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INTRODUCTION

This site consists of five loosly linked pages focused on fabric screenprinting as a takeoff for some design issues, for example the relationship between the t-shirt and the allover print, which are two entirely different kinds of repeats; in addition I'll discuss the extremely useful interface between screenprinting and computers.

Twenty years ago the fabric printing industry was compelled for environmental reasons to stop using solvent-based colors. What resulted from this shift was a class of water-based printing inks that are safe, easy to use and don`t require much equipment. This site is about printing t-shirts, but there's an underlying agenda: "you can do this in your garage, or on your kitchen table!"

Silkscreen is both a commercial and an art medium: T-shirts are usually printed in large quantities on machines, but they always retain their expressive potential, which can be especially wide-ranging because they're a good medium for both words and pictures.
In this piece I'll try to set forth ways to put images on fabric, but inside a certain window of technique that's within reach anyone familiar with cooking, carpentry or any other tool- intensive activities. In addition I want to explore the relationship between t-shirt printing and overall fabric design. The repeat print, whether this means applying a design on multiple t-shirts or in sequence on a length of fabric, is a field where computers really help move things along.

Screenprinting has an elegant interface with the computer because both mediums present information on a grid, and like the computer screenprinting is very proceedural, A, thenB, thenC.(A lot of people abandon the medium because some disaster like ink drying in the screen begins to seem unavoidable, whereas just as in cooking--another proceedural science--often it's just a timely stir that keeps the sauce from burning).

STENCILS

Silkscreen is an excellent method for depositing a uniform layer of color on a surface: the thickness of the mesh--it's a material similar to a teastrainer or a screen door--regulates the thickness of the pool of ink that's left when the screen comes off. It's useful to consider that the squeegee passing over the fabric is filling the voids between the threads with ink rather than pushing it through: visualise the ink being pulled through by surface tension, or by of the absorbency of the substrate (an industry word for for the stuff being printed).
Generally some kind of a stencil is applied to the mesh to give shape to this pool of color. This can be nothing more complex than a paper cutout adhered by the ink itself, or a continuous-tone photostencil.

The process is probably a direct descendent of the paper cutout dye-application technique still practiced in Japan, which came to depend on more and more complex bridges of pasted-on human hairs and later--silk strands to hold the delicate structures together. At some point it occurred to someone to attach the stencil to fabric rather than laboriously building up mesh on the stencil.
Historically, most Japanese fabric has had pattern applied by the resist-dye technique (batik is one familiar variation) which is, in a way, the reverse of printing. Someone told me that one day the dyers were informed by the authorities that they were required to apply a red circle on a white background, an impossible feat with resist-dye. Screenprinting however, is perfectly suited to an image like this: an open area with uniform coverage.

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