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What is Screenprinting?

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We get asked this question a lot and for quite a long time I just assumed everyone knew what it is! So I've created a very short explanation of the process which hopefully will be useful so please read on:

Many of our Artists create their limited edition artwork in this way including Anna Marrow and Freya Cummings whose work can take up to 12 screens to create.


The Screen:

This is a fine mesh or screen that is tightly stretched around a rigid frame which vary in sizes. 

The Process

The process of printing to create Art Prints is done by transferring the image on to the surface of the silk screen. This is done by coating the screen in a light sensitive emulsion that is left to dry. The artwork - either hand drawn or digitally produced and on transparent film or paper - is then exposed to the screen using an Ultra Violet lightbox for a short amount of time which bakes the image on to the screen. Once it has been left for some time, the screens are washed off and the exposed artwork is now ready to use.  The areas that are not going to be printed are blocked out on the screen. To create the print, the framed screen is positioned over the paper, and the ink is then placed at the bottom of the frame and pulled across using a squeegee to press the ink through the screen.

Anna Marrow printing at Spike Island

Anna Marrow printing at Spike Island in Bristol

Limited editions and Originals

The beauty of screenprinting is that it allows Artists to make multiples of their work. Most of our Artists create editions under 50 but with the occasional larger edition which sell at much lower prices. There are different schools of thought about editioning - some prefer a more freestyle approach - like Anna Marrow - whose printing style is very loose and free and so each print differs from the other - in that sense you get an original print as no one is the same. Others are more uniform in their approach, very neat and orderly and each print is identical.

Multiple Colours & Elements

As in the case of Freya Cummings' beautiful screenprints of balloons - some of these have up to 12 colours on them. Each colour will be printed, hung up to dry and then brought down again to print the next colour. This is a labour intensive process as each balloon on the screen will need to be covered up so that only the colours she wants to print will come through. It is possible to expose more than 1 screen to speed up the process and often is the case that multiple screens are used.

As you can see below from Anna Marrow's 'Snowblind' print, she lays down the first colour as a background and the ski lifts have been masked out. Her next colour is black and she lays down the details for the cable cars and the budgie and car (which she later removed from the final edition)  She then continues to lay over the remaining elements and colours to complete the final print.



The above shows the stages of printing Snowblind by Anna Marrow - each colour and element is printed individually to create the final image


Hand finishing

Anna Marrow hand finished many of her prints by hand colouring and painting, and others including Julia McKenzie and Paul Farrell are using foil blocking as a technique to create beautiful shining prints. The blocking process is where the whole image, or elements of the image have an application of pigment and then a heated die is stamped on to it  making it stick to the surface leaving the design of the die on the paper.  Julia McKenzie's 'Bronze Odanata' is done in this way and Paul Farrell's recent Butterfly prints also.