Silkscreen Art & Design 2017 Wishlist

Last year I tried this exercise with the Flatstock Screen Printer’s Wish List 2016, so I thought I might give it another go. Here are some of the things I’d like to add to the studio or maybe things you could use in yours.

70/90/70 Triple Durometer Squeegee Rubber, $43 to $80

Triple Durometer Squeegee Rubber

90 durometer rubber sandwiched by outer layers of 70 durometer.

This has come to be the standard squeegee rubber I use in squeegees. The first roll I ordered was from Gold Up USA via an eBay auction, and at $43 for a six foot roll, it’s a pretty solid price.

The absolute best price I’ve found is from Miami Screen Print Supply. A 12-foot roll is $72.25 plus shipping. Dynamic Screen Printing Supply isn’t much more at $80 for a 12-foot roll. If you’re planning to order other supplies that Dynamic carries, you might do better ordering from them as orders over $150 ship free.

When I ordered 6-feet I thought it was going to last a long time. After making a 19 and 25-inch squeegee, only 28 remained. You go through it faster than you might think, especially if you’re building up your squeegee inventory like myself. When I start investing in the Ergo Force Squeegees (from last year’s list) I’ll probably also buy 12-feet of 70/90/70 squeegee rubber.

Alltrade Cutzall 3 7/8″ Utility Cutter, $15.49

Alltrade 3 7/8" Cutzall Utility Cutter

Alltrade 3 7/8″ Cutzall Utility Cutter

This tool is new to me. Previously I have used regular utility blades, but it takes a long time to get through the rubber, especially if you have triple duro stuff with a harder core.

In a old video I found on YouTube, one of the best cutting methods was to score the squeegee with a blade and a square, then line up the utility cutter blade with the scored section and cut it in one motion. It was done in a fraction of the time it takes me to get through the rubber with a utility knife.

This tool of course has other applications that may come in handy around the studio: cutting vinyl, leather, and textiles. I really could have used one when I was cutting some garden hose to put new ends on it for my pressure washer.

Unfortunately the makers of these tools can’t seem to agree on a name, so it isn’t always easy to find it. Craftsman makes a version called a Handi-Cut. Allied makes a version called a Razor Jaw utility cutter. It seems like some Lowes stores carry a Kobalt version, but I couldn’t find it on their website. More often than not the blade size is 3 7/8″. Prices range from $16 to $40 (for a two pack set). Whichever version you find and buy, make sure you have a source for replacement blades and anvils.

Domtar Cougar Opaque 100# Cover 19 x 25″ 800 sheets, $236

This is the “house white” paper that I try to keep in stock in the studio. This isn’t actually on my wishlist this year because I picked up a carton recently. I get mine from Lewis Paper. You can search for Cougar Item# 2938 and maybe find someone who will ship it to you. Some places will make you buy a whole carton, others will sell it in 5-sheet packs. I paid $236 for a carton of 800 sheets, which works out to about 30 cents per sheet.

Neenah Environments and French Paper

Cougar is a great basic paper, but it is only available in bright white and natural, which is a little too yellow to call “off-white.” For other colors I look to Neenah¬†and French Paper.

130# Double Thick Cover

130# DTC is super thick and I would use it for something like printing business cards. My best deal on this would probably be to call Lewis Paper and have them order it for me (if they don’t have it in stock). It comes in a few sizes and I would likely order the 26 x 40 inch size and order a cut for it. A cut usually costs in the neighborhood of $20-$30.

For a carton of the 130# DTC cut from 200 sheets to 400 (yielding 26 x 20 inch sheets), the best price I found cut and shipped was $392 from Glodan, which works out to be 98 cents per sheet. Depending on what you are using it for, you might be better off going with 140# Cover from French Paper. 100 sheets of their 140# Cover would set you back about $120*. It’s 22 cents more per sheet, but you’ll spend less overall (and it is thicker yet). Do you plan to print 600 or 2400 business cards? *That’s shipped to me from their place in Michigan to mine in Illinois. You may pay more if you’re farther away.

100# Cover

For 100# Cover the story is similar. 300 sheets of 26 x 40 Neenah Environment cut to yield 600 sheets and shipped from Glodan would be $405, or $0.675/sheet. A similar product from French Paper at a quantity of 100 sheets (19 x 25 inches) would be $76.86 ($0.769 per sheet).

[In the case of ordering 600 sheets of French Paper 100# Cover, I found it cheaper to get it from French Paper directly instead of Glodan; may depend on where you live]

It should be noted that a number of places will sell you paper in smaller sheet counts if that’s important to you. You’re still going to be subject to an order minimum and shipping. I recommend ordering some samples of any paper that you haven’t printed on before ordering it in large quantities.

Your Local Alternatives

If you’re looking for the best price on your favorite bulk paper, try searching for manufacturer distributors (eg. “Neenah Paper distributor”). To find what you want you may have to (gasp) actually talk to someone on the phone. In the case of French Paper, you may find that distributors offer sizes not available on their consumer site and you’ll often save more if you can pick up paper instead of having it shipped to you.

Speedball Permanent Acrylic Screen Printing Ink ($19/quart, $65/gallon)

Speedball Ink

This was top of the list last year and for good reason: It’s a consumable. Once you use what you have, you need more. From here on out I’m trying really hard to buy this only in gallons as it is more economical in the long run. The biggest pain about the gallons is getting that lid off every time you need ink.

Unfortunately the price is about the same everywhere I’ve looked. You either get free shipping from an outfit like Dick Blick, or you pay less and make up the difference in shipping costs. I feel like I have read somewhere that members of the American Poster Institute can get Speedball at a discount, so that’s a goal to try and hit next year.

A gallon of all 19 colors would cost you over $1200! That doesn’t even include specialty colors like Night-Glo. However, you probably don’t need Peacock Blue to start. The six colors I use the most are the four process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) along with white and silver. You can’t mix everything with process colors, but you can at least get some version of them. Of course I also use transparent ink extender to make the ink last longer or change the transparency.

Auauna Photo Studio Photography Lighting Kit, $105

I’m really surprised at how affordable these beginner lighting kits are now. In the past I’ve taken artwork outdoors when the sun was in just the right position for photography. That gets old fast, especially in the winter.¬†Currently I’m using a combination of 8.5″ aluminum reflector clamp lights with some daylight LED bulbs and it isn’t working that well. All told I probably have $50 invested in my setup and I would have been more than halfway to this kit.

A setup like this does two things for me. It gives me a good setup for photographing artwork as well as the option to light for video. For a while now I have considered doing videos for the website, because who reads anymore? Okay, you do, but you’re extraordinary.

This kit is one of the more complete setups I’ve found in that it has shoot-through umbrellas, silver reflective umbrellas, and soft boxes. There are four stands, so you’re likely to use some combination of two or more light diffusers/reflectors. I found the best price for this on Amazon, but feel free to look around.

Canon T5i EOS Rebel Camera Refurbished (body only), $349

Canon T5i

This is a four year old camera now, so it has a few less bells and whistles. Don’t forget a lens.

A decent smartphone and good lighting will take you pretty far, and that’s why I’m not jumping into the purchase of a better camera just yet. However, for my Vari-Dot ruling it would be great to have a better camera that could take beautiful product shots up close.

I’ve looked at a lot of cameras, and here are the things on my checklist:

  • Fold out articulated LCD viewfinder screen
  • 1080 video recording
  • 12+ Megapixels

Never did I imagine that those three things were going to make the process so difficult. The fold out articulated LCD is not as common as it once was. While there are some compact cameras that have a fold out LCD, they aren’t any cheaper than a more serious camera with interchangeable lenses (eg. Canon Powershot G7, $649; Panasonic Lumix G7, $498).

Sometimes I’ll be using the camera for overhead time lapse drawings and sometimes I’ll be using it for video in which I’m in the frame. For that simple reason it makes a lot of sense to have an articulated viewfinder. If you just need a camera to take pictures of your artwork and nothing else, you can save a lot more money getting something a little simpler.

$348 gets you the camera only from Canon’s refurbished section. You can pick up a generic 50mm prime lens for $50 and if you look around you should be able to find the Canon 18-55mm EF-S lens for $90 or less. I chose to focus my attention on Canon cameras versus Nikon after reading Ken Rockwell’s exhaustive Canon Vs. Nikon comparison.

If money weren’t always a consideration I would be looking at a T6i or T7i. They add features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and more pixels. Since I don’t need a camera today or tomorrow, I’m going to wait as long as I can. I have a feeling these entry-level prosumer DSLRs will be refreshed soon and offer 4k video.

New Hackintosh Computer Parts, $1300+

A lot of us artists and designer folks tend to use Macintosh computers. Mine is seven years old and is held together with blue painter tape. Since this is a “Wishlist” I could just say “I wish for a base* model iMac Pro for $4999 when it comes out in December 2017.” However, I try to keep these things a little practical even if no one is going to be spending $1300 on me this year and I’m going to think about it for a long time before I spend that kind of money myself. *(You read right, base model. The 18-core maxed out version may exceed $10k)

If you are tech savvy and can follow directions, you might consider building your own Hackintosh. It’s the art of assembling PC components and then installing the Apple OS on it. This is possible in the last decade or so since Apple started using Intel processors and most OEM components are made by a third-party. You can read more about successful builds at tonymacx86 and Hackintosher. One of Hackintosher’s builds from September 2017 has a 4-core 4.2Ghz processor and 32GB SDRAM and before adding a display it cost less than $1300 to build. With the same budget if you bought from Apple’s refurbished store you’d get a system with 60% of the processing power and 25% of the memory that was released two years ago.


Save More!

I’ve done a pretty exhaustive search of these items to find the absolute best price. However, on some items you can cave even more with Ebates. With their plugin installed you’ll be alerted when a retailer offers a small discount. 3% off might not seem like much, but it adds up (I’ve received $13 back since May). It’s free and there is a mobile version as well. If you use the referral link above you’ll receive $10 back with your first verified purchase made before

And there you have the 2017 Wishlist. It’s not everything I want and need, but it’s a pretty good update from last year and gives me some things to shoot for in 2018. At some point I’ll compile a list of all the tools I use and where you can get them.

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