How It’s Made: Screen Printed Wallpaper

Many of you have probably found our blog via the Artisan Handprints website. We want to let you know our process and show a little about what we do. Here are some photos of our warehouse and print production and a short explanation of how your wallpaper is made.

A hand drawn image that began it all
Kilim A hand drawn image that began it all

Relativity Textiles is a designer that is just starting out and came to us to produce her first ever wallpaper. We received the art in the form of a scanned artwork. Although we usually prefer to have print-ready artwork, there are times when we will be able to accomodate requests to take a hand drawn image or painting and make it into a vector file.

Kilim in Illustrator
Digitized and color separated, this design is almost ready to go. We just have to heal up the joins in this pattern– crucial for making a paper that will hang easily on the wall.

The image is now ready to send off for film positives to be made. We outsource our films to make sure that the quality and registration is consistent with industry standard. They actually use a camera to shoot the films in a darkroom and they come back like large (inverse) negatives for making our images on the screen.

Meanwhile, we’re stretching screens.

Screen Stretcher with perfect tension makes for the perfect print.
Screen Stretcher with perfect tension makes for the perfect print.

The designer has ordered her paper to arrive to our warehouse and our colorist has mixed her colors, according to her spec sheet.

We use the Benjamin Moore colorants, so choosing from these fan decks is best, though we can accurately miz most other colors (Behr, Pantone, etc.)
We use the Benjamin Moore colorants, so choosing from these fan decks is best, though we can accurately mix most other colors (Behr, Pantone, etc.)

IMG_1212

The screen is coated with light sensitive emulsion.

We have to coat the screens in the dark because the emulsion is light sensitive.
We have to coat the screens in the dark because the emulsion is light sensitive.

Once the emulsion is dry, we turn on our exposure unit, register the image on the table to the screen and “burn” the image.

Kilim negative
Film negative, which is about 8″ x 10″
Film positive
Film positive, which is to scale for the wallpaper, about 27″ x 36″

The magic happens when you wash the screen out. Anywhere the light has hit the emulsion and the film was clear has hardened and created a stencil. Anywhere the opaque black lines were, the light could not penetrate, leaving the emulsion viscous and thus, it will be removed from the screen mesh with warm water.

Wash out time
Wash out time

You can hardly tell, but the screen now has an opening similar to these patterns, another designer’s screens. These are dry and taped and ready to go to print production.

Screens drying in the darkroom.
Screens drying in the darkroom.

The screen is attached to our automated table with clamps. The printer uses a dust print as his initial marks and prints several prints onto the “leader”. This is scrap paper that helps pull the good paper into the oven.

Ziggy setting up his press.
Ziggy setting up his press.

Our ovens dry the ink so that the paper can roll up onto itself without stamping the back side of the paper. In the olden days, we used to print on long tables. It took as much time to tape the paper down to get ready to print 100 rolls as it does for Ziggy or Chester to print 50 rolls of paper on the automated press!

A step back in time: in the 1970's this is what our shop looked like! Long tables facilitated printing in repeat, but had to be air dried and took triple the amount of time to produce papers.
A step back in time: in the 1970’s this is what our shop looked like! Long tables facilitated printing in repeat, but had to be air dried and took triple the amount of time to produce papers.

The paper is often skip printed (which I promise to explain in another post with a diagram!) so that the wet prints don’t touch one another. This method is used for patterns that “puzzle piece” or fit together with tight joins in motifs.

Skip Printing
You can see that every other print is being printed, and then space left to fill in the pattern in between.
Skip printing
Ziggy hand registers and advances the paper 29″ for the repeat.

This pattern, Kilim, is skip printed. It takes double the time and labor to skip print a design. It’s almost as easy to print a two color print as it is to print one color, skipped.

Chester's Press
While he prints and I photograph his registration, Chester and I talked about the meaning of the word Kilim. In Arabic, it means “tapestry” or “textile” which he wrote, Arras. I had to look that up: ar·ras (ăr′əs) n. pl. arras A tapestry, wall hanging, or curtain, especially one of Flemish origin.

Once the paper is dry and finished printing, it is trimmed and re-wound to the beginning. An inspector, like Richard, will look for imperfections in the print, anything missing or marks, dust, etc. He trims off waste and also measures tight 10 yard rolls.

Inspector Gadget
Rich inspecting a different pattern, looking for that perfect print.
Inspected Rolls
Rolls that are ready to be shrink wrapped.

He then wraps each individual designer’s label on the roll and shrink wraps them. Some of our designers inventory their papers in our warehouse and some have them shipped on huge palates to a fulfillment center.

The finished product is always completely transformed once it’s installed in a space. Wallpaper gives an amazing warmth, character and life to any room. It’s a wonder why we don’t have more wallpaper in our own homes!

Here we see the wallpaper come to life in it's own natural habitat.
Here we see the wallpaper come to life in it’s own natural habitat.
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How It’s Made: Screen Printed Wallpaper

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