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Choosing a Silkscreen Paper

Choosing a paper for screenprinting should be easy, right? If you can screenprint on a t-shirt or a piece of wood, how hard can choosing a paper be? If you're making a quick, inexpensive poster - choosing a paper can be simple. But when it comes to making a high-quality print - something to be sold, something that will last, something to hang on a wall or in frame, something to show in a gallery - it's a little more involved.

There's always personal preference - what look are you trying to achieve? This will help determine the color, texture and possibly weight. But beyond that there are other aspects to consider as paper quality plays a large role in the value and quality of your print. More "commercial", poster-type papers can react in unexpected ways, causing printing issues, as well as not being able to stand up to sunlight and the test of time. 

We're fortunate to have worked with hundreds of printers around the world going back fifty years. Our papers have been used for screenprints by a wide range of artists & printers - from small poster shops to some of the 20th and 21st century icons. Over the years, we've continued to improve our papers to meet the demands of our customers.

For this article, we asked some accomplished screenprinters to share some information that could help guide your paper decision-making. How do they collaborate with artists to choose the right paper? Which paper fit their needs and why? Although there are similarities among many of the printers, each printer has their own unique methods and favorite substrates. 

In general, here are some key things their responses had in common:

1.      Ability to hold many layers of color without warping. 

Lightly or non-sized papers will allow the ink to sink into the paper. A surface-sized paper will keep the ink on the surface and allow layer upon layer to be printed.

2.      Dimensional stability 

Look for a paper that will not greatly stretch or contract during the printing process (a paper with good dimensional stability). This is crucial for holding registration for printing multiple overlays of colors. 

3.      Texture

A smoother paper will produce a sharper image capturing more detail especially for photographic silkscreen. When using a more heavily textured sheet the finish/surface will become a more pronounced part of the final image.  

4.      Weight

Heavier papers are typically better for stability and to keep the paper from buckling. The general rule of thumb is the larger the sheet size the heavier the weight; it will make handling the paper a lot easier if it has some heft.

 Master Printer & Owner of Serio Press, Tony Clough, working on a Cleon Peterson print using   Coventry Rag.   

Master Printer & Owner of Serio Press, Tony Clough, working on a Cleon Peterson print using Coventry Rag. 

Trina Faundeen, Serio Press

What is your go to paper? Why?

We like the Coventry because it comes in different sizes and can accommodate larger print sizes at a great price and quality. Most of the time, it comes down to pricing and size for the artists. Since we do fine art serigraph printing using water based inks, we prefer 100% cotton paper, since that is what is used traditionally for fine art printing. Some of the commercial papers on the market, even though they are made for silkscreen printing, react in unexpected ways and can cause problems such as mis-registrations, waviness of the paper, and can sometime make the ink colors look dull. The cotton fibers are more durable, and receive the ink well.

What are your alternatives?

Stonehenge 22x30 is a good alternative for smaller prints. Arches and Rives are more expensive, but have a very soft texture that is beautiful. If the artist chooses something other than Coventry, it is usually because they are looking for a different texture or shade or even weight. We’ve used Arturo Cover for a light cold press watercolor paper texture, and Arches Rough for an extreme texture (although it was difficult to get the printing consistent). We’ve also used Yupo to recreate art that was originally painted on matte mylar.

When it comes to color, Sirio Ultra Black is our new go-to black paper. The Arches Cover black, although not as black are Sirio Ultra Black, is also great as a more traditional choice for black paper, at a higher price point. Colorplan also has some bright white papers that are useful, as most of the cotton papers are a "natural" white. The Somerset is the only rag paper that we can get that comes in that Radiant White so we've used that a few times. We would also use the Colorplan for any colors where the artist wants the paper to be colored beyond the more subtle hues that are available from the rag paper makers.

What current trends are you noticing?

Most of our clients prefer using the 100% cotton paper, because they want to differentiate their fine art prints from the more casual poster prints done on the commercial papers. However, there are an increasing amount of artists who want something more unique. They are interested in different textures and finishes - such as the Mirri Holographic & Sparkle. They want to know that the paper is high quality and archival though, so it's nice to know that we can trust that the paper from Legion is reliable for fine art prints. For instance, we've printed a few editions using the Sirio Ultra Black, because even though it's cellulose, it's made using virgin fibers, which makes the paper more durable. People like that they have reliable alternatives for the papers that are not 100% cotton.

 Kozyndan Bunny Skull on Colorplan Ebony

Kozyndan Bunny Skull on Colorplan Ebony

 Kozyndan Bunny Skull on Mirri Sparkle Silver

Kozyndan Bunny Skull on Mirri Sparkle Silver

What are the most colors you’ve laid down on a sheet?

Tony, the Master Printer, printed a 39 color print on Coventry Rag 320 gsm by Carlos Almaraz "Night Theatre" 47 5/8" x 32 3/8" when he was printing at Modern Multiples. At Serio Press, the most he has done was by an artist named Tristan Eaton, published by Uncommon Editions, called "Medusa" with 24 colors, also on Coventry Rag 320 gsm.

Do the artists choose papers according to their own style? Do they look to the printer to choose the paper?

We guide the process pretty heavily, since many of the artists do not know the available options. Our go-to paper is Coventry Rag, due to its quality, price point, and size choices. We can print up to 38x58 right now, so the 44x60 is great for that. When they are looking for something different, I work with them to figure out what is within their budget that will fit with their artwork. We look at the swatch books together if they are local to our studio. 


Luther Davis, BRT Printshop

  Protest Posters , Glenn Howowitz The Stack Shack 2007, Kate Shepard on Coventry 335gsm

Protest Posters, Glenn Howowitz The Stack Shack 2007, Kate Shepard on Coventry 335gsm

What is your go to paper? Why?

Coventry Rag Smooth.  It’s a durable, stiff and smooth paper that is easy to print on because it doesn’t warp when laying down a lot of color. Also is economically priced.

With lower quality papers one runs the risk of what we call "potato chipping" where the forces of expansion and contraction of multiple coats of ink warp the paper.  Because we are printing with water-based inks and often trying to lay down large fields of color, paper stability is key to a positive end result.

What are your alternatives?

I prefer papers with a smooth finish like Coventry Rag Smooth or Somerset Satin. The smoothness allows me to apply less pressure. After that, Somerset Velvet, with a bit more tooth, but never a paper with a heavy texture.

We use Rising Museum Board when we need to go big. The fact that you can go all the way to 60"x104" really helps when an edition has a lot of colors; sometimes exact registration of paper from a roll is challenging.

We also used Mirricard Gold recently because it is more gold than any of our inks are available in. It really makes a project pop.

What current trends are you noticing?

Artists like the brightness of the Somerset Radiant White and that it’s a 100% cotton and acid-free paper. Papers that will stand the test of time and that are 100% cotton are important. They also look for something that feels substantial, or has a heavier weight. I find artists printing their work by silkscreen want to stand apart from the digital trend. There’s nothing like Somerset Satin for quality.

What are the most colors you’ve laid down on a sheet?

220  colors is our record. It was on Rising Museum Board 4 ply 40”x60”.

Do the artists choose papers according to their own style? What do the artists look for in a paper as opposed to the printer?

We do try to match the aesthetics of the artists, but on a paper like Coventry, we could most likely match the look of their work or what they’re trying to achieve creatively.

From the grand catalog of papers, we default to smooth, strong, heavy papers that hold color.


Karl Larocca, Kayrock Screenprinting

What is your go to paper? Why?

Coventry Rag Smooth 290gsm. We like it because of it’s dimensional stability, heavy weight and affordability. We actually print on the opposite side on Coventry because we like the smoothness. We use Coventry mostly because colors lay on the paper well. It has everything we are looking for in a paper including great pricing.

Most commercial papers aren’t as good for tearing a deckled edge as 100% cotton papers (cotton papers are softer and easier to tear).

 Ideologie und Utopie des Design, Björn Meyer-Ebrecht, on Rising Museum Board

Ideologie und Utopie des Design, Björn Meyer-Ebrecht, on Rising Museum Board

What are your alternatives?

If we are using a halftone, we use Stonehenge Paper since the Coventry is better for continuous tones.  

We also use Rising for collages or if we need the thickness of a board.

What current trends are you noticing?

We’ve noticed a trend in grey papers.  When artists request grey, we’ll use Colorplan, they have a nice range of colors for this.

What are the most colors you’ve laid down on a sheet?

About 30 colors is the most we’ve put down. We use waterbased inks so we don’t lay down too many colors.

Do the artists choose papers according to their own style? What do the artists look for in a paper as opposed to the printer?

We usually show the artists the papers that are available. Sometimes they specify if they want a deckled edge or a certain tone; or for fine art prints, we’ll tend to show the artist 100% cotton papers.


Gary LichtensteinGary Lichtenstein Editions

 "Love Rocks," Cey Adams, 2017 on Coventry Rag. An edition of 100 produced exclusively for God's Love We Deliver, NYC

"Love Rocks," Cey Adams, 2017 on Coventry Rag. An edition of 100 produced exclusively for God's Love We Deliver, NYC

What is your go to paper? Why?

Coventry Rag 290gsm or 320gsm. It’s a beautiful and stable sheet that doesn’t dent easily and it works extremely well with silkscreen.

What are your alternatives?

Rising Museum Board is a great alternative. It’s a really strong board that doesn’t dent easily and holds each layer of color nicely.

Lately I’ve also been using a lot of Stonehenge Aqua Hotpress and Coldpress watercolor paper for Silkscreen. 

A few years ago we switched from oil to water-based ink which affects the papers we use. We now tend to use heavier papers such as Rising Museum Board and Coventry Rag 320gsm to ensure the paper doesn’t buckle.

Because I use so many different papers from Legion, I can sometimes test out a few different papers for one project to find a favorite and more importantly see which papers work best for a particular print.

What current trends are you noticing?

We’ve noticed many artists creating collage, which could result in laying down more layers, so we will use Coventry 320gsm or Rising Museum Board for a sturdier sheet.

Artists are also interested in incorporating their own hand work, such as painting over or around the print. This is when Stonehenge Aqua is a good choice since it’s mostly used for watercolor.

What are the most colors you’ve laid down on a sheet?

I’ve put down 120 colors in the 80’s on Lenox Paper, but our average is about 25-30 per screenprint.

Do the artists choose papers according to their own style? Do they look to the printer to choose the paper? What’s the process like?

We choose the paper based on the style of the artists’ work. There are a lot of ideas that come into play when selecting the paper. I first see what papers are readily available in the studio. We usually have a good amount of options on hand. I’ll see how much handling and layers of color are included to determine the weight of the sheet. It also depends on how large the print will be. If the artist is looking to print a larger piece, I’ll use Rising Museum Board 40”x60”. Other factors have to be considered though: Rising Museum Board doesn’t roll, so a finished print will be harder and more expensive to ship. 


sawtooth.JPG

Alex Carlisle, Sawtooth Editions

What is your go to paper? Why?

Coventry Rag 320gsm for water based inks is our go to. We look for a paper with good sizing so it doesn’t grow or shrink, especially when laying down multiple colors. We noticed when we do our first hit of color, some papers tend to slightly expand; the internal and external sizing of Coventry helps us to avoid that. Sometimes we seal the paper to ensure exact registration.

What are your alternatives?

When we need a more stable and stiff sheet for heavier enamel lay downs, we then go to Rising Museum Board 2 ply and 4 ply.

What current trends are you noticing?

We’ve noticed artists want their prints larger and larger. Our next edition will be using Rising Museum Board 4ply 60”x104”. But when it comes to paper trends, I tend to just stick with Coventry because it still gives me the weight, size and quality I’m looking for.

What are the most colors you’ve laid down on a sheet?

I’ve laid down 55 colors once on Coventry Rag. After that the most I’ve done is 30 colors for an artist, Tristan Eaton.

Do the artists choose papers according to their own style? Do they look to the printer to choose the paper? What’s the process like?

I always suggest Coventry Rag because I know it works well, unless the artist specifies something else. The artist usually goes with what we recommend. It has the right price point and quality.

 Sawtooth Editions

Sawtooth Editions

 

July is World Watercolor Month!

World Watercolor Month is back! Get ready for the ultimate challenge of 31 watercolors in 31 days starting July 1st.

Here's how it works: Grab some watercolors and make a watercolor painting or sketch each day during the month (or whenever you can join in), and share your work online for others around the world to enjoy! Use the hashtag #WorldWatercolorMonth when posting your art and use it to meet other watercolor artists around the globe!

Visit Doodlewashed on Instagram for some inspiration and ideas on what to paint.

World Watercolor Month helps raise awareness for Dreaming Zebra Foundation to get art supplies for kids who need them.

Legion is excited to sponsor and help celebrate World Watercolor Month!

Visit www.worldwatercolormonth.com for more info!

Painting Koi Fish on the New Magnani 1404 Round Blocks

Wonder Forest painting tutorial of a Koi Fish on the new Magnani 1404 Round Watercolor Blocks. This one is on the Italia Round Block with Coldpress paper. 

Products used:

Magnani 1404 Italia Paper

Winsor & Newton Paints: http://amzn.to/2nEugl6 (Alizarin Crimson Hue, Cadmium Orange Hue, Cerulean Blue Hue, Indigo, Gamboge Hue, Chinese White)

Tombow MONO Drawing Pen size 1: http://amzn.to/2Fm1gH8

#PutAStampOnIt , The 2018 National Stationery Show Project

Here's your sneak peek at the 2018 National Stationery Show promotion project with the theme of Stamps! The project is well on its way. The designers have been selected and papers are now being chosen. We're so excited to be working with Sarah Schwartz from The Paper Chronicles and Stationery Trends, Parse & Parcel , the Stationery Show and our packaging designers, Rifle Paper Co., along with 22 designers to carry out the project.

 Rifle Paper Co.'s Stamp Design

Here's the crew: Hester & CookPinwheel Print ShopilootpaperieHalifax Paper HeartsPinky Weber StudioPaper Bandit PressUp With Paper/UWP LuxePage StationeryTypofloraGood JuJu InkSmarty Pants PaperBoss Dotty Paper Co.GotamagoLily & ValGinger P. DesignsInklings PaperieThe Regional Assembly of TextThe Imagination SpotEuni + Co.Collen AttaraAlbertine Press; and Fresh Out of Ink.

How does it work? Be sure to attend the National Stationery Show beginning May 20th. Grab your checklist that will be given out at the show with the full list of designers and their booth numbers. Stop by each booth to collect their stamp. Once all the stamps are collected, swing by Legion's booth to collect your box made by Rifle Paper Co. to store the 22 collected stamps.

There will so many different designs, printing techniques, papers, shapes, sizes all within one box. Here are just a few of what you'll see. 

 Typoflora's Stamp Design that will be printed on Canson Infinity Paper.

Typoflora's Stamp Design that will be printed on Canson Infinity Paper.

 Up With Paper's Design printing on Stonehenge Paper.

Up With Paper's Design printing on Stonehenge Paper.

 Good JuJu Ink's design that will be printed on Rising Museum Board.

Good JuJu Ink's design that will be printed on Rising Museum Board.

Stay updated on more designs to come! Let the countdown begin!

Choosing a Watercolor Paper

With so many different watercolor papers available today, it’s difficult to find a paper that works for your work. As watercolor paints are semi-translucent, papers play a key role in the finished work of art. The paper’s brightness and texture are just as critical as the choice in pigments. Papers most suitable to this water-based medium accept a watercolor wash evenly with reproducible results. We always recommend testing different papers to discover what works and doesn’t work for you. Look out for some of these key factors.

Here's a list of different watercolor papers Legion stocks. 

And here's a sampler if you're looking to test a bunch of different watercolor papers. 

choosing a watercolor paper

Sizing

The key ingredient that that makes a high-quality watercolor paper stand out as exceptional is the sizing - the invisible material used in the paper-making process to make the paper more resistant to water.  The sizing enables the washing out of color and reworking the same area, which is key for a watercolor paper.  Substantial sizing also prevents the fibers from buckling.  

Surfaces

There are a variety of surfaces for different watercolor applications, but for the most part watercolor papers are classified as:

Hot Press (HP) exhibiting a smooth surface, which is perfect for fine detailed images.

Cold Press (CP) having a more textured surface.

Rough (R), as the name implies, a highly textured surface.  

 Hotpress

Hotpress

 Coldpress

Coldpress

 Rough

Rough

Weight

Most watercolor papers come in three different weights- 90lb., 140lb., and 300lb.

90lb sheet is better for drawing techniques but not ideal for heavy watercolor.

140lb is most commonly used, but may buckle without stretching.  

300lb could withstand more water and is better when using a heavy wash or soaking the sheet. This paper will be more expensive.  

Who better to hear it from than other artists?

Jenna Rainey, Monvoir Studio, Author of Everyday Watercolor

Jenna Rainey Monvoir painting on Stonehenge Aqua

What’s your paper of choice? Stonehenge Aqua Coldpressed! It's the perfect texture for what I like to do!

What is your style of work? I mostly work wet on wet, with wet on dry also in the running. I love blending and diffusing color with wet on wet though! It's magic!

What criteria/standards do you look for in a paper? The surface and texture of the paper is really important to me. I like clean and smooth coverage with the majority of my strokes, so both hotpressed and rough paper don't lend too well with what I like to achieve. It's also important to me that the pigment lifts well off the paper. 

What is your process in choosing a paper? I honestly don't have much of a process! Ha. If it's a trusted branded, I'll usually order samples and try it out using a few different methods (washes, wet on wet, wet on dry, etc.) and then decide if it will work for me. But I tend to find something I like (like Stonehenge Aqua), and stick with it!


Dante Orpillia painting on Yupo Paper

What’s your paper of choice? I choose paper based on the emotion I'm trying to chase. Most of the time that emotion is violent, unpredictable, madness so I use Yupo to paint soft, traditionally beautiful things.

What is your style of work? Starts wet on wet, I let the pigment and the paper do their lil dance, and then when a foundational form has dried I'll go in with detail. The paper very much plays a crucial part in the process because dried paint lifts off of Yupo, and on cotton the choices you make are quite permanent.

What criteria/standards do you look for in a paper? I look for paper that tells it's own story without changing the narrative of my own.


Jessica Park, Watercolor, Illustration Calligraphy & Workshops

Jessica Park ( Jeshy Park) painting on Stonehenge Aqua

What’s your paper of choice? It really depends on the work I’m doing. For professional work, I usually use Arches Cold Press and Rough Press 140lb watercolor paper. For ink and watercolor pieces, I like to use Legion Stonehenge Aqua 140lb cold press paper. It has a smoother finish and doesn't snag. 

What is your style of work?  How does this affect the paper you choose? It depends as I do like to change things up from time to time. But typically, I do a lot of wet on wet and not so much fine detail. This means I need paper that doesn't buckle so I prefer to work with blocks. I also prefer paper with a bit of texture for absorbency and softer blends. There are times when I work with ink or calligraphy so I also need a different type of paper that wont ruin my pens. In this case, I look for paper that has most of the qualities I'm used to but with a smoother finish.

What criteria/standards do you look for in a paper? I prefer paper that is 100% cotton, and textured for my wet on wet washes. For professional work, I want paper that is of archival quality. This ensures that my clients are receiving paintings that will last for years without changes in coloration.

What is your process in choosing a paper? I don't do anything fancy. I just paint with it a few times. If I find the paper is working against me--I don't use it again. 

Choosing paper is such a personal decision. Especially because everyone paints differently with a varying amount of water and paint, you really have to try out paper to see what works for you. I really believe that paper is the most important supply when it comes to watercolor. A good paper can work with you, a lower quality paper can cause frustration. So see what's out there and don't choose something solely based on one artist's opinion.


Beth Winterburn (EBW Art) painting on saunders waterford

What’s your paper of choice? My favorites are Saunders Waterford and Lanaquarelle

What is your style of work? Wet on wet, wet on dry.

What criteria/standards do you look for in a paper? Absorbs quickly and definitively while maintaining bright color (doesn't mute color); enables really nice watercolor blooms; open fibers; 140lb. for stretching, rolling and easy transport; cold press generally; bright white paper color; archival; acid free.  

What is your process in choosing a paper? Trial and error. I test them all to see what I like. It's based on feel, texture, and of course, results after playing a bit.