How to Print Like Warhol | Tate

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Discover how artist Andy Warhol made his colourful and iconic silkscreen prints.

From Brillo boxes and black bean soup to portraits of films stars, Andy Warhol is famous for his bright and bold paintings and prints that celebrate 1960s popular culture. This style of art is called pop art.

Printmaking appealed to Warhol as it allowed him to repeat a basic image and create endless variations of it by using different colours or sometimes adding paint to the printed surface.

Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?
Andy Warhol

In 1972, Warhol made a series of screenprints of Chairman Mao, the leader of communist China. Mao may seem an unlikely celebrity, but in the early 1970s America’s president, Richard Nixon, visited Beijing and Mao’s portrait was everywhere – making him something of a contemporary icon. Warhol used a photograph from the cover of the Little Red Book (a book of quotations by Chairman Mao) as the starting point for his portrait.

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List of Materials for ‘How to Print like Warhol’:

Making the stencils

• High Contrast Black and White Image (e.g. photo of Michael Manley)
• Tracing paper (to print the image onto)
• Paint brush
• Black acrylic paint
• Drafting film (for autographed/hand-painted stencils)
• Photographic positive (created by printing the black and white image onto the tracing paper)

Making the screens

• photo-emulsion + sensitizer (mixed together to create photo-sensitive emulsion to coat on the screen)
• screens
• Coating trough
• Drying cabinet
• Exposure unit (in which to expose the screens)
• Water / hose (to wash off the emulsion after exposure)

Making the inks

• acrylic paint
• acrylic screen printing medium

Making the prints

• Hinge/Jiffy clamps
• Secure base (e.g. mdf board fixed to table top)
• Masking tape & Parcel Tape
• Spatula
• Cutting mat + Stanley knife
• Card (to create registration marks)
• Acetate (to create registration sheet)
• Squeegee
• Paper for printing
• Sponge
• Bucket & Water
• Newsprint

in this video I'm going to look at how to print like Warhol I'm using more whole series of mud screen prints from 1972 as my influence in particularly the way he combines photographic and hand-painted stencils I think the aspects that were most interesting to me are his use of these painting marks you can see that there is a variation of layers and layers of color that are brought together in this print we have approximate about eight or nine different layers to give that depth to the image for my screen print I'm going to create an image combining four to five layers of color for this screen print I've chosen a press photo of Michael Manley the Prime Minister of Jamaica in the 1970s and 80s to make the photographic stencil I create a high contrast black and white image and printed on tracing paper to the size I want to work with to make the hand-painted stencil I've placed the drafting film over the photographic stencil I apply acrylic paint to block out the areas for the background layers like Warhol I'm using loose brushstrokes and I don't mind because over the edges of the photograph in his mouth series you can see that the stencils don't line up which adds to the painterly effect so what I'm doing is mixing Apollo photo emulsion adding a sensitizer to the emulsion which turns it into a photographic emulsion that we can coat onto a screen that then becomes light-sensitive I pour a generous amount of emulsion into the coating trough and apply an even pen layer to the screen I popped a screen into a drying cabinet and repeat the process for each screen for this print I'm using three screens and I have to act quickly because the emulsion is sensitive to light the screens are exposed in an exposure unit I'm exposing multiple images onto the same screen the stencils go underneath the screen printed side up with the screen on top as the light shines up from underneath everywhere that's black the light can't get through so the emulsion can't harden everywhere else the light can get around so it hardens the emulsion on the screen it's important to wash down the exposed screen as quickly as possible to stop further exposure everywhere that was black on our image where the light couldn't get through the emulsion washes away bringing it back to the original mesh and the spheria that being compassed through with screen printing what you see is what you get so essentially you're making a positive rather than a negative these screen printing inks are made from mixing acrylic paint with screen printing medium by adding the medium it changes the consistency giving me more time to print before the ink dries a screen printing table can be set up anywhere all you need is a secure base with hinge clamps attached when I'm printing multiple stencils I masked the other images to stop ink from passing through before I print on paper I print the image on a sheet of acetate I mark the position of the image to help me line up the paper correctly this is repeated with every layer to start printing I'll pull the squeegee towards me at an angle applying for impression I reflect the screen to reload the ink and stop it from drying and remove my print I repeat this until the first layer of my Edition is finished I use water to wash the ink off the screens the registration sheet and the squeegee and I'll make sure my screen is fully dry before moving on to the next color in Warhol's work he typically used very bright vibrant commercial colors influenced by his early career as commercial artist in the 1950s I'm using green as my next layer similar to the backgrounds in Warhol's Mao it's not a solid block of color and you can see the loose painterly brushwork instead of creating a perfect addition where all the prints are identical I've taken a more playful approach varying the background colors on each print the final layer is the black this is the layer that ties everything together up until now the image has been quite abstract so the black photographic layer gives a definition for me what comes across the most in this process is the power of seen a repeated image of the same person the beauty with screen printing is that even though it's a repetitive process there's a lot of play that can come within the image as artists we never know how it's going to turn out and that's where the excitement lies you

38 thoughts on “How to Print Like Warhol | Tate

  1. Uuh yeah! Now i know! I will go straight to my personal photo + print studio – we all have such one in our outhouse … blahblah blah.

    I really hoped this would make it recreatable, but really you're only showing off.

  2. wow… this was so cool I think I looked at Warhol in the past and internally said, "oh that's simple" — holy crap, it is not!! this is actually quite awesome. I have a whole new appreciation. this series makes an artists work really come alive for me. it unlocks something in your mind that allows you to see things you otherwise wouldn't. thanks for this.

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