PLACES TO SCREEN-PRINT IN THE BAY AREA

The Compound Gallery

Oakland, Ca

This lovely place is where I work. Workshops are available in letterpress, etching, monotype, and screen-printing. Check out my workshops page to see the classes that I teach there.  Screen-printing studio time is available on select days if you need short term access for a project. Come by an opening and say hello. 
www.thecompoundgallery.com

 

Mission Graffica

San Francisco, Ca

This is  where I learned to screen-print. The print shop is on the top floor, and managed by the wonderful Marsha Shaw. There are workshops, and studio time is available for rent on a daily basis. A long time fixture of the San Francisco community, Mission Graffica has a background in latino, and politcal art and movements. 
www.missionculturalcenter.org

 

KALA

Berkeley, Ca

KALA is a long standing printmaking institution in the bay area. They offer printmaking and digital classes, residencies, and fellowships. 
www.kala.org

 

EXPOSURE TABLE HOW-TO

Exposing screens screens can be both the most satisfying and the most maddening part of screen-printing. Good films make good screens, and good screens make good prints.  Poorly exposed screens make for nightmares. 

Every light table is different, so I'm going talk about the light table that we use at my studio - The Compound Gallery in Oakland, Ca. The table that we have is a Ranar XPO exposure unit. This exposure unit uses uv light from 8 black light bulbs to expose screens. It has a built in vacuum and timer. This light table is super reliable and easy to use, but it can be a little tricky to remember all the steps in the beginning. Use it a couple of times and you'll be a pro. 

 thats one good looking exposure unit

thats one good looking exposure unit

Have your film and a coated, dry screen ready. Touch the screen all over to be sure that all of the emulsion has dried--check around the edges of the screen where the emulsion may be thicker or may have dripped. If anything feels damp, give it more time in the dry box. 

1) Turn the power on (large green switch)

2) Check that light and vacuum switches (large black switches) are in the "auto" position

3) Set the timer. The time will depend on the emulsion that you are using, as well as the artwork. Its a little bit of trial and error to find the correct timing for each exposure table and emulsion combo. This link will take you to a manual that contains some basic exposure times for some common emulsions. I generally use Ulano 925wr, and on this table I have found it to be a pretty reliable 4 minute exposure for most artwork. 

The green numbers are what you will use to set the time. Use the black up and down arrows on the timer to adjust the green numbers up and down to the correct time. The yellow arrow will let you move through the digits. Move through the digits adjusting the numbers until you have the correct time (in minutes) set in the green numbers. Then hit the blue "mode" button to sync the red numbers with your new green numbers. The time that is shown in the red (top) numbers is the time that the screen will expose for.

 Control panel orientation 

Control panel orientation 

Lift the top of the table, this is a hinged frame around a black neoprene blanket. The blanket blocks outside light while the screen is being exposed, and the blanket will pull snug around the screen when the vacuum is activated. 

4) Place your film positive image side up onto the glass, all images and type should be in the correct orientation (nothing backward or reversed).  

 Film positive on the glass bed of the exposure table

Film positive on the glass bed of the exposure table

5) Place your screen, mesh side down, over the film. Center the film inside the screen, images too close to the edge of the screen will not expose. 

 6) Laying a rope over the screen will give the blanket more surface area to snug up to while the vacuum is running. To get a good stencil on your screen, contact between the glass/film/mesh must be tight tight tight. Any gapping will allow light to bend around the edge of the film and overexpose thin lines and the edges of the artwork. The vacuum gives decent contact, but I do anything I can to improve the snugness between the film and the screen. Place the rope over the screen and glass. Doesn't matter if it goes over the image area. Shut the hinged lid of the light table and latch in the front.

 Laying a rope over the screen to help with contact

Laying a rope over the screen to help with contact

The order (from top to bottom) will be:

  1. neoprene blanket
  2. rope 
  3. screen (mesh side down)
  4. film positive
  5. glass
  6. bulbs

7) Flip the black vacuum switch from "auto" to "manual". This will cause the vacuum to flip on and be super loud. Let the vacuum run for a minute or so. This will give the vacuum a chance to get the screen tamped on tight before the light switches on. While the vacuum is running, I like to take some books and fill the inside of the screen (over the blanket) with heavy books. Put the books over the area where your art is located. This will help with the contact between the screen and glass, and help keep light from creeping around the edges of the film. 

 Books I will maybe read one day

Books I will maybe read one day

8) Once the vacuum is sucking the blanket down fully, you can flip the light switch to "auto". There is a button above the switches that is called "Push button to activate timer". Push this button immediately. This will set the light and vacuum to the time that you set above. You can now walk away from the table and leave it to do its thing. 

9) When the timer is done you will hear the vacuum flip off. The light will flip off as well, but you won't hear that unless you're moth - and maybe you are. The blanket will keep the screen protected and dark as you walk back to the exposure table, so no need to rush. Remove the books and unlatch the table. Leave the film on the exposure table and take your screen to wash out. 

 Windex and microfiber towel. Clean the table after using!

Windex and microfiber towel. Clean the table after using!

10) After washing out your screen and setting it to dry, check the table. If your screen had any wet emulsion on it some may have gotten left on the glass. It is your responsibility to clean that emulsion off of the glass. Use windex, microfiber, and your fingernails to remove the stuck emulsion. Don't use a blade or scratch the glass, and don't leave it for somebody else to clean off. 

Remove your films and put them away. Turn the power off. Close the table. Done. 

SCREEN-PRINTING WITH WATERCOLOR INKS

Screen-printing is an extremely versatile process, and lends it's self to experimentation and alternative processes. One of my favorites is printing with watercolor inks. This easy process lets you create artwork that mixes the control of the screen with the loose, painterly qualities of watercolor inks. 

The important thing here is that you need to use watercolors. They can be any type of watercolor, I've used watercolor crayons, tube watercolors, tray watercolors, and my personal favorite concentrated watercolors such as Dr. Ph. Martins. Watercolors will reconstitute when they get wet, paints such as acrylic or tempera do not reconstitute in the same way and can permanently dry in your screen.

 Water-color paints and my super-sloppy pallet

Water-color paints and my super-sloppy pallet

You can use either an open screen with no stencil or a screen with a a traditional stencil. For this print I am using a screen with a stencil, in this case it is some artwork made by my friend Alison Tharp

I'm using concentrated watercolors because I want this print to have vibrant colors, the process is the same for all types of watercolor paints. Using a wet brush, paint the watercolors on the inside (non-squeegee side) of the screen. You can be as precise or loose as you would like, here I'm being very loose. If I was using an open screen then the entire watercolor painting would print. Here, the stencil will control where the ink will print. Once you are done painting the the screen, let it dry completely. 

 Painting on the inside of the screen

Painting on the inside of the screen

I use transparent screen-printing base is to reconstitute the watercolors, and to push them through the screen and onto the page. Print the transparent base as you would normally print with ink. Run a nice line of base at the end of the screen, and with the screen propped up off of your paper flood the screen. Drop the screen down and print the clear base, using a lot of pressure. It takes some pressure to push the dry paint out of the stencil. 

 Clear base on the screen, ready to flood

Clear base on the screen, ready to flood

 Printing the clear base

Printing the clear base

I can usually get about 4 good prints from each watercolored screen. As the watercolors are printed out  the final image will print lighter and lighter. Once you are done printing, be sure and wash the screen out thoroughly, if the clear base dries in the screen it will wreck it. 

I really enjoy this process as it can bring a softer, more painterly touch to the rigidity of screen-printing. The results can be unpredictable, that's what makes it so exciting. 

 Final prints, I love the unpredictability and variation

Final prints, I love the unpredictability and variation