18 July 2011

beyond thermofax screens

Believe it or not, thermofax screen printing was not my first foray into the wonderful world of screen printing.

That honor goes to the fabulous Kerr Grabowski and the week long class I took with her on deconstructed screen printing. That was the first time I'd done what I call abstract screen printing. I tend to look at printing in two categories: abstract and realistic.

When I want abstract prints, I do deconstructed printing. When I want, for example, the image of a ginkgo leaf exactly as its meant to look, I do thermofax screen printing.

I've had a hankering lately to do some abstract printing and the deconstructed variety sounds like it will hit the spot. I ordered some supplies today and decided to do a little check up on the state of my silk screens.

I use these regular old plain ones for smaller printing and they work like champs. But I've not been so happy with the duct tape on them and today I decided to change it.

If you're new to screen printing, here's the scoop: you have to protect the wood frame because you're going to get it wet - with water and paint and dye and whatever else you toss on it. If you don't protect the wood, it will warp and rot and generally become useless. And since these buggers aren't so cheap, that's not a great prospect.

When I was new to the game, I went the duct tape route. Which means I taped off the edges into submission and its worked decently. But as I used the screens more, it became evident that its not a long term solution. I noticed the last time that the tape was lifting at the edges but not wanting to deal with it then, I ignored it.

Bad idea.

This is what I was calling a "clean" screen (this is what it looks like after I yanked the duct tape off) :

Not very clean, is it? Here's another view:

The other thing that I've never really been a fan of is how much screen area I'm loosing to the duct tape. See the rectangular stain on the mesh in the photo above? Everything between that line and the wood frame was tape.

You can really see the difference in this photo:

Think of all the printing you could do with that extra room.

Basically I had two choices. I could replace the duct tape with new tape and try to take up less room with it or I could use polyurethane.

I went the second route.

What you do is paint the wood edges of the screen with several coats of polyurethane and you leave all that extra space free. It takes more effort then the tape. I have to wait for each coat to dry (which isn't really that hard since its 96 degrees here today) and it takes a little more finesse because if I get it on the mesh of the screen, it will block that area.

I set about my work in the sweltering heat that Michigan is being smacked down with and this is what everything looked like after the first coat:

I did decide to add a permanent well to the screens by brushing about a two inch strip of poly on the end of the mesh. (A "well", in case you don't know, is a blocked area of the screen where you put paint or dye before you pull it across the screen. If you don't create this, the paint or dye will just go straight through the screen and create a big old blob. You can create a well with tape or polyurethane. I chose the latter.)

I'm going to let them dry overnight and do a few more coats over the course of the week. My hope is that next weekend cooperates and I can get some good deconstructed printing done. I figure if I prep supplies during the week, it'll let me go gangbusters on the good stuff rather then having to putter with it later.

There always seems like there is a lot of prep work with these things but its sooooo worth it in the end, don't you think? :)


kathy said...

Hi Lynn, I'm with you...I totally hate the duct tape route...and water gets in there anyway!
I don't like polyurethane either..the smell...I am trying a couple of products...Minwax's antique oil finish and boiled linseed oil. They will repel water and protect the wood too, I've been told by those who work in wood.

Approachable Art said...

You're a braver woman that I am, I hate painting my screens with sealer, so I go for the duct tape. ;) Like you, I have screens that have the tape lifted on the edges, which makes it almost useless.

Yeah, prep for DSP is always the biggest, most time-consuming step... but totally worth the effort, IMO.

Carol Soderlund said...

When polyurethaning screens, I mask off the center of the screen, so inadvertent drips don't ruin the screen. I like the larger real estate that you get.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the metal frames? One of the art therapists (also a working artist) at work raves about them. I've not screen printed before.