Recently I started a new project called Postcard Club, which for you is a way to get a free handmade-by-me postcard mailed to you once a month (the link to join is in my monthly newsletter), and for me is a way to force me to play and experiment with new ideas. It’s hard to make time to just mess around because there’s always so much to do. Being accountable for making one postcard a month to mail out to people makes it more likely to happen.
I noticed right away in working on the first postcard for Postcard Club how much better I felt after working on it. I hadn’t had a chance to work like this in a long time.
For the first Postcard, I wanted to do something loose, and had been wanting to make a print of a sketch from my trip to Japan last fall. My friend and I were biking the Shimanami Kaido bike path, where there are a lot of orange trees. So I drew this sketch of an orange tree:
To turn it into a screen print, first I made a quick digital mockup. I wanted it to be close to the original sketch, which meant it was going to be at least a four color print. In terms of file setup, with postcards you can print four cards on an 8.5 x 11 sheet, so I divided my 8.5 x 11 canvas into the four sections, but made the drawing fill the full sheet.
In the digital mockup, I made a rough version of each of the color layers: brown, orange, transparent light green, and transparent dark green. This gave me a rough idea of where colors would interact and where everything would fall. I wanted to keep the brushy, loose quality of the sketch, so I didn’t want it to be a fully digitally-made image.
I printed out each layer of the digital mockup on my laser printer. I used the printouts to trace with a pencil onto tracing paper in a more final way. The pencil tracing then became my guide for brushing on the final drawing with India ink onto transparency film. The transparency films are used to expose and burn the imagery into the screens in the darkroom. (Pro Tip: India ink is dark enough on transparency film to make good exposures, Sharpie is not.)
Using the inked transparencies, I exposed the screens in a darkroom. Prior to exposure, the screens are coated with a photosensitive emulsion that allows the image to be burned into it.
Once the screens are exposed, it’s time to print! I made little X registration marks on the edges of the transparency film layers so that I could line them up to set up for printing. One color is printed at a time: 1. brown, 2. orange, 3. light green, 4. dark green. I hand-mixed the inks, and I saw in the digital mockup that it would be cool if the greens were transparent, so the colors can interact. I made sure to use transparent inks to mix them. I started with an acidy green for the light green (process yellow + process cyan + a smidge of fluorescent magenta - all transparent colors), printed with it, then mixed in a little bit more process cyan to get the darker green.
Printing went well and it was fun to see the print develop as each color was laid down.
I love some of the ink interactions and will take note of them for future prints:
If you’ve signed up for Postcard Club, I’ll be dropping these in the mailbox this week!
Do you want to get a free screen printed postcard from me in the mail every month?
Sign up for my email newsletter to get the link: