With a serigraph edition, one of the first considerations is the size of the print. How much of a border will it have around the image? Another consideration is the size of the edition. As this form of printing involves numerous steps and layer upon layer of printing, it is impossible to increase the number of prints halfway through the process.
Capturing the Original Artwork
In order to reproduce an original piece of art, we need the artwork to use as a reference as we go through the process. We use the original itself since the original is the best way to insure accuracy of color. We create an extremely high resolution scan of the life-size original which can be resized to the size of the edition. We make a print to a dura-trans film for our chromist (hand color separator artist who not only has an understanding of the printing process but also a high degree of sensitivity to color and knowledge of color theory), which is laid out on a light table with the original on a stand to start.
Separating Each Color
We now can start the process of breaking down the image into separate colors that will be printed one after another until the print is finished. The chromist analyzes the image and develops a plan for printing, taking into consideration the composition of the image and the complexity of the color palette used. We analyze the original painting, selecting one color at a time and creating a blank ink representation of that color. The colors are matched to the original the old-fashion way—by sight. Color separating is a process done by hand using paint brushes and black india ink on sheets of clear plastic film (also called Mylar film). Once the color separation is finished, the next step is to put that image onto a screen.
Making the Screen
We use photographic methods to make our screens. Each screen is coated with an emulsion that is sensitive to light. The color separation is placed against the screen and “burned” or given a predetermined amount of exposure to a very bright light. Wherever the light hits the screen a chemical reaction takes place. The light causes the emulsion to turn hard. The areas where the black ink of the color separation has blocked the light remain soft. The screen is rinsed out with water and all of the areas not exposed to the light slowly wash away leaving the screen open for the ink to go through.
Once dry, the screen is placed in the printing press. A color is hand mixed to match the original artwork. In order to print, the ink is forced through the screen with a squeegee—a long plastic blade that distributes the ink evenly across the screen and forces the ink through the mesh and onto the paper. Once it is determined that the color is correct and is registered correctly on the paper, the whole edition is printed with that color images. The process is repeated, color by color, until the image is complete. Some images are very simple and need as few as 10 or 15 colors. Others go through the printing press as many as 75 or 90 times. The artist comes in at various times to review the progress of the print. Suggestions for color changes or blending of areas or line quality may be discussed and changed.
Once the artist is satisfied with the print, it goes through a curating process. Each print is examined by museum-quality curator to correct any flaws. A UV cured varnish coating is added to give the print a uniform finish and ensure longevity. It can be a satin or glossy finish.