Brownfield – Screen print

Brownfield was a 4 colour screen print I released shortly before Christmas 2020.

It was the culmination of a weird year of Lockdowns, social distancing and ups and downs for everyone. We were quite worried as a business when loads of our regular work dried up in spring but at the same time, once you get over the initial guilt of feeling so unproductive. It was nice to just be able to approach things at a slower pace and find time to just draw, read, go on walks or whatever.

This post is a bit of a breakdown of my process, from initial ideas to mocking up a composition, drawing the design and eventually turning the finished design into a screen print.

I’ve been using Procreate for about 12 months prior to starting this piece of work. I guess that’s quite late to the party with digital drawing. I could never master graphics tablets and was a die hard traditionalist for pens and paper, but since getting a basic grasp of Procreate, I’m a massive convert. It’s such a time saver and really useful for mocking up designs for murals, sign painting and stuff like that.

I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted my final piece to look before I even started. I’d got a basic composition in my head and set about finding some reference pics to inform the drawing.

I tend to take inspiration from what’s around me. Local landscapes, the wildlife and architecture of our city and so I took the camera out on my usual dog walking route round some old national coal board brownfield sites right by my house. There are tons and tons of 3 spike or palisade fences all over the place near me, so that was always going to be the main focal point. With knowing how I wanted the work to look I was able to stage a lot of my photographs to be from the right angle too. Such as the fences. I took lots of shots with the fence on my left angling away to the right so I knew I’d have one or two that I could use.

 

Once I’ve got my reference imagery I can use it to help build up the composition of my final drawing. This is a bit of a new step that is only really possible since starting to use Procreate. Previously I’d be using a lightbox and layering up different sketches that I would have to constantly tweak and redraw to get the scale right. Procreate lets me have lots of transparent layers that I can rotate, reflect and scale to suit. Getting the layout looking right now only takes a couple of minutes. 

Here you can see the two main photos I used to get the perspective of the fence and powerlines right. It does feel like a cheat, but I’ve come to terms with it being worth it to save time, especially when getting tricky things like perspective right.  

Below you can see where I’ve started to construct all the brambles and foliage. I tend to stick with just a couple of brushes for this style of drawing on Procreate. I’ve got the studio pen which is great for nice tapered lines and flicks. It gives me a similar to finish to the way I use fine liners and brush nibs in traditional paper drawing. I also use a technical pen which I set to have a constant line thickness which is great for the line work on the fence or cleaner areas. You can really get into the nitty gritty on Procreate with how these brushes work, I don’t actually know what half of the features even change, but after a bit of play you can usually get the settings right for you. 

You can also start to see me filling in different areas such as the brambles in their own colour on a separate layer. Another great thing about drawing for print on Procreate is the ability to use the layers and apply the bleed or trapping which will be essential when it comes to printing. 

Usually this is done in the artworking stage before we print, using photoshop to meticulously add expansions or contractions on certain areas of a design to get the overlaps just right. 

In Procreate I can just make sure that the areas I’m filling in with colour sit snugly under the main outline or black layer as I’m going along. The colours I use when drawing might not actually reflect the final print colours too. I just use something that’s easy to see.

The actual drawing stage seems to take forever, although it can be pretty therapeutic. Here’s a time lapse of the whole thing coming together. Another thing you can do with Procreate! 

Normally we’d then have to spend quite a bit of time artworking, but as I mentioned before, we were pretty much ready to go to print. We just needed to add reg marks and double check that it would all line up properly. 

This was always intended to be printed at 50cm x 70cm which is a sort of standard print size. 

This needed some pretty beefy screens which were made up for us by our good friends at Screentec Print Essentials. Our exposure unit can’t take screens this big, so we had to pass this bit over to them. These screens were probably a bit bigger than they needed to be, although the more space you have around a design, the easier it is to top up ink and generally get a nice even flood stroke. These screens were 90T mesh too which is probably as low as I would have wanted to go for this design, but it gave us a really good solid hit of ink from just a single print pass without compromising the detail. 

The actual registration for this piece was fairly straightforward, as it had been drawn with the overlaps factored into each colour layer. Our usual method of 6x crosshairs placed around the edge of the artboard gave plenty of reference to keep it all aligned. 

The colours were also pre determined in Procreate. Getting it right on screen first allows me to sample the colour on a Pantone App and get the corresponding ink colour which we then just mixed by eye from our off the shelf water based paper and board ink. It saves quite a bit of time not having to do lots of colour tests. It also helped that we just went for various shades of warm grey which are pretty easy to get right.

Once printed and dry it was off to our finishers to be cut down to the final 50cm x 70cm size, quality checked to pull out and mis-prints (you always get some) and the final cut signed and numbered. 

It was a pretty small edition as I hate having tons of spare prints left over, It just means if you got one they are super limited edition haha. 

Available for purchase here – click here to secure one whilst they last!

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