One of the most popular posts on The Art of Doing Stuff has always been my How to Screen Print at home post. People are stunned, shocked and amazed that you don’t need a whole workshop or studio to screen print your own tee shirts. Really all you need is an adventurous spirit, a bit of guidance and what I like to refer to as a screw you attitude.
Of course there’s gonna be people who tell you that you can’t do things. That it’s impossible or at the very least hard. A select few people (I’m sure you know some) have an unparalleled knack for making things seem way harder than they actually are. Also. Who cares. So what if something is a little bit hard? So what! You know what’s easy? Eating pudding. Eating pudding doesn’t even require chewing. You put it in your mouth, mush it around a bit to feel like you’re doing something then squash it down your throat. Pudding. Pudding is good and pudding is easy. But this website is not for pudding eaters. This site, The Art of Doing Stuff, is for people who want a little something to chew on.
Besides most things aren’t that hard. They’re just scary.
Let’s talk about screen printing shall we? First off, it’s not incredibly easy. It’s not pudding.
But it really isn’t very hard either. I mean, I taught myself the basics of it through a bit of research and a bunch of trial and error. Some guessing was thrown in there just for fun too.
Even though I successfully screen printed at home, I wanted to learn more about it and get a better understanding of some of the more advanced techniques and principles. So this January I started a semester long Screen Printing course at The Dundas Valley School of Art, a local independent art school. It’s the same place I took a couple of photography courses when I wanted to learn how to take a photo without giving myself a migraine.
So welcome to my class. Where none of my photographic skills are at all evident.
First allow me to introduce you to our instructor Laura. She also manages the Print Studio’s Facebook page where you can see some of the work I’m doing and the (much better) work of others.
Laura heads up the Printmaking department at The Dundas Valley School of Art.
Here’s the funniest thing about the entire class. See that sink in the middle of the room? It’s the big white thing with pipes running to it. Yeah, it’s made out of wood. And shockingly after our instructor Laura painted and sealed it, it works perfectly fine. Do not be surprised if you see me creating a wood sink in the future. See? There you go. A perfect example of a thing that most people would say NO, you can’t, you shouldn’t, it won’t work, it’ll be too hard. Blah, blah.
Screw you and all that.
Everybody’s working on something different and everyone is at different levels. Some of the people in the class have taken the course before and they’ve come back to work on more projects. At the moment I’m working on converting images to grayscale so I can print images that are only one colour, but look like they’re several colours. Like my cleaver above. Turns out I got it wrong, lol. It happens. The image is too fine, the dots too small, so when it’s printed it looks too solid. I have to adjust it in Photoshop.
Grayscale you see, is when you take an image and convert it in Photoshop so that instead of being solid, it’s actually made up of tiny dots (like pixels). The closer the dots are together and the more of them there are, the darker that portion of the photo looks. So the handle of my cleaver has a lot of dots close together, while the blade of the cleaver has fewer dots that are further apart. It looks like it’s made with a few different shades of gray and black, but it’s all just black dots at different distances, fooling your eye.
So now I’ll try again at home to get my dots right.
Here some of my classmates are at the actual printing table. They’ve come up with the image they want to print, have made their screens and now they’re actually doing some printing onto paper.
The first print we all did was a plain, one colour print to get used to the motions and pressure we needed when printing. Once you get that done you can graduate to prints with a few colours or placements. You’re allowed to experiment. You’re allowed to do just about anything actually.
For instance I had no idea you could do anything like this with screen printing.
It’s colour gradation. Or something like that. I got so excited over the technique that I had to make room in my head for all the excitement by forgetting the proper name for it. I actually forgot my own name for a while and Laura the teacher can confirm I made some sort of barking sound when I saw the results the first time.
To do this sort of thing instead of using one colour, you put dots of colour along the screen and kind of wiggle your squeegee as you run the colour across.
A couple of us tried this technique. That’s JoJo trying it herself on her rainbow print. She didn’t bark. She, like most people, is refined enough not to make animal sounds when she gets excited.
Here’s her final print.
JoJo desperately searched the city to buy a hedgehog recently. Every pet store she went into said No. They had no hedgehogs. She then came to class and made this print.
Another woman in the class screen printed monograms onto pillows which is such a great idea.
Along with my cleaver, I also made a print of Cuddles. Starting with a photograph of Cuddles, I erased the background, converted it to a sketch, traced it onto transparency and then hand finished the rest of the shading and details until it looked good.
Then I took the screen I made with that transparency and screen printed over a watercolour I had done of Cuddles. Getting this …
I have a couple of more classes to go where hopefully I’ll perfect this cleaver screen of mine. Because once it gets done, I can get on with printing up some towels and tee shirts to sell on my SHOP page. My goal is to have 50 cleaver tea towels, 50 Cuddles tea towels and maybe a few tee shirts as well to sell.
AND once I’m finished taking my course I’ll be organizing a How to Screen Print at home live video course for all of you who want to try it but are a tiny bit afraid to do it without someone walking you through it. By the end of my course you’ll be confident enough to do it yourself.
Because it ain’t that hard. Any of it.