Screenprinting 101

Last weekend I took a two-day class titled “Screenprinting 101” at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey. It was taught by Dave DiMarchi, a Montclair, NJ, based printer and bookmaker. Saturday focused on the basics of how screens are prepared, some techniques for drawing designs by hand, and the mechanics of pulling prints. On Sunday, Dave walked us through the process of using Adobe Illustrator to create color separations and turn them into stencils, transferring the stencils to screens, mixing inks, and then producing an edition.

My reason for taking the class was to explore ways of translating generative sketches that I’ve been developing in Processing into prints. For this particular project, I used a frame capture from a recent sketch, which randomly places a variable number of differently sized squares across your window, and then uses a for/next loop to draw the same sized square in a step and repeat pattern, creating a set of cuboid volumes on the screen. By making the colors partially transparent, you can also produce additional colors where the volumes intersect.

When we dumped the image into Illustrator, Dave helped me to create six separations based on automated groupings of similar colors, and then turned these into stencils. I ended up printing 5 colors; leaving the sixth out created empty white spaces that gave the other colors some depth and room to breathe. To try to replicate the effect of the original sketch, I also added some transparency to the ink to try to produce additional colors where the stencils overlapped. Here are three of the stencils:

I printed 18 copies on watercolor paper by hand, and the acceptable prints will form an edition of 10. I’m quite pleased with the results, particularly considering that this was my first real foray into screen printing, and the experience has me thinking of other ways of transforming digital designs into physical prints that combine the best qualities of these two very different media.

And here’s one copy of the final print.

The weekend also gave me the opportunity to meet and print alongside three other talented artists: Stephen McKenzie, Amy Biggers, and Celeste Regal. You can see their prints as well here.

Thanks, Dave, for showing us the ropes, and to the Printmaking Center for offering artists training and access to a very comfortable, well stocked facility. I hope to visit again soon.