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Using Manual Presses for Four-Color Graphics, Part 4

(June 2006) posted on Sun Jun 18, 2006

MacDougall explains how to print a process-color graphic using low-tech, manual equipment,

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By Andy MacDougall

If you've missed some of my misadventures over the last half year of Shop Talk, let me bring you up to speed. I've been explaining how one might go about printing a process-color graphic using low-tech, manual equipment, as shown in Figure 1. This month, I conclude the series by taking you through the actual printing process.

I cheated a bit when writing this installment and enlisted the help of a high-tech separation and film house. I decided to go with a professional film provider because my previous experiments with various film-output devices showed it all begins with the film, and the film begins with a quality color separation.

I may be showing my age, but the last time I was printing process color on a regular basis, I got my films from a camera. Things have changed a bit since then! Because I print process colors infrequently, I don't have any of the instruments a modern screen shop should have—a densitometer, a thickness gauge for the stencil, a UV dryer, a decent pair of eyes—so I'm as interested as anyone to see how, or even if, I can print this.

I could actually hear Chris Taylor from Chromalogic in Toronto cringe as I explained that we would be flying blind on this print. Chromalogic usually gives new clients test films to run on their printing equipment. The shop then analyzes the results and adjusts the screen angles, tonal ranges, and, most importantly, dot gain of individual colors at specific tonal ranges to arrive at an optimal set of positives for a particular client. These guys take their film seriously.

"You have to customize process film for screen printing," Taylor explains. "SWOP (standard web offset print) proofs have built-in dot gain that simulates typical offset press gains. Screen printers don't experience the same gains."


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