Colorful Watercolor Screen Printing

Colorful Watercolor Screen Printing

With Marabu Graphix Aqua Inks

The art of polychromatic screen printing is to print with many colors at once. A technique that’s useful to printers, mixed media artists, and painters alike, the opportunity to produce several multi-colored prints in one application is the appeal here. Marabu Graphix Aqua Inks are perfect for this technique, and we’ll take a look at what makes them the ideal ink.

The polychromatic technique is reliant on using concentrated, highly-soluble colors to create the initial image. This color is painted onto a screen then released using a printing medium that will dissolve the color and deposit it onto a substrate. Today, our substrate is watercolor paper

In this case, our final image was created using Marabu Graphix Aqua Inks. And here’s why they’re great for this technique: These are highly-pigmented, very lightfast, liquid watercolors that have incredible solubility. Sponsored by Marabu

Materials List

Marabu Graphix Aqua Inks, Various Colors

Silkscreen (see below for DIY Screen)

Squeegee (see below for options)

1 Tablespoon Methylcellulose

Hot Press 140lb Watercolor Paper

Watercolor Brushes

Step 1

Start with a silkscreen and a squeegee. It’s easy to make something that will work for this technique, as it’s not heavily reliant on a highly-tensioned silkscreen and perfect print registration.

DIY Screen and Squeegee Option

You basically need a wood or stiff cardboard frame and some polyester or nylon mesh/fabric. Stretch the mesh and staple it to the wood frame. If you are using cardboard, cut out a window and tape or glue the mesh to the cardboard. Remember, the mesh does have to be relatively tight, so keep this in mind when you are constructing your screen. As for a squeegee, a bathroom or window squeegee is great, or a stiff piece of card will also work well.

Step 2

Tape a boarder or create a window using the tape on the “print side” of your screen. This will act as a mask as well as a reservoir to hold the print paste. The finer the weave or mesh of the fabric the more detail you’ll achieve in your image.

You will apply the Aqua Inks onto the “print side” of the screen. This is the surface of the screen that touches the substrate (or paper, in this case). The reason you paint on this side of the screen is so the water in the print medium (the methylcellulose paste) will dissolve the Aqua inks through the fabric and deposit the colors onto the paper. You might end up with a muddy mess or dry prints if you try to paint on the inside of the screen. Remember, the image will print as a mirror of what you are painting. This is particularly notable if you are including text.

Step 3 & 4

Choose an image that is relatively loose or abstract. Using methylcellulose paste lends itself best to this type of imagery. In this case, stripes of color are used. After painting your image, let the colors dry thoroughly. The drying process can be accelerated using a hairdryer if needed. Marabu Graphix Aqua Inks are not only highly-pigmented, they also have a light fastness rating of 6 or higher out of 8 on the Blue Wool Scale. This coupled with their low viscosity and solubility make them a perfect medium for this technique.

Step 5 & 6

Making your print paste. Methylcellulose is a PH-neutral, water-soluble adhesive that dries clear. It is an excellent archival paper glue as well as a printing medium. Methylcellulose is also used as a marbling ground or base for thickening water in marbling techniques.

You’ll want your Methylcellulose paste to be as thick as shown if you want to hold lines and some detail. The lower the viscosity, or thinner the paste, the more water it will hold. This leads to less control of the colors and a more washed or bleed look. Mixing a tablespoon of Methylcellulose with one cup of warm water should give you the desired viscosity. Let the paste thicken overnight. This will also allow the bubbles to settle out of the paste. You can thin the paste with warm water, if desired.

Step 7

Position your screen on top of your watercolor paper. Hot press is desirable because the surface is smooth, flat, and will hold more detail. You may also want to experiment and see how your image translates onto various paper surfaces. Pour some of the methylcellulose paste into the taped reservoir of the screen as shown. Use it sparingly as the paste picks up color from the screen and gets contaminated or muddy quickly. You’ll need to refresh the paste between each print. Only use what you’ll need for making each print.

Step 8 & 9

Hold the screen in place with one hand. Angle the squeegee slightly and pull it across your image. You are pulling the paste through the screen. You may have to do this twice, especially on the first print as the screen and Aqua Inks will be dry.

Step 10 & 11

Peel the paper back from the screen and you’ll have your first print. Refresh the Methylcellulose paste, removing any contaminated paste first, and pull a few more prints. Each print will get gradually lighter as you exhaust the Aqua Ink color from the screen.

Step 12 & 13

Methylcellulose is water reversable. This means you can dissolve it again with water even when dry. You can work back into your print with water or more ink to create multiple, one of a kind, and archivally-stable pieces of artwork.