The Making of a Silkscreen Concert Poster
by Matt Getz ©1998

Hand Painted Colorup - to determine colors

Final Silkscreen Printed Poster

After repeated requests about what goes into making Silkscreened Posters I will present a web publication about how I go about it.

After getting a phone call from the promoter or record label, the excitement begins. Basically I have a few ideas wandering around my mind and sketch pads. I make some sketches of the imagery I think belongs with the poster and along with the Bands Name, Venue, Dates and other information. I make a basic thumbnail sketch of the poster as I see it. Once this basic idea is sketched out, I find that there is a remarkable similarity to this conception to the final finished poster. I always found it amazing that when you look at a book on the history of Mucha, Escher, or other published artists that this similarity of the poster to the early thumbnails was not only possible, but the rule. Basically I feel this is because after the initial thumbnail is done, all of the rest of the work is in making the necessary mechanical techniques work to convey this sketch to achieve the final poster. (Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of artistic talent in making the final poster to do and to be what it should. There are whole areas of talent in using color, styles, imagery, photographs, halftones, line, type, negative space, positive space, icons, etc., that can make or break a poster or an artist... )

Once the thumbnail sketch of the poster is realized, the mechanical plan of the techniques to produce the final poster must be decided on. I personally use the techniques I am comfortable with in silkscreening, while always pushing the envelope forward. Sometimes time, or printer limitations decide the specifics of how a poster is to be made, but always I try to do more than the limits dictate if there are limits ie make a third color out of a combination of two others, or use a transparent overlay to give depth. Otherwise I always try to make something new in the technique or style that has never been done before. This plan of the technique to be used in the poster gives me lots of pleasure, and whole books can be written on it about artists of the past and present.

After the mechanical vision of how the poster is to be printed is decided on and laid out, the final blackline art must be created. The blackline art can be photographic halftone, cartoon line or a combination of practically anything. This "blackline" usually defines the poster with the inclusion of text and where the other colors will be in relation to it. Some artists draw the blackline on a half sized piece of layout paper, inking in a precisely drawn pencil drawing like how a comic book is inked in. Here is the connection between Comic Book Art and a lot of Concert Posters. This is a cool way to do posters and Coop, Kozik and Rick Griffin are the Kings of this. Kozik for instance, uses a combination of inked in drawings with computer generated type. It seems he has been scanning in a store of inked in drawings, manipulating them in the Macintosh adding text, and printing out the basic blackline. He then gets a film positive of the blackline shot up to final size. Koziks genius is how he combines elements, imagery and facial expressions with type along with the best use of subtle and blatent color to create posters that can only be his. For my art, I usually combine photographs and text to communicate the ideas I have in the basic sketch. If you look at my art, I usually am idea driven trying to communicate a visual idea. I plan on taking specific photographs to convey ideas for my future art, and hopefully have my cartoon line art come of age and do some amazing art.

O.K. Now your sitting there with your final blackline final sized film positive for the poster. You need to make the color separations that allow the different colors of ink to be printed on the paper. Basically Silkscreen printing, like any other form of printing involves printing different colors of ink in seccession all regestered to place the ink deposits precisely where they need to go. To do the separations, you usually tape the final blackline down to a flat table and overlay a piece of rubylith over it. You trace the contours of the areas of a color out with an x-acto knife and then peel away the unwanted red plastic away from the ruby backing to get an overlay of just red areas depicting where the color will go. You then tape reg marks on the ruby and write what pantone color that color will be on that overlay. You then place a second rubylith overlay on the blackline and trace the limits of that color and add reg marks. This is how color seps are made. Sometimes posters can have up to 12 or more different color plates involved in the final poster... There are a lot of details such as trapping so that there are no white areas appearing if the paper shifts a half a millimeter while printing.

The computer can also spit out blacklines and color separations too. If advanced halftoning of a color is needed, or if the whole poster is pseudo process or process, the computer with very large film output linotronics can do anything. At this time, most of the posters including mine involve hand cut ruby separations.

Now comes the fun part. A very large silkscreen must be made to print each plate. Each sep must be printed 1 color at a time. Therefore, you must expose a screen with a separation, prepare it for the press, set it up in registration, and print all of the posters in the edition size at one time. You let these dry in a rack and stack them all the next day and set up the 2nd color and print the second color. Then the 3rd and the 4th, up to the total colors involved in the poster. It is a major drag with all of the time and work involved with ink drying in the screen, and keeping the contact distances right for perfect detail etc. Finally after a period of time and labor you have an edition of the poster!

This laborous reality of silkscreening adds value to the poster as well as makes the luscious colors of the thick ink deposit stand out over offset printing.

You then overnight the posters to the promoter, due to the fact that all of this took at least 2 weeks, so they can put the posters up around town, in time to promote the show!

And then you start the next one hopefully making enough money to at least cover the cost of the edition.


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