I (Kurt) have a new appreciation for the printing end of Crock of Shirt. Silkscreen printing is not easy. The concept is pretty simple but, like anything else, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on.
(I wanted to insert a picture here, but something with my computer seems to be messing me around and I don’t have the patience to figure this out right now. Just pretend there’s a picture of sloppy ink here. Sorry. Like, this is really making me insanely pissed right now. So dumb.)
Sadly, as many or most of you know, Crock isn’t our main bread and butter. We have day jobs. Kris has a newer gig right now and and I’m trying to help him out on the printing end of the magic we produce haha! The printing side of things isn’t my area of expertise, so I’m sticking to one-colour stuff for now. Aligning the different colour separations is no joke! I set up the artwork to have an overlap of between half and three quarters of one pixel, so there isn’t much room for error. Kris makes printing look easy and he’s doing every step of it manually – no automatic presses here! Working with such little alignment tolerances, it’s quite a precise operation to make things work out. He’s also very fast and very efficient and clean. Me? I go in there to print and, though I am pretty tidy, I somehow end up with ink shit all over my hands and the odd slop on the table (don’t tell Kris). I can’t believe it. I’m not as bad as a 3 year old eating spaghetti and meat sauce, but I don’t come out spotless.
Anyway, I was down there printing a couple shirts the other day and I remember having the sudden realization as to how tricky it can be. Screen mesh sizing plays a factor, as do certain colours of ink. For instance, white ink is much thicker than black ink, so it has to be worked in more and requires more passes for proper coverage. Black ink is more liquid, so coverage happens with one or two passes of the squeegee (that’s how it went down for me, anyway). Each time I pass the squeegee down the screen, I remind myself that each screwed up print blows at least $10 and adds that shirt to the rag pile. And that was just one colour printing! Also, I haven’t even explained to you what’s involved in burning the image into the screen with the exposure unit – that’s another additional step in the process that I don’t even touch. I always screw that up.
The art of the whole process definitely doesn’t stop at the sketchbook/ computer illustration program. The quality of the print and overall look of our final graphic is made in the print shop. I can make anything look great on a computer screen, but reality is a different story. Even mixing the inks to try to match the colours is a tricky task, but Kris handles it beautifully.
I look back at all the research we did when starting out and I’m proud of all that we’ve managed to do. Trial and error was quite an ordeal for the first while. If we’d seen what was involved before starting out, I’m not sure we would have. I like to think we would have, though! It’s been pretty fascinating when I stop to think of it.
Stay tuned, folks. I’ve still got the fire burning and more designs coming very shortly. Let’s see what happens next …