January 02, 2015 - 7 comments

Outer Space: The poster that failed to launch


Screen-printing a poster by hand is completely opposite of designing a poster digitally. When you design a poster in a program such as Illustrator or Photoshop, it requires you to what tools to use and how to use them. Once you have master those tools, they will always perform the same way. If you run into a problem, you can simply use Google and find a solution. This is not the case with screen-printing. Some answers might be found by searching online, but for the most part, problems are often specific to the individual, the set up and the environment. The solutions usually involve lots of trial and error, rework and some dumb luck.

This series is a behind the scenes look into our printing process, and that includes both the successes and the failures.


“Adventures in Outer Space” comes from my love of classic science fiction films, as well as the illustration style and color schemes from 1960’s textbooks. To help achieve this look and feel, I created a bold, simple illustration paired with a equally bold color. We purposely offset and over printed some of the color to give it a vintage feel.


In an effort to streamline our process, we purchased a frame kickstand, which holds the screen in an up position in between pulls, and helps back flooding the screen go smoother.


During a special order run of 150 prints, I began to experience shooting pains in my wrists. I tried to make various adjustments to my technique, but nothing really helped. After some research, I purchased a set of wrist guards that help keep my wrist “locked” during printing. So far it seems to have done the trick.



We use only water-based inks and usually remain loyal to one brand. Unfortunately, that brand is a bit more expensive than the other brands available. In an effort to reduce production costs, we decided to try a more generic brand. The results were mixed (not pun intended, unless you love puns, then yes, that was completely planned).


It took some effort to get the consistency and volume right, but ended up pulling without any bleeding problems or drying on the screen. The color in the container was a vintage looking mint, but when the ink dried, it became a lot darker than we had anticipated. Although it did not have the authentic vintage tone that we had hoped, it solid enough to use and maintain the feel we wanted.


Instead of using a straight black for the final (trapping) color, I wanted a hint of a vintage faded feel. We ran out of white to mix with the black, so Jenn improvised with what we had and the use of various mediums to adjust the opacity and achieve the desired grey. The grey pulled like a champ.



The grey ink ended up being the opposite of the first color, instead of drying darker, the ink dried a bit on the light side. The consistency was also suspect in a few areas. We feel this might be due to how the ink reacted to the various thinner agents we used, as well as lacking a proper amount of white ink as the base.

Another ink consistency issue that occurred was on the top right hand side of the poster. This was directly where the new kickstand was attached to the frame. It appears that I did not allow enough “safe area” between the live area of the graphic and the frame wall. With the kickstand attached, there was too much give on that side, and the screen did not make enough contact with the paper surface to transfer the proper amount of ink.

I do not feel these issues greatly distract from the print, but I do feel that they are enough to keep us from selling the print. Since it does not meet our quality standards, we will classify this poster as a test print. Hopefully we will revisit and reprint this in the future.






Published by: K. Bowman in Behind the Screens


April 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Love it! Test print or not this one is a keeper. Just ordered one for my spacey hubby. :)

Keith Bowman
April 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Coolio! I am sure you will dig it. It definitely has it’s own charm. Thanks for your support and buying Amerikan.


Danita Reynolds - Creative Brain Extraordinaire
April 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Great Poster! Very informative blog post. I ordered one but forgot to add in the notes area that I’d love to have you guys sign the poster.

    Keith Bowman
    April 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Danita- no problem! We sign and number all prints even test prints! Thanks for the support!


January 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Hi my name is Loren Grosvenor, I’m currently studying graphic design in York, England. I am in my third year an am currently researching and writing my dissertation.
the question I am trying to answer is “Is there a future for screen printing in the digital era?”
I just want to ask your views on this question.

I also want to ask, why do you use screen printing when you could just digitally print, which is easier and more time efficient?

If you could answer these questions I will be very grateful.

Thank you


    Keith Bowman
    January 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for your questions, I have emailed you directly with my response. I hope it helps you out.


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