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What is Screen Printing?

A short history of screen printing

Screen printing is a printing technique, with origins that go back a long way and which was already used in the East before J.C. But the technique as we know it today was popularized by Andy Warhol in the 1960s. is a technique widely used in printing on paper and textiles, because it allows many impressions made in an artisanal way. It began to be used at the beginning of the 20th century in the West for textile printing. Prior to this, prints were made from woodcuts, scroll prints and other processes. For screen printing, we now have machines that have been developed to replace the hand, but are used in large printing houses. Many brands use these workshops for their textile printing. For Tounki, I wanted to keep this manual side that brings me closer to my creations. That's why I decided to detail the whole process of printing a t-shirt.

Step by step for t-shirt printing

To do screen printing, you have to be organized, because it takes several steps to prepare your printing and each of them has various variations.

Starting from the original drawing, it must be designed in black and white, or else make several plates of various colors for the same drawing. You can use dithering (a small dot accumulated to create a texture), fine lines (as in engraving), solid areas, etc.

Once the drawing has been created, it is passed on a transparent sheet, the whole thing is called artwork. The artwork is used to be able to isolate the drawing in the screen printing plate.

typon sérigraphie cartes
Typon de la sérigraphie Cartes (sur crop top et sweat)

The central element of screen printing is the board, consisting of a fabric stretched over a frame. The number of threads per cm on the mesh varies according to the support you want to print (eg: paper, glass, wood, textile, etc.).

We use an insolation product, which is coated on the frame and left to dry in the dark so that the light does not reach it; because the light fixes the product on the canvas.

Once the frame is dry, it is placed under a UV light with the artwork on it. This allows light to pass through the design, fixing the neutral parts and leaving the parts under the design unfixed. These parts are subsequently removed by running water over them (with a fairly strong jet). And There you go ! Our frame is ready to print!

Sérigraphie cadre impression artisanal
Cadre d'impression sérigraphie cartes.

For printing, the type of ink is specific to each medium. You have to choose one specific to the textile, which often does not print on nylon. It is also for this reason that I chose the fabric of the cotton t-shirt. I use water-based inks because they have less impact on the environment. Apart from white, I like to use colors. Once the ink is chosen, you can play and make gradients.

The frame is fixed on one side by clamps on a table, or a support for t-shirt. We have a system so that it can stay in the air in order to raise the frame after each print. The ink is applied to the frame, which will be scraped using a squeegee specific to screen printing. The rubber of the squeegee also varies according to the type of support to be printed, for the textile, it will be a little more flexible.

We have a drying system, because the ink used for textiles, especially for t-shirts, must dry for at least 24 hours. Finally, we iron all this to be able to fix the ink well.

Prints and originality for a brand

So that's what happens in the Tounki brand workshop, and how your t-shirt is made! I chose screen printing because it's a technique I know and which allows me to control the quality of the drawings, the number of creations I want to make and above all, I can do it myself! I do a lot of tests and experiments, especially with the colors and its mixture which create gradations, we find it on the white t-shirt Fleurs du mal.

Other engraving and printmaking workshop techniques

There are other printing techniques, coming from the print. Engraving on metals and wood is surely the most popular. Different regions of the world have different traditional workshop techniques. Woodcuts were used in Europe during medieval times. Surrounded by the folklore of the time and the cutting technique, we recognize a particular aesthetic, a little abrupt. Metal engraving is gradually taking over, as it allows flexibility when drawing (especially with the etching technique). Prints are used for the dissemination of information and works of art and are widely used during the proliferation of printing in Europe. Albrecht Dürer in Germany, Gustave Doré in France, Goya in Spain, and others used printmaking in many forms and elevated it to the same level as painting.

We also find wood engraving in Japan, called Ukiyo-e. This new printmaking technique made it possible to develop the dissemination of art. Ukiyo-e, or images of a floating world, are found in a small format among the inhabitants of working-class neighborhoods. The mixture during the opening of Japan between these two types of art is very interesting. On the European side, we find the whole Japanese movement and the interest in this aesthetic. In Japan, the prints are evolving and we are starting to include perspective. One of the important differences is the use of colors. While in Europe black on white prevails, in Japan, a practice is developed by combining several colors.

Some of the most famous artists are Utagawa Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi or Yoshitoshi. Ukiyo-e were printed in separate prints, but this technique was also used to illustrate books. Books that will evolve until what we know today as manga.


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