Making of the Origami Crane Print

Crane Giveaway Print Detail

Origami Crane. 3-color silkscreen print. 7 x 5 inches.

If you’ve not heard yet I printed 1000 origami crane prints and I intend to give them all away before the end of 2016. Several requests have been received already and I hope to see more come in steadily.

Much of the “why” is already documented on the Crane Giveaway page where I also detail how you can get one of these mini-prints for free (or mostly free). Today I’m going to document the struggles of the technical process.

The Model Origami Crane

Folded origami paper crane

Folded origami crane model for illustration

The crane illustration was modeled after an actual crane I folded. I colored each side of the paper with different pastels in different patterns not realizing that only one side would be visible at all (the other side was green).

The Digital Proof

And so I set off to drawing the crane and making my separations in the computer.

Digital Crane Proof

Digital Crane Proof

Now if you compare this image with any of the actual printed cranes you’ll notice quite a few differences. Most notable is the red. Those super fine details either didn’t wash out or got washed out and then some leaving extra red. The same effect occurred with the silver. The cranes were printed nine to a sheet and at least two positions are so distinctive in the way the screen washed out that I can spot them right away. I didn’t realize why at the time, but now I know the issues and corrected them with the purple: poor contact between the film positive and the screen, and emulsion likely going bad.

Improving the Printing Process

Emulsion first. I ordred a gallon of Ulano QT-D (the D is for discharge) back in May. It’s a dual cure emulsion that has a shelf life of 4-6 weeks after being sensitized. I’m not sure when I sensitized it but at least as long ago as July (I should really write that stuff down on the lid). I didn’t realize the limited shelf life (or forgot about it) and it was probably the source of some of my earlier problems with the Skunkworks print. I ended up getting some fresh Ulano QTX (it was all that was available locally) and the results were much better.

Now the contact. I thought I had good contact all these months that I’ve been printing. My method has been to put the film on the glass of the exposure table, put the screen on top of it, put a piece of black foamboard on the inside of the screen with soft foam, plywood, and weights on top. Before I got started with the QTX I asked Steve Walters (the guy who introduced me to screen printing and its many aggravations) if he was still using QTX and could recommend a good starting exposure time. He suggested I may not get good stencils if I didn’t have a vacuum exposure unit (which I do not) and then pointed me to Ziploc Spacebags.

Ziploc Spacebag

Ziploc Spacebag as a makeshift vacuum seal with the exposure table

Now I’d heard of this method from at least one other internet acquaintance, but I wasn’t sold I guess. These Spacebags are for vacuuming shut your winter clothes and blankets and such so that they take up less space. The top is printed, but the reverse side is clear. Here I’m using the extra large rectangular size (NOT CUBE) and it is just big enough for my 23 x 31 inch screens. I may try the jumbo size for my larger screens.

The bottom line is it sucks the air out through a one way valve and gives excellent contact between the film positive and the screen. In the future I may replace the black foamboard with a less rigid sheet of black paper.

Exposed screen for purple ink

Exposed screen for purple ink

The detail I got from this method was better than almost anything else I’ve ever exposed. My exposure time with QTX emulsion on 230 yellow mesh from T12 unfiltered blacklights 6″ from the screen is about 140 seconds. As well as the QTX is working now, I think I may go back to Murakami PhotoCure when it’s out as I feel it may be a little more forgiving with under and over exposures.

Cranes drying in the rack

Cranes drying in the rack

There was a small problem when printing the purple. The dots on the center row of cranes had a slight blur to them and I suspect this was either an off contact issue or my screens losing tension. It might be a good idea to start numbering my screens and keeping track of how many prints they endure. It wasn’t enough to stop printing and I wrote it off as wabi sabi (another fine Japanese tradition).

Origami Crane Print

Origami Crane, 3-color silkscreen print. 7 x 5 inches. Edition of 1000

Finishing Touches

The last issue is a little silly. When designing this I always knew the signature would go on the back (it takes up too much real estate on the front), but I wanted the numbering on the front. You can see in the lower right that the purple dots are little more sparse, but I didn’t make them sparse enough. I tried numbering them in pen, pencil and even tried numbering in different places on the wing and neck. No good.

So I decided to try a silver pen. It’s subtle and kind of blends in, but it’s visible. It was really tempting to cheap out and try one of the Bic or Sharpie silver pens/markers, but I wasn’t sure how they might wear the print over time. So I spent eight bucks on a Faber-Castell Pitt highly pigmented water based acid free silver pen. Eight dollars! So if you’re on the fence about getting one of these free prints, you should do it just to see how an eight dollar disposable pen writes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *