The BIG screen printing experiment.


Granted that when you start up a new business, without any capital, it is incredibly hard! And, in a lot of cases we have to improvise with the little tools that we have. My case I had literally nothing. I’d sell something, and then that little bit of money would go towards purchasing materials to make my own ‘tools of the trade’. No pocket money for me, not yet! I made and meshed my own screen printing frame – see ‘Making a screen on a shoestring. The next stage of the experiment was to burn my design onto the mesh BUT I didn’t have an exposure unit large enough and the unit at Green Door Print Making studio was just a little bit too small for my purposes – oh why, oh why do I have to go BIG! Why can’t I do SMALL! More fool me!

But it was not all doom and gloom! We had a darkroom and we had bits and bobs lying around that we could utilise to imitate an exposure unit.  I along with Pandora Lydia Faith Johnson [don’t you just love that name!!] got our heads together and got to work.

Education is the most powerful weaponwhich you can use to change the world.

The photographs aren’t great but we were in a darkroom after all. The ‘makeshift tools of our trade’ were:

Two  500 Watt work lights – that I had lying around at home.

One stick of timber left over from making my screen frame

Two stretchy tie things – I cannot for the life of me think what they are actually called! They’re the little ties that we used to attach the work lights to the timber.

A chest of map drawers and a work surface.

A large piece of acrylic glass.

Two bricks and a pair of trainers!

A mobile phone used as a timer.

Before I start explaining phase 2.1 of the experiment I’ll tell you a little bit about phase 2. We initially used two stools, instead the chest of drawers and work surface, to position the marriage of timber and work lights at 47 centimeters above the screen. We exposed for 15 minutes. It did not work. The center of the image was over exposed and the outer sides were very under exposed. 


We followed the same procedure as phase 2, but this time we used the large piece – of flipping back breaking – acrylic glass to flatten the image. We also used the bricks and my trainers to assist the flattening – it was so large that it warped slightly. We then positioned the timer affixed with the work lights on a ‘pulled out’ map draw and the work surface – approximately 1 meter above the screen. Again, we exposed for 15 minutes.

During the exposure we went for a cup of, much needed, TEA and some sort of randomly weird humorous chat – as per usual!

Moving really [erm] quickly we dashed for the darkroom, ‘liberated’ the screen and took it for a refreshing shower in Green Door’s mega washing sink. As the water poured on we could see that it was working! Better than our first attempt. Bit by bit the unexposed parts of the emulsion plopped out of the little bike images, again the edges were a little under exposed and the center was a little over exposed. But by washing carefully at the edges and scrubbing the center we had a usable screen for printing. Conclusion – expose for a shorter length of time.

If you are a screen printer you will already know this but if not –

Bear in mind that if you decide to do this project yourself you’ll need to coat your screen with Light photosensitive emulsion and have your acetate with your design ready before conducting an experimental exposure.

Coming soon phase 3 of the experiment – Marking registration lines.

3 thoughts on “The BIG screen printing experiment.

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