The last printing process to be discussed is screen printing or serigraph. A silk or synthetic fiber screen is stretched over a wooden frame. The image is drawn onto the fiber. The artist must then isolate those areas he wants to print. He blocks out all other parts either with a stencil or with glue, or crayon. Rather than the paper being placed over the surface, it is placed below the screen. When the ink is rolled over the screen, the color seeps through the isolated areas and prints onto the paper lying underneath. A multi-colored print is achieved with multiple screens, akin to registration with the wood cut. Each screen with have different areas isolated and other areas blocked out.

In the example of Andy Warhol’s  A Set of Six Self-portraits, 1967, the artists only needed four screens with different areas isolated – one screen for the shadows of the face and wall to the left, one for the skin, one for the hair, and the last for the back wall. Each time he reused a screen he could select different color inks thereby creating tremendous variety even with a limited format. The result is a mass-produced, almost mechanical image more akin to visuals from a television screen. Silkscreening is commonly used for t-shirts and other forms of logo application.




But again, the most important aspect of printmaking is the mass production. An artist may be able to get 100 good quality prints from a woodcut; with the continual inking and printing, the wood may eventually warp or crack. An engraving may produce 250 to 300 good quality prints. Due to the softer and fuzzier edges of the valleys in an etching, images may become very blurred (or atmospheric, depending on your perspective) by the 150th print. It is interesting to note that many of Rembrandt’s etching plates still exist. If you ever attend an art auction specializing in prints, you will find for sale impressions of Rembrandt’s prints produced as late as the 1850’s. As long as the plate exists, people will attempt to print them in order to cash in, yet the quality of the prints is diminished due to the overuse and wearing down of the plates. Lithographs and silkscreens can be produced in the hundreds or thousands, thereby reducing cost and resulting in art works that are easily disposable.