January 02, 2015 - 5 comments

The Second Printing of the “Let’s Learn” Poster


Instead of using the traditional images associated with each letter, such as using an apple for "A", we tried to use unique images to make the visual experience interesting and fun. In addition, we purposely laid the letters out in a nonlinear layout in order to encourage exploration and engagement. This print features 26 hand drawn illustrations and a vintage color pallet.


We coated and shot these screens just after the New Year in masse with a few other designs. We printed the other designs first and encountered numerous problems including stencil breakdown. We believe we used a bad batch of emulsion and so we did not hold out much hope for these screens.


One thing that we have learned to make the printing process go smoothly and reduce stress is to do as much preparation ahead of time. It’s better to separate the more chore-related tasks such as mixing ink and registration to one day which leaves you on the day you print, free to focus on the joy of laying down ink.

We take great pride in custom mixing our inks and Jenn has gotten quite good at matching the colors of the original design. However there is a level of difficulty in printing due to inherent inconsistencies in color, volume and texture that can arise in hand mixed inks.

The success of getting the colors right is preparation, the right tools and equal parts quality ink and alcohol.

Registration is one of the most important tasks in screen-printing. There are many factors that cause problems in getting a clean registration from stencil shrinking humidity to loose clamps. Over the years, we have developed numerous tricks to make this task go quicker and smoother. Out of all the equipment we have, the smallest and least expensive is also the most important: registration tabs.


We only play classic jazz and funk on vinyl during the printing to ensure the proper groove to ink ratio

The first color is sometime the hardest to print because it is often the lightest color and it can be hard to really judge if the color is too dark, light, warm or cool until you add the other colors. For this particular print, we were pretty confident that the color was spot on. It was the consistency that caused some concern.

We didn’t have any thinner or retarder for this color, so we could only add water to try and thin it out a bit and keep the ink from drying on the screen. It didn’t help that it was a pretty humid evening, which always plays havoc with the ink.

We were able to get the screen pretty saturated and the ink pulling nicely about halfway through the run although we did lose a bunch of prints to random ink bleeds and the ink drying on the screen.

Printing The Second Color

Since the second color is the final and trapping color, this is when the magic happens. I will never get over the feeling of pride and accomplishment when the screen is lifted and I get to see how the whole design comes together. Although this is can also be a moment of frustration if there are issues such as screens out of registration, stencil breakdown, pin holes or color clash.

The biggest surprise for this color was even though Jenn mixed up the perfect looking gray, when it was pulled the color was closer to black than the gray we were shooting for.

Besides the gray looking black, we had a bigger issue to deal with: humidity. For the first couple of prints, we had issues with the ink drying on the screen and, due to the fine detail and line work in the design, “double hitting” the black was not an option because we would get ink bleed and spread.

We decided that we would have to wait and get some retarder for the ink which would help the ink stay “wet” on the screen but this meant washing down the screen and having to re-register. This normally isn’t a problem as much as it is just a bit of a hassle but this time it proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Due to the recent problems we have had with stencil breakdown, the ink had to be removed gently off the screen with a light spray of water. This was an issue because the ink color was so dark that it stained the stencil, leaving a dark “ghosted” image on the screen. While it would not affect the printing, it made it extremely difficult so see through the mesh in order to register the print.

What should have been a 5-10 minute task turned into close to an hour and involved the use of a flashlight and some good old fashion guessing.

Jenn remixed the ink and added some newly acquired retarder and, after about 8 to 10 test pulls the screen was saturated and the ink pulled like a champ. The registration was actually a little tighter than the first time, although we lost a few prints that weren’t locked into the registration tabs all the way.

In the end, even though it offered some tough challenges, we are extremely happy with the finished results. We believe that it would make a great addition to a kid's room or even an adult's home / office.

Close up of the ink goodness




Published by: K. Bowman in Behind the Screens


May 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Awesome stuff, Kieth. Love your posters and love your music choice.

Keith Bowman
May 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Steve! We are going to make it a habit to show the music that we were listening to during the printing of the poster. Maybe we’ll put together a playlist at some point….


December 31, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Fabulous outcome! I too think you both make awesome posters and I like reading – seeing how you achieved it all. Happy New Year wishes to you both – 2014~ Echo

May 23, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Hiya first time caller long time listener …Well yes but no, ‘been doing waterbased (for garment)for a while and I was looking for some troubleshooting tips and landed on that awesome poster design you got back there . Anyway lotsa kudos very nice design and yes also nice choice of music ( that Count Basie sleeve is pretty cool )

Regards .


    May 31, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the kind words and for “stopping by”. Hopefully you will check us out in the near future as we get ready to come back from our sabbatical.


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