Behind the Screens Series 2
Welcome to the second entry in our Behind The Screens series, where we give you a glimpse at the process and creation of an Amerikan Made print. This time, we are highlighting the second printing of “Let’s Learn the Alphabet.” This poster is the first from our newly- launched children’s product line, Every Day Will Be Saturday™; This print features 26 hand drawn illustrations and a vintage color pallet.
ABOUT THIS 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. The first volume of this poster was a success and sold out, so we are printing our second volume.
In a nod to Blue Note Records and our design hero, Reid Miles, when we print another volume of a poster, we keep the original graphics and simply change the color scheme. For this poster, we posted a couple different color combos and let our fans vote. The winning colors were orange and black.
SOME INITIAL CONCERNS
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.
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.
PRINTING THE FIRST COLOR
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 mis-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.
Hopefully you enjoyed this “Behind the Screens” blog article. If you did, please help spread the word online with tweets and FB posts. “Like” our Facebook page for the latest news about We Are Amerikan Made.
If you missed our first article you can read it here.