Screenprinting in Action

As a final image to use for my screenprint, I had chosen a photo I had taken of an element of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. I had edited the photo into a halftone image the same way I edited the pair of scissors as an experiment with Photoshop. I also cropped the image so the viewer would be focused on the building rather than the tourists in front of it.

In the screenprint workshop we were shown the process of a screenprint through using just a stencil and using a photosensitive emulsion.

We first learnt how to use a stencil to create a ‘blocky’ screenprint. We drew out a large stencil on a piece of 45gsm paper. This was paper which is commonly used for newspaper purposes. We then cut out the shape we drew with a scalpel. We attached the side of the paper which we drew, onto the outside of the screen with masking tape. After attaching the stencil we clamped the screen to a wooden board with the screen facing downwards. I then chose the colour red to use for the stencil, as I thought it was a strong and eye-catching colour to start with. Because the photo was of one of the clock towers’ at St Paul’s Cathedral, I also thought it reflected on it’s significance in World War 2 and what impacts it had received from bombs. Using a plastic knife, I mixed the red paint with Acrylic Medium, which made the acrylic paint thinner and less viscous to work with, which meant it wouldn’t dry out as quickly without. This was practical for the screen printing which meant it wouldn’t dry in the nylon screen quickly, blocking it. Another applicant we would have used would be an oil based ink, however with so little oil based ink we had, it was very expensive to use and there would be less a variety of colours.


We applied the ink (acrylic paint) to the inside of the screen with the knife thickly. We then used a squeegee to pull the ink towards us, applying even but forceful pressure across the screen vertically. After completing this motion we had to flood the screen with the ink so the ink wouldn’t dry instantly. Initially, we printed onto the acetate to have an idea of where the stencil would be printed on the board. By doing this we could print the stencil exactly in the centre of the A3 sheet of cartridge paper. We used masking tape to frame the paper so the print would remain central through the entirety of the sheets we printed onto. To clean the screens after using them with the ink, we used a pressure washer to ensure that no paint was left through the microscopic holes in the nylon.

After printing the first layer of the stencil onto the page we then moved on to learn about using photosensitive emulsion to create a screenprint. This was the technique I planned on using for my second layer.

To prepare the screen for the photosensitive print, we first needed to apply a photo-sensitive emulsion to the outside of the screen. The emulsion was green in colour in liquid form. We put the screens into a drying machine which took 30 minutes for the emulsion to dry. We needed to make sure that the emulsion was spread evenly across the screen before putting them into the dryer. After the emulsion was dried, it turned blue in colour.

While waiting for the emulsion to dry, I used a light box and black marker pens to draw my next layer onto tracing paper. The tracing paper was then going to be exposed to light, placed under the screen covered in dry photosensitive emulsion. This would then create an imprint in the screen. When the screen was washed down the image from the tracing paper showed through the emulsion clearly, so only the screen would be visible through the image.

We conducted the same process of printing through the photosensitive screen as we had done with the stencil print. I chose to use an orange colour for this layer.

I then had to choose what elements of the photo I wanted to use for my third and final later. Because the print was quite busy already, I wanted to use a contrasting colour to the orange to fill in the white spaces in the print. I cut out the stencil carefully and printed the stencil onto the four pieces of cartridge paper I had already printed on. The colour I decided to use was purple. It contrasted well with the red and orange in the background and I thought it made the print look groovy.

To clean the photosensitive emulsion off the screen, we needed to use a stencil remover. We sprayed the chemical onto the screen and used a brush to work the chemical into the depth of the nylon. To completely remove the emulsion from the screen, the pressure was increased on the pressure washer. This removed all traces of the emulsion on the screen. Below is my best screenprint from the workshop. This is because there is an even spread of colour in all the layers, unlike the other where I had just about run out of ink for the final layer of the print. I like how the orange overlays the red in certain places to create a vermillion colour, and shows detail of the building in the blank areas. It makes the two layers blend well. I also like how the purple contrasts well with the red and orange in the background, and is of course the complimentary colour to orange.



Author: jennifertaylorgraphics

First year student studying Graphic Communication at the Cardiff School of Art and Design

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