Silkscreen Poster Process

Silkscreen, screenprinting, and serigraphy. The terms get used interchangeably but they are all the same thing – printing by pushing ink through a mesh stencil, one colour at a time.

It’s an awesome, ancient art-form. There is magic in the ink. I still get a huge thrill out of the look, feel, and smell of screenprinted artwork.

I won’t go into too much detail about the specifics of the printing process (you can see a process video I made here) instead here are some things to bear in mind for those interested in commissioning artists for screenprinted poster work.

Army of Cats Creative Studio Screenprinted Posters
Army of Cats Creative Studio Screenprinted Posters
Army of Cats Creative Studio Screenprinted Posters

EDITION SIZE / TYPE – Sometimes I get people asking if I can design and print just a small handful of posters. Whether I’m printing 1 poster or 50, I still have to mix the ink, prepare the screens, and do all the set-up. I’m fine with printing small runs but it is generally more cost-effective to print larger editions.

Gigposters and most art prints are produced as limited edition prints. They are signed and numbered and once they’re gone they aren’t reprinted. They are special and become sought after and highly collectable.

Some prints are created as open edition runs. They are not numbered but may still be signed. Open Edition prints will be reprinted for as long as there is interest in the print. They are also special, of course.

ARTIST PROOFS / SPLITTING THE EDITION – The number of prints produced for a job is typically more than the edition size (to account for potential printing issues or errors). These additional prints are kept by the artist and marked as Artist Proofs (APs). Where agreed, artists may choose to exhibit or sell their APs.

In some cases the numbered edition may be split between the artist and the band/commissioner. How the edition is split should be factored into the overall costs. An artist may be able to charge a lower overall price for the production of a poster if they are able to make a return on selling their split afterwards.

THE ARTWORK – While screenprinting is quite a versatile medium, most artists who create work for print will have a style or approach that they favour which they know will translate well to the medium. This particularly applies when the artist themselves are doing the printing. Trust your artist and printer!

When it comes to gigposters, the best results tend to come from an artist being allowed to explore a little, creating their own interpretation of a band’s sound. Most bands seem to really relish an artist responding to their music in this way. It’s not dissimilar to having a song covered by another band or musician, where they apply their own take on it. While there may be times when a poster design needs to fit in with an overall look, generally a third party being over-prescriptive with the direction of design work runs the risk of killing the energy and uniqueness of the collaboration.

Finally, a quick note on usage rights. An artist retains the rights to their poster artwork, with the physically, printed poster being the final, agreed usage for both band and artist. Any usage beyond that (t-shirts, stickers, etc.) is an additional use to be agreed upon.

Screenprinted posters are amazing, affordable pieces of art and continue to grow in popularity. You can see a selection of some of the posters I’ve made here, and I’m always happy to receive questions and correspondence on all things poster related.