Screenprinting is something I've always wanted to try, but it's always looked like the kind of thing that requires 'the right tools'. So when I heard about a place called the Print Club London, a place where they have all the tools, and where they show you how to use them - a place that runs a class every Saturday - I had to go.
It's a time consuming exercise but it's a leisurely kind of art. We took along our designs (ahem, or images we nicked from Google) and the guys explained how you work the colours into black and white, and we got about converting our images in photoshop so they were perfect black and white images.
There is a scientific and technical sounding explanation for this - but basically anything that's black will be where your colour ends up on the finished screenprint. You have to prep your screen with a special UV paint and leave it to dry for a few hours - this is the most critical part and one of the trickiest! You have to make sure that it's really smooth and properly covered, otherwise you might end up with tiny pockets of 'leak' once you start printing. But you only find out when you start painting - which is a bit late. We did ours and then popped around the corner for lunch while they dried out.
When we got back, we had to expose our images onto the screen. This is where the benefit of the print club comes into its own - if you were to do this at home, you would have to leave your black and white image on the screen in an area with lots of bright light (or shine a lamp on it) but it can take hours. At PCL, they have a massive machine which does it in about 2minutes. Boom.
Once you're fully exposed (so to speak), and have washed all your excess paint from the screen using a jet hose - which is a massive amount of fun and slightly messy - it's time to pick a colour. We were doing single-colour prints and my indecisiveness went into overdrive...
I eventually decided on a metallic grey and we moved onto setting up the screen stations - making sure the frame is the right distance from the print paper, that you've got it all lined up correctly, and that it's all securely screwed in.
Once that's all done, it's time to get squeedging. That's it! Legwork is all done, and you can start rattling through the prints - it takes a bit of time and everyone encountered a few issues.
Some people had runny inks that bled through, others found their paint was too light to really bring the image to life, and some people just couldn't get the hang of the squeedge - but eventually we left with six good images to take home.
I loved it, but you can see why a good screenprint costs money - it takes quite a bit of time. But it was a fun way to spend a Saturday and would recommend it for those of you who want to try something a bit different. It cost me £50 for the class but that includes all your materials and tuition, so it's not too bad if you end up with something worth hanging on a wall, and a few that you can give as gifts.
If you want to find out more you can check out their website here.