Screen Printing: Drawing Fluid + Screen Filler

Influenced by the autumnal weather of the weekend, I set out to create a print of moon phases. For this second print, I wanted to try using drawing fluid. Drawing fluid works to make a design directly on the screen – what the ink is to come through. Screen filler is then applied directly on top of the drawing fluid (once dry) to block any areas of the screen ink is not desired to come through.  Once the screen filler is dry, the drawing fluid is washed out of the screen with cold water, the screen is dried, and ink is applied to make the print.

My work space is the same as with the first print; no additions to the setup. I first sketched my moon phases on the screen with a pencil; I had to think through, in using one ink color, how to differentiate the new moon from the full moon. I decided to fill the new moon circles with drawing fluid, which would allow ink to come through filling the circle, while the full moon would only have a perimeter of ink. After painting my design with the drawing fluid, I turned the fan on to dry the screen more quickly. After sitting around ten minutes, I used my hair blow dryer to expedite the drying process. Once the drawing fluid appeared (and was) dry to the touch, I poured a strip of screen filler across the top of the screen. When working with ink and screen filler in my first print, I poured them directly from the jar onto the screen; this time, I used a spoon from my old silverware set I replaced. This was interesting to me in considering the use of a tool – one not designed for the craft process at hand, but fits a use need. After the screen filler was distributed over the screen with the squeegee, it had to dry. Given the time of night at this stage of the process, I let it dry overnight. When I returned to the dry screen, I rinsed out the drawing fluid with cold water, which came off the screen easily. The screen prepared, I then applied ink (with the aid of a spoon) in a strip across the top, mindful of how much my first print seemed to bleed from using too much ink. I pulled the ink through the screen with the squeegee onto a small piece of poster board. While I think the lines were cleaner (more defined) in this print as to my first, I was not happy with how the design looked once printed as a single layer print. It remains in an unfinished state until my next printing; perhaps to be layered with another design, or to add a second color to this print to give the moon phases more depth and definition.

In cleaning my screen after this print, given my experience with using a full bottle of Speedball cleaner (at a price of $8) that was rather harsh on my eyes, nose, and skin, I wanted to try using detergent – something I read as an alternative cleaner. I began with hot water and dish detergent – no effect. I then tried laundry detergent – no effect. I then tried stain remover for laundry and carpet, and Lysol liquid concentrated cleaner. I scrubbed around fifteen minutes, with no result.

I turned to discussions on the web and read that some people use a power washer, like an outdoor house or the house at a self service car was to clean their screens. We don’t have a hose, so I decided to take my screen to the car wash because it wasn’t coming clean. While the hose seemed to remove some of the screen filler, the screen wasn’t coming clean. After spending ten dollars and seeing only limited results, I decided to turn again to the web. I read that others use Mr. Clean or a product called Greased Lightning. Before heading home I stopped by the grocery store to purchases the cleaners. Once home I tried both independently, but without much effect. At this point, I questioned whether soaking might help the cleaning process. I don’t have a tub stopper, so I blocked the drain and filled the tub with hot water, and a combination of Mr. Clean and Greased Lightning. I weighed down the screen so that it was submerged and let it sit. Returning to it, the screen filler remained.

The next day, I stopped at the Art Store to purchase more Speedball cleaner and to talk to employees there to inquire about any techniques that they might know of. While helpful, they recommended the same series of cleaning products I already purchased, and vouched for the Speedball cleaner. No one had any suggestions as to why the screen filler was more difficult to clean with this print, aside from the cleaners I was using not possessing the same chemicals as the Speedball cleaner. For future prints, I would like to understand what chemical is necessary for cleaning and if there are any other conditions that might influence the cleanup process. The screen is currently sitting in the Speedball cleaner soaking.

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