While trekking through the Lake District to find inspiration for the upcoming Joules AW19 collection, our designers were captivated by the bold and vibrant designs of retro travel posters. Now highly collectable, these vividly beautiful prints were once used to advertise the world’s best travel destinations, in the days before internet and TV. These were often screen-printed — a process that involves pushing ink through a fabric stencil, which produces an eye-catching, layered effect.
We loved these posters so much, we decided to create our own! Not only did we put the designs on our new range of homeware, our illustrator Rosie, along with a crack team of print experts, transformed them into authentic screen-printed posters. We spoke to Rosie about this iconic printing process, her inspiration behind it and how you can try it yourself.
Screen printing is a painstaking process, but with maximum reward. “I just love the texture,” says Rosie. “Yes, you can create a similar effect nowadays on photoshop in much less time, but it just isn’t as satisfying as what you get from screen printing. Every print always comes out with its own little ‘flaws’ and markings, making each one unique.”
Rosie got into screen printing at university nearly a decade ago. “I did the odd bit here and there while I was learning and really loved it, but I’d never done a big project like this before.”
Following a research trip to a British printmaking exhibition with our design team, Rosie’s love for screen printing was rekindled. “Our talented print designer, Dan Matthews, had already created the digital illustrations of the travel posters from the Lake District, and this inspired me to turn them into screen printed posters.”
Popularised by artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, screen printing is a modern adaptation of one of the oldest forms of graphic reproduction: stencilling. Artists loved screen printing as it allowed them to reproduce artworks with bold, bright colours that popped from the frame. The same image could be replicated and layered with different colours and effects — think Warhol’s infamous prints of Marylin Monroe.
The screen printing process starts by creating a fabric stencil in the form of a mesh screen. It’s made by blocking off parts of the screen that you don’t want ink to go through, similar to a simple stencil you might have used as a child for arts and crafts — but a little bit more complicated!
“Each print is split into layers for each colour you want to use,” Rosie explains. “I had to really simplify Dan’s original designs, taking them from 12 colours to just three to five. The colour palette I used was taken from our latest AW19 collection, so lots of watery blues and greens, with warmer tones inspired by the breath-taking sunsets over Helm Crag.”
Ink is then pushed through the mesh screen for each layer and printed separately onto white paper. “When printing, you have to bear in mind what order you layer the colours. Light won’t show up very well on dark so you have to do the darkest layer last.”
With so many layers and five designs to print, it took Rosie and the team at Leicester Print Workshop a week and a half to complete all the screen prints. “Throughout my time printing, I had help from Isla Rustrick, Chloe Hills and Rachel Sanders — it would have been impossible without them! Mixing colours, tackling the drying rack, lining up the layers and giving my arms a rest now and then was very much needed. It definitely wasn’t a one-person job.”
“Timing varied on each design,” says Rosie. “This would depend on the number of layers needed, but a lot of the time it was just down to pot luck. Some screens didn’t work out successfully and had to be washed and started all over again. On average it took between 1-2 days to create each design.”
By this stage, you might be wondering if you can try screen printing yourself — to which Rosie says yes! “It is a bit tricky to do at home as you need quite a lot of equipment, which is why we chose to print our designs at Leicester Print Workshop. But for more simple designs, you can do it yourself at home.” Just follow these steps to start your screen printing journey…
Computer or laptop
Printing frame (or wood to make your own)
Fine mesh material
Clear acetate sheets (if printing at home)
Tarpaulin or old bedsheet (to catch any mess)
Light-sensitive photo emulsion
Screen printing ink
White paper (nothing too thin)
Screen printing squeegee
1. First you need to choose and create your design. You can either draw it yourself using software like Adobe Illustrator or find a design you like online. Remember that the simpler the design the better — you need to create a different screen and a different stencil for each colour you’ll be using, so stick to one or maybe two colours for your first try. Next, you need to print this design in black onto clear acetate. If you have a good printer at home you can use that, or you can simply ask your nearest print shop to do it for you.
2. Get your frame ready. Pre-made frames can be bought online, or you can make one out of wood. Just make sure your squeegee is the right size to fit snugly inside the frame with no gap. Take your mesh fabric and pull it taught over the frame, then staple it to the back securely. Use tape to keep it in place and stop any fraying.
3. Coat your silk screen with a thin layer of light-sensitive emulsion. Mix your emulsion according to the instructions included with the bottle and pour a line along the edge of the flat side of the fabric (not the side with staples). Use your squeegee to spread a thin layer of the emulsion across the entire screen.
4. Let your emulsion dry in a dark space — the studio we used had a special darkroom for this bit, but you can just use a room with the lights turned off and the curtains closed. Again, follow the emulsion’s instructions for specific timing. While you’re waiting, you can set up a space to expose your designs. Place a lamp on a table with the bulb 1-2 feet away from where you will be placing your screen.
5. Once dry, cover your screen with an old towel and place it under the lamp, emulsion side up. Remove the towel and place your acetate stencil onto the screen in reverse, so the design looks backwards when looking down at it. You should have about 4-5 inches of space between the edge of your design and the edge of the screen.
6. Switch on the light for the recommended time on the emulsion bottle, then remove the screen. Remove your stencil and set it aside — you should see a faint outline of your design on the emulsion.
7. Wash your screen with cold water. A shower head works best for this, as you can blast off the excess emulsion with high pressure. Keep spraying your screen until you see the outline of your design appear clearly. Once dry, use tape to cover up any spots or gaps in the emulsion — don’t worry, this always happens. If you’re using more than one colour, repeat steps 3-7 again to create your second screen.
8. Now it’s time to start printing! First, line up your screen above the paper you’re printing onto. Place the screen emulsion side down. Now, in the same way you did with the light-sensitive emulsion, put a line of ink along one side of the screen and gently spread it across the screen with the squeegee. In the other direction, firmly drag your squeegee with a good amount of pressure across the screen to push the ink through the mesh stencil. Slowly and evenly pull your screen away. Ta-da! Your design should be printed onto your paper.
9. Hang your print up to dry. Check the instructions of your ink — if you chose to print on fabric instead of paper you may need to heat seal it, which means you’ll have to run an iron over your design once it’s dry to stop it from washing out. If you’re using another colour, repeat the previous step with your second screen once the first colour is dry and ready.
If you loved our screen-printed designs, don’t forget that you can find them on our new range of homeware, including mugs, plates and tea towels to take home. Inspired by our trip to the Lake District, these prints capture the very best of the great British outdoors, offering a breath of fresh air to any space.