Let’s talk about posters & screen-printing…

I really like screen-printing (most of the time).

I love completing a project from design to finished print, and I really enjoy all the intricate steps that fall between the beginning and the end. Like most forms of printmaking, there are plenty of steps in the process that can make your print more interesting, and can make you bash your head against the wall in frustration. These are not mutually exclusive.

Often, screen-prints have a distinctive look: solid colors, overlapping inks, halftone dots, grainy texture, etc. These characteristics make screen-prints what they are, and I love them. (Except when I don’t want them.) Anyway, one reason they have those distinguishing features is because when a  screen-print is printed it’s done one color at a time. So, the following poster was printed with three colors. However, because I overlapped inks and used halftone dots and other techniques, it appears to have many more colors. Overlapping blue and yellow gives me green, etc. But when you see a finished print, it can be hard to know exactly how that print came to be. So here are some detail shots of a recent print for The New Pornographers, a band I happen to really like (and no, they’re not dirty; it’s just their name).

OK, so… how did this print come to be? I was really tired of all the kinds of prints I’d been making, and wanted to try something more organic and/or interesting. So I “drew” all these organic wobbly circles and ovals, and thought of them as pebbles or something being placed together on a page. I say “drew” because I did it on the trackpad of my laptop. Yeah. I didn’t even draw them on paper and scan them in. So I’m trying to do things by hand, but not really. Then I used them as little vignettes to hold various imagery that I felt worked for this particular poster. That’s the tricky part. That’s where intuition and interpretation come into play. I listened to the band, looked at their other stuff: t-shirts, cd artwork, etc, and wanted to fit into that overall aesthetic without using it directly. So when I listed to these guys, I really love the big sound that they have. It’s dynamic, booming, and fun. I know that’s not a terribly descriptive word, but they’re fun. Deal with it. So visually, what does that mean? For me it means vivid colors, dynamic visual rhythms and patterns, moiré patterns (which is an obsession of mine anyway), and a few (vague) allusions to the actual content of the music. Plus, I wanted to make a poster that had little call-outs to the city hosting the show, which happens to be Tulsa in this case.

The poster is designed as a functional whole, so I can see what I’m doing, but then it’s broken into three colors for the screen-printing. But throughout the design process, I’m mindful of where I’m going. For example, I don’t just click on the green in my color palette for a green dot, I make a blue dot, and then I overlap it with a yellow dot, just like the ink will eventually do on the paper.

Here are the individual separations as I saw them in Photoshop (click to enlarge):

So you add the fist two together to get this:

and finally, with the third color you have this:

Now. During the printing process, things can change. Things always change. In this case, the blue ink that I used was closer to a true Process Cyan, rather than the 50% cyan I had planned on in Photoshop. This had a couple of obvious effects. But what I liked about it was that it gave the color more punch, and deepened some of the dark tones that were kind of too light in the digital mock-up.

Here’s how things ended up…

More snapshots…

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3 thoughts on “Let’s talk about posters & screen-printing…

  1. Jerad

    While doing my internship and a screenprinter I have found that I enjoy it. I’m thinking screenprinting capstone?

    Awesome poster, btw.


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