Screen Printing:

On Design: Burning Letters

June 1, 2021

This month’s featured design, “Old Smolder,” helms from Huntington Beach’s California Shirtsmiths. The California-based screen-printing company was founded in 2017 by Justin Vu. An original modest setup of a four-color, four-station press; flash dryer; and a handful of screens has evolved into a 1,000 square-foot shop.

Vu hired a designer from Chile known for ornate logos and monograms to create the artwork for this design. “I didn’t have the designer make this piece with a specific intention in mind,” Vu says. “I just knew he does great work and I wanted him to make a custom piece. I happened to be simultaneously experimenting with process prints when he finished the artwork so I figured I’d use this as an opportunity to improve my skill set, while also potentially creating an amazing print.”

To create Old Smolder, Vu did four-color process printing with a white base, five screens and Diazo emulsion. He wanted to challenge himself by doing the color separations and halftone conversion without automated software.

“While I was trying to figure out how to do this, I was also talking to someone who I now look up to as a mentor, John Magee,” Vu says. “John is an applications specialist from Avient Specialty Inks and has been working in the industry for over three decades. He’s been gracious enough to answer all of my questions that I ask him throughout the day and [was] a huge part in helping me to figure out the separations.”

Vu was overjoyed with the outcome. “It’s one thing to see it digitally on the computer, but to bring it to life onto a shirt or poster is perhaps what makes it so jaw-dropping.”  — Dustin Shrader

Design Details 

Dimensions: 12″ x 12″

Screen-Printing Machine: Six-color Vastex V-2000HD

Software: Adobe Photoshop

Ink Type: Union Ink