The BIG screen printing experiment: Part 2

Last year I attempted to make my own ‘exposure unit’ that would allow me to expose large screens.  Almost a year on I have decided that the previous method was… well rubbish!

The photographs, displayed above, are part of the latest experiment. Please accept my apologies for the utterly rubbish photographs! The downfall of taking photographs in a dark room.

Whilst the first experimental approach to exposing ridiculously large screens was okay, it did the job… eventually. I found that by using two work lights suspended on a length of timber the photo sensitive emulsion would become over exposed right down the middle.  And in order to washout the image you would need to be a regular at a body building gym! The obvious solution was to move the work lamps further apart. Did it work? No, it just presented a new problem – under exposed in the center.  Thus, the emulsion would completely wash out and ruin the design.

So what did I do…?

Well, silly old me stuck at it for several months. Constantly exposing a screen, washing it out, exposing the screen again and washing it out…. it goes on! I would, eventually get it right but it was time consuming. By the time I had successfully exposed a screen I was ready for bed! This couldn’t go on. So I turned to trusty old Google in search for an alternative ‘alternative’ to an exposure unit.

Google took me to several sites, mostly forum threads. There was one method that kept cropping up – Continuous studio lighting.  The views on this method varied, mostly against the concept. But the more I read, the old cogs started churning. It couldn’t be a terrible idea, there were bonuses – space saving, quick set up and break down, the height easily adjusted.

Here’s what I did.

I bought a continuous studio lighting kit – £29.00 from ebay! It consisted of 5 bulbs at 115 watts each – 575w.  I booked my slot at Green Door print making studio  and set up the lighting kit in their darkroom – it took a while to get the hang of it! I’m not too savvy!! Right, it was up, and all I needed to do next was prepare the acetate and place it dead center onto the screen. I used string (check out the middle photograph above) to determine the centre.

Once the acetate was in place I turned on the lights.  I found that the best time for exposure was 18 minutes for a screen that is approximately an A1 size. Washing the screen after exposing can be a bit fiddly, especially with a large screen because the emulsion continues to harden in the natural light.

The best method, on guidance from Green Door Print Making studio, for me was to spray one side of the screen with water, turn it around and spray the other side, then turn it back around and start scrubbing away the unexposed emulsion with a sponge. Scrub both sides, then hose down with water again. Keep repeating until the unexposed emulsion is washed out.

So far this method is working for me! If you’re like me, experimenting with exposure techniques without the ‘proper’ equipment I would love to read your success, or mishaps, story…



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