// you’re reading...


Amber Albrecht p3

Amber Albrecht talks about the silkscreen printing process...

READERSVOICE.COM: What’s the process with silkscreen printing, from drawing to finished work, and how does it differ from other printing? What do you like about it the most?

AMBER ALBRECHT: The silkscreen process is not that complicated but it’s difficult to explain briefly in words to the average person who may have never seen or thought about the process before. I will give it a try, and there are many variations to the different stages and techniques but here is what I do:
I usually start with various india ink drawings and with some ideas for the print that I want to do. I scan the drawings into photoshop and play around with possible compositions, colour combinations and layering possibilities for hours and days until I have the final piece that I want to print.
I will basically have a digital version of the finished work at this point and then break it down into the different layers in photoshop. If I don’t want to use the computer for my drawing/development stage, then I create my different layers by drawing onto different pieces of paper and using a light table as I proceed so that I can see how the layers will look on top of each other.
It’s much more of a surprise how the finished print will look this way
as opposed to seeing all the layers together in colour on the computer, and the different layers then get photocopied onto acetate.
From the computer, the layers also get printed off onto acetate in black
(each layer basically stands for a different colour, but they are black for the purposes of the photo emulsion process). Each transparency then gets developed onto a silk mesh screen, using photo emulsion and a light table.
It’s basically a highly detailed stencil: the black of the drawn image becomes a hole in the dried emulsion. The coloured ink is then pushed through the screen onto the paper. After printing the first layer onto each piece of paper and waiting for them to dry, the next layer is then printed on top of the first layer, hopefully in the exact spot that it is supposed to be (registration is a whole other explanation) so that the colours line up with each other, and so on with each layer until they have all been printed.
Screenprinting is different from other traditional printmaking in that the
colours in the final product are usually more flat, to mention the most obvious of the formal characteristics. It’s also perhaps a little easier to produce more multiples at once. It’s also possible to set up one’s own studio, using tools that can be purchased at a hardware store, as opposed to needing access to large presses in the case of lithography and intaglio (as well as large stones and acid baths, etc).
What I like about the screenprinting process is that I can plan everything so completely before the final piece is printed, therefore mistakes in the actual drawing process can be controlled and the final product can come out somewhat flawlessly.
However, at the same time the end product is always something of a surprise as you don’t really know what the final print is really going to look like until the very last layer is printed.
Screenprinting, so often associated with various ephemera, is often not something generally thought of as a highly detailed and flawless art-form, therefore many people are surprised to see how detailed and fussy my work can get.
I like the multiple nature of printmaking (making an edition), so that I need never become attached to each piece and it’s more economical in terms of having more to sell (and for less money than an original drawing). I also like that one can play around with the flatness and transparencies of the different layers in a way that is not achievable with drawing, making it an art form in it’s own right, not just a print of a drawing.
I’ve never actually done any silkscreen printing for anyone. I’ve only made limited edition silkscreen prints within my own body of work. All the commissioned work that I’ve done for others has been purely drawing.
There was one 7 inch that was ultimately silkscreened but I didn’t do the silkscreening myself. There was also that one zine where I collaborated with a writer friend and which I did silkscreen but that was more of a personal project.

-Copyright Simon Sandall.