Primary Tools & Materials:
SCREEN PRINTING, SCANNER
Additional Tools & Materials: pencil, paper, tracing paper, pen, Adobe Photoshop, inkjet printer, silk screens, screen printing emulsion, light exposure bed, water, drying rack, screen printing ink, clamps, cover stock paper
This letter is an isolated piece of a composition I made over the summer, but since I documented each step I decided to "recycle" it for today's combination of analog printing (screen printing, in this case) and computer hardware (scanner).
This letter began as a pencil sketch, was then traced in ink onto vellum paper (image 2), and scanned into the computer in order to clean it up. When designing for screen printing, it's important to consider the final output in your design, especially when working with more than two colors. I knew I wanted this design to be two-color, so when I created the files for my negatives, I had to consider that the first color (copper) would print first, then the second (black) on top. This is why there are two negatives (image 3 and 5) to create two screens (image 6 is the black screen). To be sure my first color (copper) would completely fill the negative space under the black ink, I had to expand the size of the copper areas so that they'd sit just under and outside the black layer that would overlay. This is called "trapping," and it makes aligning the two designs easier, giving you a tiny bit of wiggle room if things don't line up perfectly. If you look carefully at my cover image. you'll see I didn't have quite enough trapping for the copper; there's a thin vertical strip to the right of both upright strokes where you can see some paper peeking through. Annoying as that can be, it's also what makes screen printing so desirable, and after accidentally offsetting a few of my prints, I did it deliberately a few more times, because I liked the way it looked.
Screen printing is one of my favorite hobbies because it forces you to make very detailed decisions about your work, and requires a great deal of precision and attention to detail. It's also very satisfying to print with your hands. Screen printed letters will often include a bit of offset (as in my first image), and sometimes the texture of the screen itself translates onto the final print (see final image - the linen-like grid texture in the copper). Multi colored prints often have a layered look where at an angle, you can see the edges of the colors that are underneath the top colors. The choice in color for ink and paper plays a huge role - as overlapping colors can often create a "third" color, and ink can often absorb some of the color of the paper (especially white ink, which rarely stays pure white once laid onto a dark or brightly colored paper).
To create a font based on screen printing, I would want to include an element of offsetting that the user could control while typing; a choice between extremely tight registration or loose, sloppy registration with a lot of trapped white space between the letter's layers. It would also be interesting to adjust the amount of ink used to make each letter - light pressure can create spotty, not quite filled letters, firm pressure a smooth, fully filled letter, and too much pressure for thick, sticky-looking letters with rough edges, to mimic the look of too much ink being pressed through the screen.