Speedball – Printing with Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler
Studio Michael van Kekem
My name is Michael van Kekem, an illustrative designer and printmaker from Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Next to commissioned assignments for a variety of clients, I also teach screen printing classes which is a lot fun to do. Everyone approaches screen printing so differently, which always creates a feast for the eyes!
For printing this screen print we will be making use of Speedball Drawing Fluid to set up the drawing and the Speedball Screen Filler will be used to cover up the screen. I I will be using a small sized screen with mesh size of 110, which is suitable for printing on paper.
Step 1; The Design
Pick a design from your drawing sessions that you would like to print in a small edition.
I picked a design showcasing elements from various drawing sessions and combined this into one sketch. Within my sketch I have my mind already set on which parts need to become a colour. The sketch I will transfer onto an A4-sized paper or 8.5 x 11 inch.
Step 2; Setting up the screen
Your A4/8.5 x 11 inch-sized sketch will be your base to work with. Using a pencil, you draw on the mesh. For this method of screen printing, it’s perfect! Trace your sketch onto the mesh.
A tip is to heighten your screen somewhat, if you would like to work in a positive mode, you can choose to draw onto the flat surface of the screen, but remember you are then working in a mirror image.
Step 3; Using Speedball Drawing Fluid
You need to make sure to use multiple types of brushes whilst working with Speedball Drawing Fluid. I often work using big surfaces and shapes in my work and for the edges I would like to work with a much thinner brush and for the filling of the shapes or surfaces the wider/bigger brushes. When your design is more line-based, I can imagine you would only need the thinner option. This is the moment you can paint onto the screen with the fluid.
Be aware to not work too thick, but be sure for enough coverage. The material you are working with is quite fluid so be sure it does not leak too much.
Step 4; Drying the drawing fluid
It is wise to let the screen dry flat. During workshops on location, I often have people wave with the screen to let it air-dry completely or use a blow-dryer. Be sure to not have anything go wrong with your design when you work a bit too wet. When you blow dry, it can cause the fluid to go into a certain direction. There is always a way to tweak things using tape afterwards, but it is best to work as neatly as possible. When you feel like the drawing fluid seems more ‘matted’ make sure to touch and feel the screen to see if it is actually dry. If it is dry enough, we will be applying the Screen Filler.
Step 5; Applying Screen Filler
When you wish to use the screen filler, be sure to make use of a scoop coater. They come in different sizes, use one that fits the screen properly. A scoop coater makes it all so much easier. For this screen print I am also using a spatula or spoon to be able to put the remains back into the jar when done applying it onto the screen.
Don’t be too sparse on the amount of screen filler onto the scoop
coater. All the remains can go back into the jar. Now, be sure to place the screen a bit askew and
then place the scoop coater
directly and firmly onto the mesh. Use some pressure, when you don’t do this,
you will ‘float’
with the scoop coater and you will spill or have a thick layer applied. Wait
for the screen filler
to touch the mesh and then push and pull the scoop coater over the screen meeting your drawing.
The layer of screen filler will dry quite fast, but you can use a blow-dryer or wave with the screen for a bit to make it go faster if needed. The surface will end up matted.
Step 6; Washing
Now that the screen is dry, you can wash out the drawing fluid with water. In the workshop where I work and also in my studio there is plenty of water stations to use from. But if you don’t have water close by, you can always use wet wipes (with no additives). Often, I make use of baby wipes. Whenever I have to work on location, for instance during a festival of alternative workshop spaces, I often have a bucket of water near my setup table and/or the baby wipes. Make sure to use a clean sponge!
You can now wash out with water and sponge. You will notice, whenever you wash out both sides of the screen that the image will become more and more transparent, it will ‘open up’.
This is exactly what is meant to happen. The meaning is to have everything that is drawn and meant to get a colour in the end after printing. So, you’re drawing to become visibly transparent on the screen, this is all that needs to be done. Be sure to dry your screen once again. Wave with it, or use the blow dryer. Or have the screen drying on its own for about fifteen minutes.
Step 7; PRINTING!
The screen is now ready to use for printing. Have you thought about the colour you want to be printing with? or what kind of paper? And what type of thickness? There is so much to choose from. I often begin with different sheets to test with. For this print, I know I would really like to print on Speedball acid-free Printmaking Paper in a small edition of twelve prints. By using this method of screen printing you can easily print a small edition. If you’d like to print a bigger edition, I always advise to use exposure and emulsion.
Before I start, I make sure the edges of my screen are taped up. Make sure to use tape that is sticky, yet easy to remove and leaves no residue at the end. This way, you protect your screen and no ink will be left in all the corners of the screen after you’ve finished. At my table I always prepare as much as possible before I start.
Your table is your printing station and be sure to have everything ready to go. If you find yourself having to still prepare some ink whilst you are already printing, the ink will easily dry. Prepare your paper, all your inks, the squeegee and paper tape. Some scissors can come in handy for any needed extra tape. Make sure your squeegee size is always a bit broader than your design and you always need a bit of a margin between your design AND your illustration/design/drawing. You always need a bit of room for placing your inks and squeegee. When using the exposing method, never expose the screen all the way near the borders, it can be enormously frustrating when doing so.
You can choose to freestyle with your screen by placing your paper randomly under the screen, but for me the way to print is like this: I place a piece of acetate sheet under my screen, mount it onto the table with tape, on one side. The screen is set in the hinges. Because I will be printing in an edition, I would like the print to be exactly on the same spot on each sheet of paper. Therefore, my first print will be on the acetate sheet. I will be using this as my guide by flipping it, a way to register your paper and aligning it with your design.
Now, once I have placed my first sheet of paper under the acetate sheet, I can move it around until I am satisfied with the placing. Once I am sure I don’t move the paper and create a second way of registration. This always works well for me. If you feel spontaneous and want to freestyle you can always do one of both or experiment. Using paper tape or electrician’s tape, I create registration marks on three corners alongside the paper. This way I can be sure all prints in this edition are the same.
For this print I would like to use Speedball screen printing ink: medium red as it is a beautifully vibrant red on this white paper. If you want to be sure beforehand what the ink will look like on your chosen paper, try smearing a bit of ink on a piece of test paper to see how and if it is what you want. And how it will dry.
Now it is time to print! Word of advice, work fast and always stay focused on how the printing process is going! Always check for uneven spots on your print or for things that you notice. You can adjust it in the next sheet you’ll be printing on. Time to place your ink onto your screen, above and a bit broader than your design. Place your squeegee in the ink on the screen and hold it a bit towards you on an angle, make sure not to smear the ink over your design. It all affects your print, the way that you print it! What pressure? On what angle? How much ink, etc!
Is this your first-time printing? Embracing the experiment is key, and by doing this a couple of times, you will get the hang of it for sure.
When you have printed onto your first sheet of paper, it will probably be stuck on the screen, you can get it off by grabbing a corner. Place your print in a drying rack or on a clean table so that all prints can dry separately.
Your design on the screen needs to always be inked, keeping the design ‘wet’. After your first print, take it off and place it on the side, pull your squeegee over the design whilst lifting the screen. Otherwise, you will find yourself printing slightly on the table. This way the image won’t be drying too fast. Now you can print your full edition this way. Register your sheet of paper by the flip-over acetate AND/OR the registration marks, pull down the screen, print, get the print off and let it dry and then repeat all the steps. You will get into a nice production vibe!
DONE! Now you find yourself with a nice edition of prints. I am quite pleased with my design for now. I can now choose to also print on all kinds of flat surfaces such as wood, glass or textiles (shirts, sheets, blinds, you name it!). Try to experiment with your design by using different coloured papers… Throw on another colour and whilst printing you’ll see it blend on the screen onto the paper. It’s magic every step of the way!
If I want to use another design and print it, I need the screen to be clean and fully transparent again. Often, I ended up using a degreaser to get the screen all clean again. After that, just repeat all the steps. You can even choose to create a second layer for your print. For this print I could even think about making a screen for just the hand!
Remember to always embrace the experiment!