Screen Printing 101: Making Art More Accessible
At IPaintMyMind, we are super passionate about screen prints. When our founder, Evan La Ruffa, first started collecting art, he couldn’t afford the high-priced original paintings. Instead, he started with screen printed band posters. They were accessible, well-priced, and just as cool as the much more expensive art. Plus, they featured his favorite bands and shows he’d actually been to and enjoyed!
Soon, Evan realized that screen prints allowed people without money and privilege to enter the art world on their terms. It’s a more accessible process for artists and an easier purchase for art lovers. It’s also central to our mission at IPMM, where we believe that art is a human right. Everyone deserves access to art and art education, and screen printing is a way to get there!
Screen Printing Basics
Screen printing is a kind of printmaking that uses a screen with a design burned onto it to transfer ink onto a surface over and over. With a single screen, you can make unlimited screen prints!
A screen is a piece of synthetic mesh stretched over a rigid frame so that it is pulled taut. Generally, a printmaker covers the mesh screen in a special emulsion material and then lays a stencil over top before curing the emulsion material with ultraviolet light.
The parts that were exposed to the light harden, while those under the stencil stay soft. The printmaker washes off the emulsion formula that hasn’t hardened, leaving only the hardened emulsion formula where there was negative space in the stencil. Ink can’t pass through the hardened areas.
Next, a screen printer will mix their ink colors with a brayer, a rubber roller used to spread and mix printmaking ink. Once they have the right colors, they’ll apply the ink to the screen with the brayer, covering all areas of the mesh with ink.
Finally, they choose whatever material they want to print onto and place it under the screen. Then, they’ll use a squeegee or printing press to press the ink through onto the chosen material. After each print is made, the screen printer can reapply ink to the screen and make a new copy. They can also wash off the screen and mix new colors to print with, making a fun variation of a single design.
What Surfaces Can Be Screen Printed?
You can screen print onto almost anything that can be held flat! Traditionally, screen printers use paper or fabric. You can print onto t-shirts, tote bags, or sweatshirts. Wearable art is a super fun way to express yourself creatively while you move around the world. You can finally make the super funky shirt of your wildest dreams!
Screen Printing is Affordable and Accessible!
Screen prints are cheaper than many other forms of art because they can be easily replicated. A painting, drawing, or sculpture are generally unique pieces of art that take a long time for an artist to plan and execute.
On the other hand, a screen printing screen is labor-intensive as well, but can be used as many times as the artist wants. Each print that’s made subsequently is a much easier process. They’re also less expensive because no one owns the only copy of a screenprint. You kind of end up sharing the artwork with tons of other people who bought other copies of the design!
Some of Our Favorite Screen Printers
This is a tough one! There are so many amazing screen printers in our collection alone. But, here’s a couple to get you started.
Dan Grzeca is a Chicago artist who often works on band posters for shows and tours. You can recognize his distinctive style by its sketchy lines and intricate detail!
Storm Print City, aka Russell Muits, is a Chicago-based artist who has started a world wide trend! Street printing is the process of using found objects to make prints, such as manholes or metal grates.
Mural on Wheels
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about screen printing, get ready to get a little messy! Schedule your very own Mural on Wheels workshop and learn how to pull prints. MOW workshops are perfect for school Field Days, corporate retreats, team building exercises, and any time you want to get a little creative.
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