As part of my training for my job as the technician at Limerick Printmakers I am attending a series of workshops on screen printing (taught by Derek O’ Sullivan).The best way to understand what is needed, what could be organized better, in all the areas of the workshop is to use them and discover first hand… Although I did do some screen in college it has been many years since I used the process and I am without a doubt very rusty!
The first question of course is what to print!!!
I had the occasion last year to be installing an exhibition in a series of old abandoned buildings. Naturally I had a good look around and spotted some interesting patterned wallpaper that I thought would be ideal material for creating a series of decorative end papers for bookbinding – something which I find difficult to source for reasonable price here in Ireland.
I have two samples which I cut down to A4 sized pieces to fit on the scanning bed:
As you can see they are not in pristine condition so a bit of digital restoration work is required. The next step is to open the files in Illustrator and do an image trace, keeping the colour count as low as possible. Both samples I managed to get down to 6 colors initially although this was with a full palette so there was tonal variation.
I decided to work on the flower patterned paper first. Not having done this before my workflow was quite inefficient. At first I thought the most logical approach would be to cut the largest clean portion out of the image and duplicate that across an A3 sized art board. I quickly realized that it was going to be quite difficult as the pattern did not perfectly match up with itself. There were so many errors in the trace that it was going to take a lot longer than I had to clean them all up!
My next approach was to reduce the pattern to the smallest possible repeatable tile size. this would make it far easier to clean up nicely and I could use it as a pattern to cover the required area… Once as a pattern the same problem reared its head – the design did not line up against itself perfectly so there were visible seams all over the place. Also once done up as a rectangle with the patterned fill it was no longer editable in the same way. Bringing it into photoshop, re-saving as psd and bringing back to illustrator allowed me to re-trace the image but each time one retraces the quality of the pattern degrades quite significantly. when viewed side by side with the original trace it looked drab and muddy, really quite sad…
In the end I decided to simply try and repair the holes in the full sized sheet by replicating clean shapes and dropping them on top. This then provided an a4 size sample that I doubled and hid the single seam as best I could. Had I approached the problem like this in the first place I would have saved a significant amount of time but probably not have learned as much!