How to Create Fine Art Serigraph Prints

By Heidi A. Reeves

Fine art serigraph prints are created with stencils made from emulsion-covered fine-mesh screens. You can print serigraphs on nearly anything, but the most popular printing surfaces are fine art papers and fabric. Hobby printers and clothing manufactures refer to serigraph printing as screen printing, since the images are printed through screens. You can use serigraph printing to create single-color images as well as complex, multi-colored prints. Single color serigraphs are easy to print, while multi-layered works require more skill and effort.

Select a screen appropriate for your printing surface. For printing on paper, you should find a screen with a mesh count of at least 230, and for printing on cloth, you should use a screen with mesh count between 110 and 160.

Wash out the screen with cold water and a degreasing agent, such as Mr. Clean. If you remove any grease that might be in the screen before printing, your stencil will have crisp lines.

Choose a high-contrast image in stark black and white. Use design software to clean up your image and adjust it to the finished image size. If you want to print a fine art serigraph with multiple colors, create a black and white image for each color where black is the color and white is the absence of that color.

Print or photocopy each black and white image onto transparent film.

In a darkroom, mix the liquid emulsion with sensitizer. Since each brand of emulsion provides different instructions for mixing, follow those to achieve the correct proportion of emulsion to sensitizer.

Coat the screen with the emulsion and sensitizer mixture using a squeegee to apply a thin, even layer. Coat both sides of the screen.

Allow the coated screen to dry. Then place the transparent film right-side up with your images on the squeegee side (the side with the raised lip around it).

Set the screen on a piece of black felt or paper with the squeegee side facing up, set a heavy piece of glass on top of the screen and place a lamp fitted with a 250 watt photo bulb 1 to 1 1/2 feet above the screen's surface.

Expose the image under the light for 15 minutes.

Rinse the screen with cold water to remove the unexposed emulsion and reveal your stencil.

Repeat these steps to make a screen for each color you want to print.

Fit the edge of your finished screen into two hinge clamps attached to the edge of a flat surface. The squeegee side should face up.

Tape down one side of a piece of acetate large enough to cover your work surface.

Make a registration print on the acetate. Slightly lift the screen while you apply a line of screenprinting ink to the screen. Lower the screen and flood the image with ink. Use your squeegee to push the line of ink evenly over the image.

Allow the acetate print to dry. When it has dried, lift the untaped edge and slide the printing surface underneath. Move the printing surface to position the acetate proof where you want your image to print.

Remove the acetate, being careful not to shift your printing surface, and flood the screen as described above. Repeat the process until you've made the desired number of prints.

Create an acetate proof for every layer you want to print and use the method described above to correctly register your layers.