Thursday, 17 April 2014

Screen Print Testing - Primary Research

As I now have a fairly good idea of what I want to produce for the Theory into Practice brief I wanted to test the screen printing process to see what effects I could create with the process that couldn't or would be difficult to produce digitally. This will further emphasise my main point which is that print is not redundant in the digital age as it offers qualities that digital doesn't.

I spoke to Andy (one of the print technicians) when I got into the print room and explained my ideas to him regarding the postcards encouraging the audience to spread the word about print but also engage with physical communications, and the light hearted book of vows from print. I asked for his opinion on this before we started to talk about print and he liked the idea of trying to get the younger audience to try and engage with print over digital. He said that screen print is instantly different to prints from an inkjet or laser printer as the ink is very different and has a more tactile finish. Although I knew this it was good to hear from someone else! 

I went on to explain my thoughts about using neon inks, gradients and overlaying colours to create different colours with this. He agreed that these things would be difficult to reproduce digitally as although some of these can be achieved digitally it doesn't have the same effect as when you physically print them as such as with gradients, you physically blend the inks together and it is up to you how far you take the blend, the direction it goes in, etc. and this is all done through human involvement, which is what I wanted, to put the human involvement back into print as this adds value and aura. 

Andy also mentioned marbling and I didn't actually know what this was but he explained that you dot two or more different coloured inks on the top of the screen and mix these together with the back of a spoon, to create a marble effect, and when you pull this through the screen the marble pattern prints. This is definitely reliant on human involvement as you physically create the marble effect yourself so this is something I really wanted to try! This is also new to me so I would learn a new skill. 

This talk with Andy was really helpful and I felt more confident in getting on and experimenting with printing. 

I wanted to experiment with a lace pattern as I felt this visually linked to the 'To Have and To Hold' romance theme, as explained in a previous post, but I also thought the intricacy of this would produce an interesting design to layer.

I found this pattern online as I didn't want to design my own at this stage as I haven't decided where exactly I am going to take the design. 

I also made a quick grid pattern to use to experiment with overlays, I wanted to layer this over the lace pattern. 

I exposed these two positives, a simple black square to test the gradient and marble effects, and two different point sizes of the text 'to have and to hold'. 

Before exposing I had to wash and emulsion two screens. I then placed the positives under the screens and exposed to 170 light units to harden the light sensitive emulsion in all areas of the screen that were not blocked by the black ink. 

170 units are used to expose a screen to black printed onto normal printer paper, the units are set work with prints from the college printers which is why I always make sure I print my positives at college rather than at home as in the past this has not worked as well. 

After exposing I washed the screens and the emulsion washes out where the black positives prevented it from hardening. 

You can see the exposed and washed screens.

As these were drying I got my inks ready. 
I wanted to work with neons as previously discussed neons are difficult to reproduce without specialist digital printers, but can be easily printed when screen printing. I selected the neon pink and yellow as I had seen these colours blended together well in my research into screen printing. 

To prepare the colours for printing I mixed one part paint to two parts binder, to check the consistency was correct I rubbed some of this onto paper and you can see this is slightly translucent. 

As my screens were dry I taped the edges to prevent ink from gathering here and taped over the text on the screen to prevent this from printing. I then put enough ink on the screen, selected an appropriate sized squeegee and started printing. 

To get the brightest colour I pulled the ink through the screen a few times. 

I also took a range of stocks to the print room with me as I thought this would be a great opportunity to test this in addition to the different processes, and this should help me decide what stocks to use for my final product. 

Below is the print, pulled through the screen a few times, on cartridge paper. As this is slightly off white and has a bit of a texture the ink sat really well and the colour looked bright. 

Below you can see how weak the print was with just one pull, I think I added too much binder to this as this is not as bright as I would have hoped. 

The example below is printed on watercolour paper which has a very textured surface, and so would add an extra tactile quality to the pack, and although I thought that this wouldn't print as well due to the heavy texture it actually printed very well with a few pulls of the ink through the screen. 

I then started to experiment with gradients using the block I exposed. I had never done this so the technique was really new to me but Andy explained that you just put the two inks you want to blend at the top of the screen and then try to blend them together but trying not to be too vigorous as you want the gradient to be clear and you want to avoid any 'merky' colours.

You can see the blend started to form in the inks as I mixed.

I then started to pull this through the screen, not taking all the ink from the top however!

You can see some of my prints on the image below. 

With this technique you can continue to pull the gradient through the screen and the blend between the colours becomes more gradual. You can see the differences in the prints below as I started to pull this through. 

The print below is quite 'stripey', you can see where the colours meet and the gradient isn't very smooth. 

You can pull the gradient whichever way you like through the screen so I went with a slightly diagonal direction as this is more unusual than the obvious vertical or horizontal. Again the mix is quite clear to see in this example. 

As the blend got more gradual and softer the colour was not as intense as I was running out of ink on the screen. You can also see with this print how the screen started to bleed making this mark on the paper. 

The above stock is the white card from the library and this printed really well as it has a very smooth finish. 

Again the gradient is smooth in this example but the colour has got lighter and I was still having issues with this part of the screen. This was due to my print technique as I haven't printed in a while. I am glad I made these mistakes today however as I want to avoid this when printing my final products. 

This example is on watercolour paper and unlike the lace pattern the texture did affect this print, as you can see on the sides. I don't think this stock would work if I was printing large blocks of colour like this. Unless I incorporated the texture into the design?

As the ink was running out on the screen I decided to try the marbling technique Andy told me about. I used the back of a spoon to marble together the yellow and pink colours and when I pulled this through the screen I saw the following result. 

This was really exciting as I had never seen anything like this let alone tried it for myself. I also thought this would be perfect for my mail out pack as it really relies on the human involvement to create the effect and this human involvement determines the extent of the marble. 

However, I pulled this through the screen again onto watercolour paper and the marble had almost disappeared apart from at the top and again the texture of the watercolour paper really affected the quality of the print. 

I remembered Andy saying you could dab ink directly onto the screen to create another interesting marble like effect, so I tried this with the ink I had left and pulled this through. 

However, this didn't look great as there was still the light marbling from the pervious pulls. 

But I did like the different intensities of colours. 

I needed to wash this screen as I had produced a lot of prints with it so I then went back to the lace pattern I had printed earlier and this time printed the grid pattern over the top to experiment with overlaying colours. 

I had varying successes with this as I had a variety of intensities of the yellow ink. 

The lighter print you can see below actually did still show through the pink gridded lines, but these designs didn't look great together so it was difficult to appreciate how this might look when done with designs that compliment each other. I think I should have thought about my pattern selections more before this experimentation session. 

In this close up image you can get a better idea of the overlaying and how this can create a different colour. Although if I had used stronger colours like red and blue this may have been more clear, it may also have helped to use more bold shapes rather than delicate pattern to show this. 

I wanted to experiment with the marbling effect on its own rather than as an after thought so I mixed up a cyan, as I wanted there to be more of a clear contrast between the two marbled colours. 

As you can see I put the two coloured inks on the top of the screen. 

I then marbled this with the back of a spoon. 

I pulled this through onto the trugrain and again this was really exciting to see, this marble effect worked a lot better than the previous as the colours were much stronger. 

However, I then pulled this through onto some paper and the marble was barely there, the colours turned into more of a blend. I also picked up the watercolour paper again which wasn't intended, this meant there was a texture in areas. 

I pulled this through again onto bulky newsprint, which is an off white colour, but again the colours jsut merged together and the marbling was pretty much lost. 

I was really disappointed so I asked Andy why it was doing this and he said that the marble effect only really gives one print before it merges together like this. This means you wouldn't really be able to print onto the trugrain first to line up at all you would just need to print straight onto your chosen stock. 

Although I was initially disappointed when I thought about it this actually lended itself really well to some of the points I am trying to make. The fact that this marble effect can only really give one print before you have to start again from scratch means it is more unique as it would be very unlikely you could create the exact same pattern with the spoon again. This unique element as discussed in my essay adds value and aura to print, and so could add these to the pack if I incorporate this method. 

I also love the effect it gives (with the first print) and so I would really like to use this method. I also feel the effect is visually very interesting so hopefully the audience would engage with it. 

Although excited by what I had previously discovered I continued with my experiments and printed the text 'to have and to hold' over some of my previous prints, as I wanted to test the overlay effect on a bolder design. 

You can see how this turned out on some of the final prints below. 

Final Prints

I tried to take some high quality photographs of the prints that I took from today's experimentation session as I know we will not be submitting developmental work for submission. 

The above print really shows how overlaying works as you can see the cyan looks very different on the two colours, more green on the yellow background and blue on the pink. 

The overlaying on this wasn't as effective but you can still see the colour change mainly on the L and D.

Today has been really helpful as in addition to getting to test and improve my printing skills so that I will be more practiced and prepared for when I print my final product I have also decided on a design aesthetic that will definitely provide the pack with a distinctive printed look, that also has great relevance to the purpose and context behind the pack. 

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