Glitters, foils and hamsters – Screen printing

printing_ink

D.I.Y. stands for Destroy It Yourself. Most sensible men know this, resulting in the invention of the sofa, the bottled availability of Old Bishop’s Todger, and the seven hundred episodes of Top Gear now  showing – if my Mrs ever finds Dave, he’s going to get a kicking. There are some blokes out there in the shed of course, splicing their miters and nibbing a chamfer, butting up to a dovetail and giving something a damn good routing, but as a rule they end up back on a  dating website, trying to type in  their details  with a missing finger.

But economies are required, and with the blood curdling prospect of a toilet door that won’t close, and the arrival of the Mother in Law for a weekend of unbridled comedy and happiness, there came a clear instruction from the management:

‘Turn off that car programme – I’m sick of wardrobe head, the big woman in the flowery blouse and that dwarf; get upstairs now,  and get  your chisel out!’

It’s marginally safer to wear a white pointy hat in Harlem than argue with my most special, and so I found myself, tool in hand at the bathroom door. It always starts so well doesn’t it  – one measures, one assesses, one licks one’s  pencil and makes a few notes; pushing my flat cap back on the head at a jaunty tradesman’s angle, I looked like I could French polish a Chippendale before breakfast – what could possibly go wrong? 

So I smooth a bit off….it won’t close…..so I chisel a bit off….it won’t close…..the electric sander comes out…….it won’t close……. my mouth is full of gnashed up pencil……and of course, it won’t close. My hat’s out the window, I’m sweating, and bare chested have  invented two  dozen entirely new swear words;  the children are hiding under a blanket, the cat’s left home  and I’ve just planed off my left knee….and the door? Yep, she’s fitting like a guerilla’s thong.

By the time the door closes, I’ve gouged out a huge hole in a perfect position, so that on reaching the top of the stairs, and should the mother in law be on the throne, one would be met with what can only be described as a paralyzing view into the jaws of death.

And so, such is my sense of failure, impotence and general pathetic excuse for a bloke feeling, that I have been driven this month to talk about printing techniques. Perhaps by the end of this article, I’ll feel like there is something I know about, something I can do.

Let’s start with plastisol, not always politically correct, but the printer’s Monday morning favourite. If you’ve had eight pints and an Alsatian Tikka Masala the night before, you’re in no rush with this stuff. It doesn’t block in the screen, it doesn’t eat the emulsion, you can Krebs clean off any stray ink marks on the garment – it goes neatly back in the pot and doesn’t need a month in the dryer to cure. Basically you can print while having a fag and reading The Racing Post, if that was still allowed of course….cough, but keep an eye on Galloping Whoopsie in the 3.30 at Sandown.

Upsides: ultra bright colours on dark T-s, check those neons for all the nu ravers; with different bases you can make it stretchy, you can make it crack, you can make it puff up like a Hovis loaf or tell it off and make it lay down low, especially if it’s been naughty – unless you want to gloss it up and make it shine of course, and then it’ll catch the moonlight like a school boy’s bum out the mini bus window. Make her feel like suede, make her stick to nylon like hot fudge on a blanket,  print her over a seam and keep looking neat – plastisol is that lovely girl who in the old days,  when all else failed, would have you over for the afternoon to, ‘listen to records’… a true friend.  And it’ll hold a cleaner crisper graphic line or dot than water based. In Italy once, I even saw plastisol being distorted into bonkers shapes with electric wires in the print bed, but we’d better not go that far.

Downsides – one, and it’s a biggie – you can bucket as much soft hand base into it as you like, but it’ll still feel rougher than a Fisherman’s fist.

So we need, and love equally that which is water based ink – sounds great doesn’t it, clean and pure, probably invented by a Nun – but I wouldn’t advise you use it as a mouth wash. That said, put it through a tight mesh screen, with nice open designs that don’t have too much coverage, and then follow it up with a good wash, and you’re ready for the water based challenge. Put five T-shirts on a table, one printed the others not. Get a member of the audience on stage, blindfold them, strip them naked (optional) and ask them to run their hand over the T-s and see which one is printed – if you’ve done the job right they won’t have a clue – ha!

Ideal for dark colours onto light backgrounds, but if your shirts are going over to the dark side Luke, you’ll be needing the beautifully named discharge – while I’m here, can we change this name please to something that doesn’t sound like a weeping pustule? Suggestions on a post card to Paul Stephenson at the usual Blue Peter address. Great stuff though, acts like a bleach, removes the reactive dye in the garment and replaces it at temperature with whatever pigment you’ve added to your magic potion. Bright (ish) colours onto dark shirts then, and again once your Mum’s given it a good wash, you won’t feel a bloody thing.

Downsides? When you’re printing it you can’t see anything, it’s at temperature in the dyer’s tunnel that the design mysteriously appears – so if there are any mistakes you may have mullered a dozen shirts before you know about it. This, and its tendency to attack your stencil, clog up the screen, change colour half way through a run and generally misbehave puts many printers off – but I urge them not to lose the faith. For further reading see ‘Discharge Ink – Taming the Beast’ by a Dr A. Hackett (Penguin Classics).

I’m running out of word allocation, but has my manhood been restored – I might be a spanner with a spanner, but do I have a clue about something? Half a clue perhaps, but I wanted to talk about heat pressed gloss papers, big foil prints for gangster rappers, and why you’d want to look really conspicuous while doing a drive by anyway. We haven’t looked at caviar beads and how they get all over the print shop floor causing a re-enactment of ‘Printing on Ice’ featuring a twenty stone printer and a mug of coffee.  And what about sprinklable glitters, and that time we mixed a glitter flake with the caviar beads in a big ‘S’ design for the Gay Superman Contest at Waikiki Beach…….I’d love to go on, but remember when you were a kid, and those TV shows that ended, ‘And that reminds me of the time Hammy Hamster got into his speedboat, took a paw full of pills and headed towards the waterfall, and, oh…but that’s another story’

Visit our main site: www.october.co.uk
T shirt printing, Screen printing, Embroidery

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