touching the table. After making loads of mess last time I also decided it would be a good idea to tape along the edges of the screen on the inside to minimise the amount crap dripping into the corners of the frame.

Start out on the top side, and dribble a relatively small amount of emulsion in a line across the top of the screen, and then, with a medium-light level of force, pull the squeegee across at a 45° angle so the screen is flooded with a thin layer of emulsion. Repeat this on the bottom side, then flip it over again and finish by doing another coat on the top side. You can do as many thin layers as you like until it’s evenly coated, just remember to use small amounts of emulsion and always finish on the top side, thus leaving a smooth surface to print through later. When you’re done, it shouldn’t look thick and painty like the first one I did above, but rather semi-transparent and evenly coated, not unlike this:

See the difference? Yeah, it’s pretty obvious.

If you’ve done it right, you should be able to dry your screen in front of a fan in about ten minutes. If you have a little fan heater, you can use that; I dried mine in front of a cosy electric fire with a fan pointing at it. You want the screen to dry as evenly as possible, so keep turning it around regularly. It’s actually kinda easier to just prop it up with a fan pointing at it, then you can leave it drying for a while and just turn it a couple times. However, the fire was quite nice:

The emulsion – like most things – will turn from shiny to matte when it’s dry, and if, after a while of drying, there are patches which remain shiny and tacky, then the emulsion was applied too thick in those areas (but don’t worry about it too much, it’s hardly disastrous). Run your finger lightly around the edge to check if it’s dry.

Once fully dry, the screen is ready to be exposed. Still having faith in the magic of daylight, I exposed it a second time by the window, this time for about 4 hours. The result was better, but still not very good:

Again the screen was over-exposed. This meant I had to actually scrub the emulsion to remove it, which results in lots of bits that you actually wanted to keep being scrubbed off as well, leaving me again with a pretty shit stencil. After stripping this one and re-coating it again, I decided to expose it in a controlled manner. To do this, I had to either construct a light box, or come up with a hilariously botched together alternative. Of course I chose the second option:

Plain Awesome

As you can see, I made a reflector for my lamp with some aluminium foil, and then proceeded to entwine its power cord around a dining chair to secure it in position. I quite like it as an object, it looks a bit like the Pixar lamp has gone insane and thinks that government satellites are monitoring its brain waves.

Exposure times vary depending on many factors including type/thickness of emulsion, type/brightness of light, size of screen etc, but Speedball handily provide some guide times in their manual for the popular Diazo emulsion. Here are some times for a 150W clear incandescent bulb:

Screen size, bulb height, exposure time
8×10, 12 inches, 45 minutes
10×14, 12 inches, 45 minutes
12×18, 15 inches, 74 minutes
16×20, 17 inches, 92 minutes
18×20, 17 inches, 92 minutes

I only had a 60 watt bulb, which is two and a half times weaker than 150w, so I multiplied the exposure time by 2.5, resulting in a time of 230 mins, or three hours and 50 mins. My lamp was also about 20 inches above the screen so I just gave it a nice round 4 hours.

To expose the screen you need to get something to put underneath it to provide a firm flat surface for the design to sit on top of  (I used a bunch of excellent records – The Locust, Cult of Luna, Lionel Ritchie, you know, the usual). It’s best to cover these with some black material so that no light goes through the screen and bounces back up from underneath. Then you put your screen over this, place your transparency (printed onto either OHP film or tracing paper) the WRONG way round (face down) onto the bottom side (the one with staples), and cover it with a piece of glass, which will hold it down tight against the screen so you get a crisp exposure.

If your glass is light and rubbish, you may have to weigh it down just to ensure the best contact:

Once the exposure time is up, remove the screen and whisk it away to the bathroom, where you can gently spray it with the shower head until the water soluble parts (which have been protected from exposure by the black parts of your transparency) are washed away. It’s best not to scrub the screen, especially if you have fine details; the unexposed emulsion should just run out with ease. If some parts are being stubborn, rub the screen gently with a finger. Once you’re happy with the stencil, you may want to put it back under the lamp for a bit to harden the remaining emulsion, just to make sure it’s gonna withstand lots of printing later:

If you want really good results, the best thing to do (what I should have done from the beginning) is to expose a screen as a test, similar to the technique one uses with photography to determine the correct exposure time. To do this, expose the screen normally, but use an opaque piece of card or paper to progressively cover the screen, moving it further over the screen at regular intervals, say, every 15 mins. Then at the end you will be able to tell exactly what length of time you need to expose your screen for by looking along the screen for the first strip that has exposed properly. Times vary widely, and doing this method will save you a lot of time and effort that is otherwise wasted by doing trial and error. If you are doing trial and error, at least try and keep everything constant, and only change one factor (eg bulb wattage, time, height etc) at a time instead of blindly fumbling around.

Turns out third time was lucky, and I’m pretty satisfied with the screen as it is, so I’m gonna go ahead and see how well this little baby is going to print. Make me proud Screeny.

….note to self. come up with better name for the screen.

Currently listening to: Intronaut – Prehistoricisms, Orff – Carmina Burana

Mixing things up

Once your screen is ready, it’s time to mix up some photo emulsion and apply it to the screen. I did this in a really haphazard way, and through trial and error managed to work out the right way to do it. I find that most tutorials you read are handy, but they never explain all the things that you can do wrong, and you are pretty likely to fuck up a couple of times, so I thought it would be helpful to show my errors so that others can learn from them without making the same mistakes.

NOTE: due to working with light sensitive materials all the following procedures must be done in subdued light – it doesn’t have to be like a dark room or anything, just make sure the curtains are closed or do it in the evening with a fairly dim lamp on.

The first thing to do is mix the emulsion. Different brands will vary slightly in their directions, but they’re mostly the same process. Basically, you have some emulsion (big pot of blue paint-like substance) and some sensitizer (little pot of dirty yellow-green powder) which have to be mixed together. The powder needs to be dissolved in some water before being mixed with the emulsion. As long as you do those two basic steps with approximately correct quantities you’ll be alright.

First it is best to decide how much emulsion you want to sensitize. It is easiest to mix the whole pot in one go, but since the emulsion lasts about a month sensitized and about a year unsensitized, I didn’t want to use all of mine in one go, so I decided to mix a quarter at a time.

Tip out your sensitizer powder onto a bit of paper and roughly divide it up into heaps (in this case four):

Next, measure out the right amount of emulsion and pour it into a mixing pot. It’s a good idea to get some lightproof pots/jars to keep the mixed emulsion in, or make your own like I did. Here’s 250ml (quarter of the litre pot) of emulsion:

After already making quite a lot of mess, I then proceeded to completely forget what I was supposed to be doing, and mixed the powder directly into the emulsion:

The correct thing to do is to pour one of the four heaps of powder into a little pot, mix with a small amount of water (about 25ml, or a UK single shot glass) and then add it to the emulsion.

Then mix it in thoroughly. You should notice a change in colour towards a darker blue-green colour:

Not the best example, but you get the idea

I mixed another quarter pot afterwards with the correct method, and there didn’t seem to be much difference between them so I imagine if you fuck up and mix the powder straight in like I did, it will most likely still be useable. Make sure your pots are pretty light-tight, and label them with the date they were mixed so you can use them up before they go off later. These can be put in the fridge and used for the next 4-6 weeks.

A cracking pair

Currently listening to:  Om – God Is Good