Screen Printing

Prep & Printing


The idea of screen printed text was to have a bold title stand on the page giving away part of a story – like the title of a newspaper. Using paper and a craft knife, I cut out the text I wanted to use. These were: ‘PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE ENEMY’ (the story of how he congratulated the opposing communist side) and ‘FRANK THOMAS DESERTED THE WAR’ (when he left Spain to returned back to Cardiff. I cut out both the positive and negative part of the text to compare what each print would look like and decide what works best. I want to use black to keep it neutral throughout.


‘Happy accident’

The first one I decided to print was the positive cut out. This was a disaster when it came to printing. It stuck to the paper and none of the ink just bled through the letters so the outcome was just a black mess. Even though the ‘PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE ENEMY’ print was a disaster and I ended up throwing it away, I carried on and printed the ‘FRANK THOMAS DESERTED THE WAR’ cut out which did a similar thing but I kept it because I liked what had happened. It was kind of a happy accident as even though it wasn’t the clear and crisp print I wanted, I liked the added texture the mishap of the paper sticking together made. The black and grey areas of the print add to the message behind the words because the words are dark and hidden, you can’t read them properly and it’s not until you really look at the paper you can see it – so like with Thomas’ reasoning to leaving the war, it wasn’t until he had a proper look at what war and saw it for himself, he realised the dark and hidden messages involved.


‘A perfect print’

I then printed the negative cut out of the other phrases. These went a lot better. Apart from the mishap of have one of the stencils the wrong way round, the prints came out exactly how I wanted them too. I wanted the crisp and clean screen printing look with the type and that’s exactly what I got. There’s an imperfect shape to all the letters and they’re all aligned with each other but I like that because it emphasises the hand made quality of it.


Experimental typography

When I took the stencils of the screen ready to wash the ink off, I noticed the words were left on the screen and I thought it’d be interesting to see if I could get that to print. I put the screen on top of the paper and using my hands, I pressed down to try and transfer the words onto the paper.

Surprisingly, it worked! The effect was a faded and textured print. Something that I wouldn’t have expected to happen but I liked definitely. These prints have got more character than my previous ‘clean and crisp’ print because they’re not perfect and have a lot of texture. They’re also a lot more interesting because of how they’re faded. They remind me of the effect you can get with letter press if you don’t press down hard enough.

After seeing these prints as definitely successful, I decided to do some more for the zine and take this approach of pressing the ink onto the paper to transfer the words.

More stencilling & printing

I went back through my draft zine and look at other words and phrases I could screen print. Since I wanted to incorporate layers into my zine, I decided to experiment with screen printing onto tracing paper so that I could use these as layers in the narrative. Some of the phrases I had originally decided to write them in calligraphy but a lot of paragraphs were quite big so I thought it’d be a good idea to break up those paragraphs a bit and screen print some of the narrative in bold.

I did the same process of what I did for the first set of prints. Printed in black, I first printed it onto card and they came out lovely, really neat barely any run of ink. Then I printed the same onto tracing paper which also worked really well – there’s something about printing on tracing paper that makes it a lot more pleasing that printing onto just plain paper. I like how you can put loads of different backgrounds behind translucent paper. So with my work being a narrative (though I plan to just have more text behind the words), something I could do is put an image behind that text or different colours which would either add and show a different meaning to the narrative.

You can see with how I’ve photographed my work, how it’s beginning to look having overlays on text on each it other. It gives a shadowing and 3D effect to the typography.

No stencil

Going back to what I did before with experimenting with just printing of a screen with my hands, I did that with these prints but onto tracing paper instead. A couple were really messy but my favourite ‘JUNE 1937…’ worked well I thought. The others weren’t successful because the ink was too blotchy and the words marched together; as a plain print, I like them because there’s some interesting shapes and textures, but in terms of a print that should convey a narrative, it doesn’t work because you can’t read what it’s saying. The one that does work however, you can read and it’s got the nice textured effect I like and wanted. I like the effect of layering it on top of the ‘clean and clear’ print because it gives it that shadow effect and draws you in to read it.

The effect of layering typography:




Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

One thought on “Screen Printing”

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