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Coventry Rag

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. 


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


3 Sheets Editions By Serio Press & Ryan McIntosh On Coventry Rag

This Too Shall Soon Pass is the inaugural print release for our new publishing program 3 Sheets Editions. With each project, we aim to invent new ideas by exploiting aspects unique to the printing process, as well as experimenting with new ways of creating prints. By having our entire print studio at their disposal to execute their projects, artists have the freedom to express their creativity.

McIntosh used some distinctive techniques for This Too Shall Soon Pass. By sprinkling powdered graphite directly on to the screen during printing, the graphite was integrated into the ink itself, creating in each print a unique texture and color where the graphite landed. He burnished each sheet onto the bottom of the screen, creating even more texture where the ink touches the paper.

The final result lends itself to the concept of his original text paintings, created by force-feeding a single sheet of paper dozens of times through a computer printer until the text gets printed so heavily that it becomes just a large black void. The added texture further obscures the text, creating a rough landscape for the words to reside. The text itself is derived from an old medieval proverb, basically meaning that both the best and worst of times will soon pass.

Ryan McIntosh is a Los Angeles based contemporary artist. He was recently spotlight featured in the January 2017 issue of American Art Collector magazine. He has had recent solo exhibition in 2015-16 at Stone Malone Gallery (LA), Gold Haus Gallery (LA) and included in group exhibitions at Planthouse Gallery (NYC) and Season Gallery (Seattle). He received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from University of Arizona.

This Too Shall Soon Pass
24" x 36"

2 Color Serigraph w/ Graphite Integration
Coventry Rag 320 gsm
Edition: 32

Artist Spotlight: a conversation with Katie Heffelfinger

A series of eighteen of Katie’s paintings are currently on display on the newly renovated fourth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. This space, featuring new, emerging and legendary brands is the perfect backdrop for her creations.

You can visit Katies her work at Saks, online at Katie.Gallery or in person on Gansevoort St in Manhattan on weekends.


Can you start by introducing yourself?

I'm Katie Heffelfinger. I am the lead artist at where I create original watercolor paintings using a unique process of latex resist and handmade paint on Legion's 100% cotton Coventry Rag paper. 



What inspired this series? 

What inspired me was Otto Piene in the 1960’s and his work with the other German zero artists. I saw a piece of what I thought were impressions in the paper laid out in a grid with a human hand with slight irregularities making it impossible to look away.  I’ve never seen them in person, just in catalogs. But they took my breath away.

The washes are just part of me. My mother was a watercolor artist and I loved her work. I just lay on the color and create compositions.  Much of my inspiration is part of the mixing and chemical process of the different paints I develop in the studio. It's often like making crystals develop on the surface as the mica dries with the funori. They develop into beauty, I give it a place to happen and a direction, but I don't always know how it will come about.

Yayoi  Kusama and Dorothy Napangardi are always present in my work and my two biggest influences as women artists who master the dot. The Albers are my color teachers and I have to thank them often for their vision.


What materials do you use and why?  Are there any favorites?

For me Legion Paper’s Coventry Rag paper is more than half the piece. My studio mate artist Jed Miner introduced me to Coventry Rag five years ago. It was only later I realized the paper's properties were so perfect.

The resist (dots and lines) are done in Marquee Behr house paint. There is something about the formula that works differently than any other. The funori in the paint I make pulls away from the Marquee paint and there's a reaction between the sizing in the paper and the Marquee that creates many of the effects.

My framer Rooq is another key piece to my success. Their show room on 4th street is my favorite space to show clients for the lighting, and at their giant work tables I always feel comfortable there with my clients. Their quality is great and prices reasonable.  Regarding materials, Rooq uses Rising Museum Board to support my work.

Can you tell us a little about your watercolor process? What makes it unique?

The traditional binder of watercolor is gum Arabic. This is a thick kind of jelly medium that binds water and color (pigment) to the paper, thinned to about 2-7% of volume with water and mixed into water and pigment gives us watercolor.  When you mix heavy pigments or mica into the paint adding more gum Arabic makes it sticky slow drying goo like the coating on an old photograph.

Funori changed the game of watercolor painting.  It's a Japanese seaweed which is used in bookbinding.  Jed Miner brought a rigorous daily practice and a skill for invention into the work. He experimented constantly with old binders and coatings. Working with him we created some of the chemical process I use today. It's exciting to make all of the paint myself and be able to tweak the ingredients.


How did you come to work with Legion Paper?

At the Gansevoort street outlet at the base of the highline, I met Josh Levine [Legion CEO].  He was walking with his wife, saw my work and casually asked what paper I used. I said My favorite was Coventry Rag.  When he said that Legion created Coventry Rag I was pulled into one of those synchronicities that only seems to occur in NYC!  

Art is a business and making that first large (for me, anyway) investment in really high quality materials was the first step on a trajectory to where I am now.  Josh mentioned they happened to have some slightly irregular batch of Coventry Rag they rejected and we traded paper for a piece to be named later. Josh also supported me getting access to their “seconds” and off-cuts. This was a huge game changer. I was able to touch samples of almost every kind of paper that Legion has and as a result I could make more informed choices.  


In our conversations prior to this you’re very specific about what you look for in a paper.

Everyone should be!  These higher-quality cotton papers are so different from other papers it's like night and day. I get this feedback from people all the time, particularly people from Europe and other artists who can see and feel something is special about my paper.

Michael Ginsburg, co-founder of Legion (as well as the rest of the staff) was patient with me dragging large rolls of paintings to show him that other papers suck the pigment into the center of the sheet, sometimes pulling it to the back of the sheet. Watercolor papers just weren't made to do what my handmade paints needed, which was to keep the mica and pigment on the surface while allowing the water to evaporate without buckling. 

And sometimes you have to be resourceful.  For example, because of the demand for my work in larger sizes, bigger than Coventry Rag’s 60x44, I was having such a hard time finding a paper to use that for my larger pieces.  For this series I had to use a bit of an off label product from the Legion paper family - I actually used the reverse side of the 1 sided Entrada rag, used typically for photographic printing, but the reverse side is very similar to Lenox 100, while feeling to me a bit more sized. The coating keeps the paper held well on the reverse and stable for the many layers of paint I put down.  


How did The Saks Fifth Avenue series come about?

My process is always the same:  great designers happen by my outlet spot on Gansevoort. (Meatpacking + Whitney + High Line: it’s a nexus of a lot of cool things and people looking for cool things.)

The buyer for Saks came by and was complimentary and kind, but it was a fairly fast meeting, he liked what he saw and said he'd connect.  After that it was very fast: we met again and he selected the pieces. We made a date to meet at the framer (Rooq) to double check particulars about the order.  Rooq owner Jawed helped me box and package the paintings (18!!) and I delivered them to the legendary 5th Avenue store in midtown where the work will be part of a new look for the 4th floor.

If you could create something for a dream client (individual or corporate) who would it be? 

I’m not sure if this is public knowledge yet but my dream paper is about to become real. It's a 60 inch roll of Coventry rag vellum and smooth!!! Now that my perfect paper is real, I'll be able to make gallery sized dot pieces that on this scale will ungulate and truly absorb and envelop the viewer. 

What I'm seeing now would be three of these giant form pieces let's say 5' x 8' in quicksilver gray and blue colors.  I wish these could be completed before my show at the gallery Sensei in the Bowery because I feel like that would be an amazing presentation but I guess I’ll have them for the winter art shows.

But your question didn't ask what but who, as an ideal client!

The truth is I work with my dream clients now. Saks is a dream client. All my buyers and the awesome people who come to me from all over the world and make my pieces part of their lives - I honestly feel that I live the dream. I just want to do more of them, bigger ones and keep working with the really cool people I get to work with.

I am getting the dream I had of being in the Legion Paper offices which is absolutely for a Coventry Rag Superfan like being on Justin Bieber's wall when you're a preteen girl [laugh], you know like that's just awesome.

I also really hope that Behr paint (masco coatings) will understand my love for them and my complete obsession with Marquee paint and get something for their corporate offices in Southern California.

One day at the booth someone walked up and said, "My husband and I have selected your piece to build our lives around."  My piece was the first thing they placed after their renovation was finished and they added all the other furniture and decor around the colors in the piece.  I could feel them placing their soul into my piece in a beautiful way.

These are my dream clients.

What’s next for Katie?

The Mansion residency program [that Katie created in Allentown, PA.] is being overhauled and I will be unveiling my new course and eBook. Hopefully, readers will get to use the process to hone their art into something very salable. Instead of helping a few dozen artists over years as we have been one at a time in a residency capacity, I want to help thousands realize my goal of removing the term starving artist from the lexicon. 

"Doing it like Durher" will debut at an NYU class this fall. This beta version will be what I take to the Internet next year in 2017. It talks about how old a profession we are in and that the rules haven't changed since Durher was making full sheet prints of well rendered watercolor bunnies in 1502. Simple, time tested (like centuries) solutions to teach people to quit their Day-jobs and let their creativity be the fiscal engine fueling their lives,  making your existing art practice into a job no one can take away from you and you can do forever anywhere on the planet.

It is my goal to bring people into the understanding this is an amazing profession. People, all human beings, need what we do as artists. In a home we crown the architecture and bind the themes that someone brings into their visual center.

If we understand our profession as a business and take it seriously, how awesome to have our practice as a vehicle to raise humanity, simply by being great artists and fixing and surpassing our limits and preconceived ideas of what can be possible in a life. This is how we can change the world.


Art on Paper in Miami

Just a few of our favorites at Art on Paper in Miami on our papers. With so many amazing pieces to choose from, look out for more favorites to come!
New Figures, 2015 was created by Richard Prince using multiple color silkscreen with collage on Coventry Rag and Lanaquarelle 48x35 inches. The incredible artwork was shown at Art on Paper in Miami by Two Palms

Rhona Hoffman Gallery shows off Coventry Rag Vellum by Nathaniel Mary Quinn using black charcoal, sot pastel and oil pastel.

Durham Press Portfolio of 5 Screenprints by James Nares on Somerset Satin White 300gsm.

NY Public Radio Calendar by Vote for Letterpress

Five year old letterpress studio Vote for Letterpress, tasked with creating a calendar for New York Public Radio, hit this one out of the park with this intricate print on Coventry Rag.  In their words:

3-color split fountain? Check.

Intricately detailed illustration by Felix Sockwell? Check.
2,000 posters, printed one at a time on our hand-cranked Vandercook SP-20? Check mate.

This was one of the most challenging jobs we’ve printed. There’s a crazy amount of detail in this poster, and while tight registration of the colors wasn’t critical, it was still important to get it pretty close. Press preparation (called makeready) took 3 days alone before we were ready to print the black plate. Total press time probably neared 40 hours. 

We're big fans of people who love paper and VFL has our vote.