The Art Of Making Serigraph

The process for making a fine art serigraph is widely known as silkscreen printing. Paint or ink is brushed through a fine screen made of silk or polyester with masks used to produce the design.

Serigraphy is a highly labor intensive process. As an example, for 100 color screenprint it can take up to 2,000 man hours to create. One of the advantages is the depth of color and detail that can be achieved.

From the original painting a commercial photographer makes a C print to provide a current scale to work from. It may be enlarged or reduced from the size of the original. The chromist, a skilled artist, places a mylar sheet (strong sheet of polyester), over the C plate. He then draws on the mylar with india ink, brush or rapidograph pen. One mylar is made for every color to be printed. The chromist must interpret the artists work so that he reproduces the original with all its nuances in terms of style and content.

When the first mylar is complete it moves to the next step of the silkscreen process. Today polyester fabric is frequently substituted for the silk that is stretched across the frame. The mesh sizes of the screens vary from course to fine. A course screen has about 80 holes per square inch, which results in more ink going down on the paper during printing. A fine screen has about 300 holes per square inch.

This screen is first coated with a photographically sensitive emulsion. Then it's placed, with one sheet of the mylar that's completed by the chromist into an exposing unit. This has a vacuum to ensure perfect contact between the screen and the mylar and is then exposed to high-intensity light. The light hardens the emulsion but the artwork done by the chromist blocks the light and does not harden. Then it is washed out in a sink. The printers ink passes through only the area done by the chromist.

This process is repeated for each color. A new screen is required for every color and only one color is printed at a time.

Working from about 15 basic colors, a color mixer can make any color in the world. It is many times a tedious process to achieve the desired colors and during the printing the color and registration are checked frequently.

The inks range from transparent glazes to opaque. The opaques are printed first and later the glazes are used to effect the depth and luminosity. Pure pigment can be mixed with glaze in percentages from 30 to 99 percent to create a variance in the translucency.

Now the screen is placed on the press, and the ink applied by the printer, one print at a time. This process continues for each different color screen. To complete a serigraph print, it can take days, weeks or months depending on the number of color screens involved.

The paper used is usually a heavy acid-free archival paper as it best holds the surface weight of the ink.

Upon completion, the prints are then curated and given final inspection. Now the prints are ready to be signed by the artist.

Selected Works

The following are links to artists using serigraph as the medium of choice:

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