Five-Horned Stag Screenprint, Process!

I’ve recently finished my latest project, a CMYK screenprint of a five-horned stag! The print is available for purchase at my store (link). This post is a step-by-step on the process of its creation.

For the last few months I’ve been casually reading various textbooks on Arthurian Legends. Roger Sherman Loomis’ Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance lays out the history of the legends, many of which are based on ancient gods. In Chapter XIV, Merlin the Shapeshifter: “… we have in Mryddin a deranged god whose special domain was poetry and prophecy.” I found the concept of poetry and prophecy being entwined to be extremely enticing. That art can represent, nay, predict the future. I knew I had to create some sort of portrait for Mryddin, who later becomes Merlin in the legends.

Later in this chapter is the following:

A five-horned stag! Now that the imagery was chosen, it’s on.

Click to read the rest!

Concept sketches:

I wanted Mryddin to be powerful, religious. Since I wanted him to be confrontational, the decision fell on a forward-facing pose.

The final drawing:

I’ve been wanting to experiment with CMYK printing and pencil drawings. I explored something similar with the print previous to this one, “When I grow up I want to marry a castle.” The next step was color.

Digital color concept:

Creating this mock version helped me decide what colors and values I wanted to use in the final image. It also served to break down the shapes of the print (the antlers, body, trees and white energy burst). This breakdown made the later editing steps easier.

Watercolor was next. I taped together a couple of watercolor sheets (the original drawing was 14″ by 17″). I then contrapted a MacGyver light table and traced the basic shapes of the pencil drawing onto the watercolor paper. (The light table was made up of a piece of glass from a picture frame and a lamp precariously pinched between my knees.)

The watercolors:

The colors were painted with the intention of a lot of digital manipulation, so my goal was to capture attractive brushstrokes and get general colors. (Click here for a photo of the drawing and painting together.)

Watercolors with digital manipulation:

And with the pencil drawing overlay, we have the final digital image!:

Next was the fun part, screenprinting! The image was broken down digitally into four CMYK layers: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The screenprinting process overlays these colors, and with the use of halftones and transparent inks, all the subtle colors of the original image are recreated. These were printed using the autopress at the Landland studios in Minneapolis, where I work as an assistant. My bosses were kind enough to let me come in on my day off and do the same thing I do for a job. It’s a lovely thing.

Classically, the CMYK printing process is supposed to go lightest to darkest: yellow, magenta, cyan and then black. But the yellow ink on its own is so light, it’s difficult to register to and check for mistakes (ink splotches, specks in the screen, etc), so I chose to do magenta first.

First layer, magenta:

Second layer, yellow:

Then cyan and black, to create the final print! A photo:

And the final print scanned:

Most of what transformed it into the colors you see was the cyan layer! It’s magical. The black layer only slightly darkened portions of the image and filled it out; the colors are all cyan’s doing.

A close-up to show the halftones:

The final things to do were trimming, signing and numbering the prints, and stamping the back of each and every one! This process also allows me to scrutinize each one individually to make sure it passes the quality test. I stamp the back so my information is on the print, but the image itself isn’t compromised.

My stamp:

The final poster is a 4-color screenprint on 100# French cover stock, 18″ by 24″, signed & numbered edition of 40. It’s available for purchase at my store. Thank you for reading! I hope this was fun and interesting for you! I also hope you go out there and make your own print!

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