My friend Isabelle is an accomplished self-taught artist and has dabbled in a number of printing techniques. Earlier this year, she acquired screenprinting equipment, and we recently produced a screenprinted version of my latest zine, A Cupcake ATM Misadventure. I am slow to grasp how various forms of printing work, but I’ll try to explain how we (mostly Isabelle) made the screenprinted zine.
First, we had to know how many layers of printing we were doing. We decided on a four-color zine: black for the lines, pink for the cupcake ATM, and pink, blue, and purple for the sprinkles. Isabelle manipulated a scan of the zine in Procreate to create the layers and then printed the layers on transparencies.
Next, we needed to burn the screens. Isabelle painted the screens with a greenish photo emulsion. The transparencies went on top of the treated screens. We covered the screens with cardboard and took them outside into the LA sun. Then we exposed the screens to the sunlight for 45 seconds, covered them again, and took them inside. When exposed to light, the photo emulsion hardens on the screens. The printed design on the transparencies covers up parts of the screen, and the emulsion under those covered parts doesn’t harden. So when you rinse the screen, the unhardened photo emulsion comes off, leaving parts of the screen unplugged. This is where the ink will be able to pass through the screen during printing. Thus the design that was on the transparencies is what will ultimately be printed.
Once the screens were burned, we were about ready to start printing. But then came the joys of registration! The first color we printed was pink (which Isabelle mixed). With each layer, we had to make sure that we printed on the right place on the paper. So each time, we first printed on a transparency, and then we moved around a piece of paper (or a partially-printed zine) underneath the transparency until everything was correctly aligned (this is registration). Then we taped markers around the correctly positioned paper so we’d know where to place each subsequent sheet for printing that particular layer. The zine only had four colors, but we ended up doing six layers because we hadn’t burned the screens in such a way that all the pink could be printed at once.
As for how the printing itself works, the screen is attached with hinges to a frame. You apply ink to the upper side of the screen and place your sheet of paper underneath the screen. Then you bring the screen down and use a squeegee to scrape the ink across the screen. The ink passes through the part of the screen that isn’t covered with hardened photo emulsion and prints onto the paper below.
The six layers were as follows: two layers of pink to do all the ATMs, a layer of black for all the lines, and one layer each of pink, blue, and purple sprinkles. Here’s what the screenprinted zine looks like!