You know how sometimes a thing you try just for fun turns into something much bigger? Say you try a new creative technique..realize you love it…learn more and more about it…start making things for other people…and suddenly you’ve got yourself a full-blown case of side hustle. Brian P., a Hallmark Gift Books designer, started off with a simple home screen-printing setup, and now he’s got a professional-grade studio. Recently, he invited creatives from different areas of Hallmark to learn some new skills.
I take everybody through the full process of screen printing. We cover everything from preparing their artwork to exposing and burning screens to printing their screens.
Getting ready to screen print designs
The rule is “bring anything you can do with one color” and we’ll figure out how to print it on whatever they bring in.
I’m set up to do shirts, but I’ve had artists bring in cork, paper, tote bags, pillowcases…as long as it’s flat and can withstand the heat, we can screen print on it.
We use their design file to print a negative—the only thing I really do is add crop marks and make sure the solid parts are rich black, versus just regular black. Their ink will go where the black is, so it has to be completely opaque.
Then we burn the screen, which is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. We attach the negative to the screen, put it on a light table, and expose it for about a minute and a half. Whatever is exposed to light will harden. The part of the design covered by the black part of the negative doesn’t harden, so we can just wash it out.
The ink will go through any part of the screen that isn’t coated, so the last step in preparing the screen is to cover up any spots the emulsion didn’t cover.
Screen printing T-shirts and more
Then you line up the screen on the T-shirt—or whatever else we’re printing—and push or pull the ink over the screen with a squeegee.
I have a dryer that will set the ink in just a few minutes.
I love sharing screen printing. It’s fun for me, too, because I get people who push my boundaries. They bring materials I’ve never printed on before or never thought about. We don’t know what it’s going to look like—we just try it.
ALFRED J., PHOTO STUDIO ART DIRECTOR:
I’ve always had an interest in screen printing, so this was an amazing opportunity to try something new. My design was a custom piece for a car meetup that my oldest nephew, Cole, was organizing. He thinks about cars 24/7 and for his first meetup I thought it would be awesome for all his family and friends to wear custom T-shirts during the event. The T-shirts (and his meetup) were a huge success.
JUL M., SOCIAL CONTENT DESIGNER:
I’ve always been interested in screen printing but never actually had the opportunity to try it. It’s so easy for work to exist only in the digital space, but it’s really worthwhile to take the time to do something more tactile and process-driven like this. It’s awesome that I got to take something from my sketchbook and make it into something totally new.
NIKKI C., DESIGNER:
I’ve loved screen printing since taking a class in college and wanted to dust off my skills and take a refresher course. My design was actually an illustration I did a few years back (when the Beyoncé Illuminati phase was in its prime). I thought it would be fun to bring it to life via a new medium.
JULIANNE McC., DESIGNER:
I remember when I first learned about screen printing back in college, and I was like, “This makes so much sense! I can design but then also print my own work.”
I’d really been wanting to do a Kansas City art deco design since that style is so prevalent in our city’s history. I had designed this font awhile back, too, and hadn’t really done much with it, so that was fun to incorporate.
It’s amazing to see your design printed as just a black print on transparency paper, then to be burned onto a screen, and then all of a sudden you are pushing ink through this screen onto paper and, boom…there’s your design!
At Hallmark, our creatives are encouraged—required, really—to take five days every year to do something new with their creativity. To see what we do, check out #my5days on Instagram.