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.

Two Vari-Dot Notebooks, $602.21. (Just $301.10 each!)

There’s dirty clothes on my bathroom floor. It’s Tuesday and the cupboards are bare having been over a week since I’ve done any grocery shopping. I have dating profiles on half a dozen sites getting zero hits and there are expensive pieces of maple and walnut in the garage waiting for me to turn them into a guitar. To add further insult to injury, in the span of five months I have spent $602.21 to create two Vari-Dot notebooks.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the failures, but the truth is that those two notebooks represent some success and maybe even hope for the future.

Nine book blocks sewed and glued for 5 x 7 inch books, unlikely to be used.

Nine book blocks sewed and glued for 5 x 7 inch books, unlikely to be used.

Continue reading

Vari-Dot Grid Research and Bullet Journal Giveaway

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development, aka Vari-Dot. For previous posts please see:

Vari-Dot Grid Research

While waiting for screens to dry and such, I’ve been working away on this Vari-Dot book. Here’s what I’m looking to make now.

(If you’re just here for the Bullet Journal Giveaway, you have to keep scrolling a bit)

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

I want a big book. Almost a sketchbook, but with more order. This is a plan for a 9 x 12 inch book with perforated pages and double wire-o binding. Not shown at this scale is the new Vari-Dot graphic that I’ve been testing. Continue reading

New Prints, Dough Giveaway, and Project Updates!

August was a great month for printmaking as I finished two print runs. Now the arduous task of publishing them online and selling them will begin. Before that happens we’re having a Dough Giveaway along with some Andy Warhol books! First, the print…


“Dough” was first declared done in May of 2016. Wow. Then it was a 5-color silkscreen print and I debuted it at the first ever Neat & Keen Open Studio. To my dismay (and possibly good fortune) I didn’t sell any copies then. Since it wasn’t out in the wild anywhere, I decided to print more colors on top of it this summer and here’s what we have.

"Dough." 7-color silkscreen print on 100# Cougar, 19 x 25 inches

“Dough.” 7-color silkscreen print on 100# Cougar, 19 x 25 inches

It is now a 7-color silkscreen on 19 x 25 Cougar 100# cover stock. When I first printed it over a year ago I was determined not to get carried away with the number of colors, but now that it has two additional screens I love this piece even more. Continue reading

Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook Research [Part 2]

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development. For more, please see:
Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook [Part 1]

Notebook Research

If I’m serious about the possibility of making a dot grid notebook, I had to check out some others with some notebook research. These aren’t full on reviews. I don’t need to do a pen test because I’m going to have to choose paper from the ground up. What I do have to evaluate is the construction, dimensions, and general usability. For my test I chose notebooks from Leuchtturm, Miliko, Muji, and Northbooks.

Paper Size/Color

Stack of notebooks

Top to bottom: Miliko, Northbooks, Leuchtturm1917, Muji. Digital caliper is ready for some serious notebook research.

  • Leuchtturm 1917: A5/Ivory-ish; the darkest paper of the group
  • Miliko: A5/Ivory-ish; second darkest
  • Muji: A5/Off white; lightest in the group
  • Northbooks: 5 x 8 inches/Off white, between Miliko and Muji in color

All but the Northbooks are A5, though they do make A5 versions. Honestly I didn’t realize how non-white some of the pages were until I set them all down next to a stark white college ruled notebook. Personally I kind of like notebooks/sketchbooks/etc. to be just a little bit off white. I think on a subconscious level most people do. Have you ever painted the walls of a room with white ceiling paint? Even in printmaking if I can find white cover stock that is around 96 brightness instead of 98, that’s what I prefer to use.

Ruling/Dot Size/Dot Color

Continue reading

Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook [Part 1]

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development. For more, please see: Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook Research [Part 2]

Today I’m going to share the details (and download) of my latest idea, the Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook.

I’ve always liked stationery and office supplies. With this particular idea, I asked myself if I were going to have a store and offer just one line of notebooks, what would be the best notebook line to carry? There’s lots of great notebooks out there, but eventually it led to me designing what would be the best notebook for me.

Now everyone has different needs and wants from a notebook, so there is no one perfect model or brand. One size does not fit all. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the idea I’ve come up with.

First, I like a dot grid layout. As near as I can tell it was first introduced by Rhodia in 2010. In hindsight it seems like such an obvious innovation that it’s difficult to believe it has been around for just seven years. Still, I feel like there’s room for improvement within the dot grid. Here’s what I came up with.

The Variable Size Dot Grid Explained

Zoomed in example of a square Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

Zoomed in example of a Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

The Primary Dot: It measures 0.4mm in diameter, which is a bit smaller than many others notebooks. The Primary Dot composes the standard grid on most dot grid notebooks. Continue reading

Guitars and Motorcycles and Work, Work, Work

Holy No Posting, Batman! It’s been five months since I wrote an update here. While I’ve sort of made my peace with the fact that weekly written updates are not a necessity right now, I didn’t realize it had been quite so long. Here’s what’s been happening.

All Work and No Play

Just yesterday I finished a 19 day stretch of work at my regular job without any weekends off. Working third shift is tough enough, but when 40-hour weeks turn into 58-hour weeks and those turn into 66-hour weeks, it’s enough to drive most people batty. Things may calm down, but I’ve definitely looked around for other opportunities more in the past month than I have in the past year. Continue reading

A Flatstock Screen Printer’s Wish List 2016

What’s a growing screen printer have on his or her wish list this year? Here’s a list of common and not so common items that may be useful to the flatstock screen printer.

Speedball Permanent Acrylic Screen Printing Ink ($18/quart, $59/gallon)

Speedball Ink

I’ve tried a variety of other printing inks and had success with some. Speedball still offers the most bang for the buck as far as I’m concerned. Valley Litho sells it by the quart for $17.95 and by the gallon for $58.95. Dick Blick sells it for a little bit more, but you usually get free shipping from Blick on orders over $45. A gallon of all 19 colors would only set you back about $1200…

I like to have process colors on hand (cyan, magenta, yellow), but I like to get the less common colors like Fire Red, Primrose Yellow, Ultra Blue, and even Violet because I am less likely to be able to pick those up locally in pinch.

To get even more mileage out of your ink, be sure to get a gallon of Extender Base. At about $27 for a whole gallon it is less than half of the cost of actual ink.

Also on my list is Speedball Professional Poster Black. Available in both the quart and gallon size, this stuff is still relatively new and the screen printer on your list might not have tried it yet. It’s getting high marks and I’d like to give it a go myself. Continue reading

Colored Squares!

And now introducing, Colored Squares!

Square drawing with shadow and orange background

Two-color silkscreen print on Bristol board about 9 x 12 inches

It’s been too long since I’ve printed anything. I first shared a prototype of this design back in September, and really need to print something even if it was wrong. It’s a super small edition of just ten prints, but in four different colors. Continue reading

Crane Update #4

Uncut sheet of crane prints

Sheet of uncut crane prints ready to be cut, numbered, and signed.

Woe is me! I AM SO FAR BEHIND IN SENDING THESE OUT! And not even sending them out, but far behind in allocating requests for them!

So I’m breaking some rules. I’ll totally send you more than one crane. I’ll totally send you multiple mini-crane prints. Five? Ten? Twenty? Here’s sort of kind of what happened:

Originally [see: Crane Giveaway] I hoped more people would just send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and I could throw a crane in it and send it on the way. Easy peasy. I also opened up the option for people to send me 60 cents through PayPal to cover a stamp and envelope. This worked for a while, but only got me through the first 100 or so cranes. Continue reading