Join us this Thursday for a special Curatorial Tour of our summer exhibition Printed Textiles: Pattern Stories, at 6pm in the newly renamed Gallery 241 in McNeal Hall (no reservation required). The exhibition highlights items from our collection and the printing techniques that were used to create them. Throughout the summer we will share some items that didn't make it into the exhibition on our blog. See more printed textiles in the gallery and in our online collection.
Andy Warhol's 1962 iconic image of Marilyn Monroe practically defines screen print; her lips, eyelids, and hair are cannily separated out and printed in brash colors. However, this print technique is thought to have been used in Asia as far back as the 10th century AD. Europeans did not adopt screen printing and engineer it into commercial use until the early 20th century.
PVC handbag with screen print of Andy Warhol 'Marilyn' by Loop Designs. Gift of Margot Seigel.
While it may seem like this method of printing miraculously transfers images onto fabric, the process relies on rational technology and skill. The basic steps are:
- 1. Emulsify screen
The screen, made from a stretched mesh, is evenly covered with photographic emulsion.
- 2. Create the design
A separate screen will be made for each color being printed. The designer must think in a subtractive way, considering what needs to be exposed and voided in each colored layer to be printed.
- 3. Transfer design onto transparency
This is often done with an inkjet printer.
- 4. Burn image onto screen
The transparency is taped onto the emulsified screen and exposed to UV light. For multi-color prints, screens that will be layered must have the design in perfect alignment from one screen to the next.
- 5. Create print
A squeegee is used to evenly spread ink across the stencil.
Alex Newby (MFA '13) demonstrates screen printing technique in McNeal Hall's surface design studio.
Linen screen printed hand towel, c.1960, gift of Janet L. Johnson.