This post was originally published on my former blog in October of 2008, back when I didn't take quite so many detailed pictures. But it was a fun project and I hope it serves as inspiration for Do It Yourself invitations.
After I took a silkscreen class, I was anxious to try out the method on something official. I got my opportunity when I co-hosted a engagement party in San Diego for one of my college sorority sisters and her darling fiance.
Since this was my first independent project, I wasn't going to tackle a complicated multi-color design. I laid out the basic information in Word, with a little help from Mac Fonts 2 for the Asian-y font for their name. I printed it out and drew a simple tree-like design around the wording using a marker and a pen.
Sticking with a single color ink means I needed to spice it up in some way. Genevieve and James are a very modern couple and the party was planned for The Pearl, a retro hotel in San Diego. I decided the best way to make the invitation interesting was to print on dark paper, appropriate for the season and something you don't usually see.
I choose a deep midnight blue flat card from Paper Source called "night." Paper Source has good quality paper and is reasonably priced. At the screen printing supply store, the manager helped me choose a nice quality white ink. I wanted it to appear really opaque against the blue paper.
The final preparation was to get the screen made. In class, I learned how to burn my own silk screens using emulsion and a photo lamp, but it's time-intensive and complicated enough that a mess-up means you have to start over.
Feeling it out with fellow artsy friends brought me to downtown Los Angeles, where a place called the Screen Depot will burn them for you for $20, and that includes the price of the screen! Definitely worth my time. Since my design involved a hand drawing, they charged me an extra $10 to scan it to a computer in order to darken all the blacks and turn it into a transparency. Obviously I could have done this step at home with a scanner and transparency paper. So now I'll know for next time. So in total, getting the screen made cost me $30.
I set aside a full Saturday to print the invitations. We were only mailing forty, but I wanted to give myself a healthy learning curve. Weeks ago, in preparation for all my new projects, I arranged the garage as a work space. The space you need for the actual printing is pretty small - I used a small desk - but you need a large area to lay the pieces out to dry.
Silkscreen printing is so satisfying. With one flood stroke and one print stroke, you're done! It's so fun to see your design glistening wet ink on the paper. Or maybe I'm just a geek like that. I printed all forty invitations in one sitting, and it took me a little over two hours. Your arms get tired, but overall the time flies by. I took my time and was careful with each card. I was using a grid to line up the cards in the right spot before printing, but one of the things that is special about silkscreening is that each print is unique and therefore might be a little "off." On a more casual project, it would be fun to experiment with that.
I learned quite a bit doing these invitations, mainly how I would do it differently next time. The white ink wasn't as opaque as I was envisioning, so next time I will probably take a paper sample to the supply store and test the different brands. I was enormously thankful for the wooden brace I bought from my teacher that holds the screen in place so nothing slips as you print. There is nothing fancy about it, but it makes all the difference in the world.
I got a bit sticky towards the end by not being careful enough when I was loading new ink into the screen, so next time I should have have a wet hand towel ready for quick clean-ups. All of those things were relatively minor. All in all, it was a great first project experience. And the party was fun, too, as you can see.
If you're interested in silkscreen screen printing, here is a quick video tutorial that shows the process. If you're lazy like me and have the screen made for you, you can skip all those steps and go directly from creating the design to actual printing.
You can screen print on paper, fabric, anything. The possibilities are endless.