What would the Picard do?A few months ago on a slow work day I bought a bunch of screen printing supplies off Craigslist. I’d never actually screen printed anything, but I was seized by the crafts monster that lives in my occipital lobe, constantly searching for good crafty bargains.

In June at the Summit of Awesome I took Christy Petterson‘s screen printing workshop. Serendipity. That woman changed my life, I swear.

On Saturday I had a chat with my mother-in-law, who’s in the throes of final plans for Greg’s brother’s wedding later this month. She needs to put gift bags together for guests from out of town, and we were bouncing ideas around. I said, “You know, we could just get a bunch of really inexpensive bags and screen print them. That way you’re not spending hundreds of dollars on bags people will just throw away, and we’ll add a little personalized, handmade fun into the mix.” She was over the moon.

(Remember a few years ago when I decided to bake pies, when I’d never baked a pie before? But I decided to do it for U.S. Thanksgiving, when we were planning to feed thirty people? So I made five pies, because what the hell? Yeah, I have a problem.)

I knew I needed to test it all out before diving in, though. Christy had shown us a technique where you paint the screen in the negative with the resist, so there’s no need to burn the screen by photo emulsion. I needed to get a feel for the resist, and I needed to test out what I could do with a paintbrush. Because I don’t paint. Haven’t done it since grade school.

So first I started sketching. This is the first thing about my new iPad that blows my mind. With my finger, I sketched out the design I wanted to screen print. I emailed the image to myself, printed it out, and traced it onto the screen. Since I’m now in sweet sweet love with screen printing, I have no doubt the iPad will be an essential part of my process.

And so this is where I reached right down into the deepest part of my geek soul.

For weeks I’ve spent some considerable energy desiring a bumper sticker that says “What would Capt. Picard do?” We don’t actually put stickers on our bumper, but I’m a little in love with Capt. Picard. So smart and fair. So thoughtful and respectful. As far as heuristics we could all live by to make the world better, considering what Picard would do wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

Screen Printing!

The blue is the screen painting stuff. As you might be able to surmise here, the resist isn't actually thick enough around the words to be effective. After making a horrid print, I decided to just outline the words in the resist and fill in the rest with a paintbrush, too.

I couldn’t just use the bumper sticker phrase, though. Because there’s that one episode in Season 3 of The Next Generation, when a race of proto-Vulcans discovers they’re being observed by Federation anthropologists, and to make a long story short they think Capt. Picard is a deity. So there’s lots of talk of The Picard. “We must please The Picard, for he will bring us rains and resurrect my dead wife” sort of thing.

So when I’m riffing off a Christian heuristic to make my geeky one, I figure I’d better go all the way.

What would the Picard do?

Lessons learned:

  • The iPad is amazing for applications like this. I used the free Adobe Ideas app, which is like a super stripped-down drawing program. It smooths out lines, which makes everything look wonderful. Like for most things, the iPad a stupid expensive tool, but I bought it not even thinking of using it for projects like this, so go me.
  • It’s more effective to paint the negative space onto the screen in the resist than it is to use the seemingly handy screen painting stuff Speedball makes that allows you to paint the positive of the design, then just wash the resist over it. I had a very hard time getting the right thickness of resist on there, so I ended up just painting the negative. This alone should save me hours when it’s time to prepare the gift-bags screen. It took me two days to get the screen right for this test.
  • Bags are hard to print on, on account of the folds and the handles. I didn’t take a photo of how it came out, but Greg had the clever idea to put a piece of cardboard inside the bag to help it flatten out. Works like a charm.
  • The print pictured here is on paper Greg made a few years ago. Because of the texture, I had to throw my weight into squeegeeing the paint, and I had to do three passes to get enough on there.
  • My plan to just do this one test run, then wash off the screen and reuse it for the wedding: thwarted. I love this screen too much. I spent a lot of time making it, and surely the Picard would say it’s worth $20 for a new screen so I can keep the very first one I ever made. Having the digital file wouldn’t make it impossible to duplicate the design another time, but why would I want to? As it is, I have it in mind to make some gifts for my nerdiest friends…