How to Make a Hand-Drawn Positive for Exposure Onto a Silk Screen

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Drawing on Mylar can yield greater detail and can result in a greater range of expression than drawing directly onto a silk screen.

Things You'll Need

  • Silk Screens
  • Burlap
  • Sandpaper
  • grease pencil (or litho crayon, Conte crayon, black Prisma pencil, india ink)
  • frosted or smooth mylar (or plain Mylar or wet-media acetate or frosted Lexan)
  • Have a photo emulsion-coated silk screen ready for exposure.

  • Choose any of the following methods or combination of methods to create original art for silkscreen printing.

  • Select a transparent material such as Mylar (use plain Mylar if you're using a greasy drawing medium); a frosted Mylar or Lexan (this is bumpy, so is good for tonal work); wet-media acetate (best with ink); or a translucent drawing vellum.

  • Place photographs, photocopies or other appropriated materials underneath your transparent material as a guide, if you wish.

  • Choose a drawing tool: materials that work well and are very expressive are any kind of grease pencil (a No.1 litho crayon is perfect); Conte crayon; undiluted india ink with brush, pen and ink (as long as the line work is not too fine); black Prisma pencil (effective on frosted Mylar with a heavy tooth for shading); and virtually any other drawing material that does not allow light to pass through it.

  • Know the materials and techniques that will not work. Don't use pencils, ink washes, shading of any kind, a felt marker pen, or very fine crow-quill pen-and-ink marks.

  • Keep this in mind - you are making a positive transparency, which means that any mark you make will eventually translate into a printed mark via ink through the silk screen. All the marks you make have to be done with drawing materials that do not allow light to pass through them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Overdraw - make the drawing heavier, especially in tonal areas.
  • Remember that silk screen is not a low-resolution printing medium and can't reproduce fine lines or small particles of information, so do your drawing to capitalize on its strengths - ease of use, vibrant color and transparent layering effects.
  • Draw on burlap or sandpaper to achieve tonal "shading" effects, or use the sandpaper to draw into areas.
  • Use brush and ink on the wet-media acetate to create large areas of color ("flats") or to draw reductively by scratching lines into the ink after it dries to create highlights (like a scratchboard drawing).
  • Working on a light table will help you see the density of the areas as you build them up, but it's not necessary.
  • The drawing must be completely dry before the transparency is exposed.
  • Dust greasy areas with a light coating of talc so the greasy material does not get on the screen.
  • Build up areas in crayon areas and then scratch into them.
  • Try using a rough-textured material underneath the Mylar when drawing with the crayon to produce tonal variations.
  • Use only materials that are dense enough to prevent light from passing through them.

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