At Powerhouse Factories, we believe in the spirit of collaboration. No matter the project, we know that mashups of competing perspectives often yield the best work. So when Ronson Slagle, an art director for PRINT and HOW Magazines, stopped by the Powerhouse Factories poster shop and expressed interest in collaborating with us for the cover of PRINT Magazine’s June issue, we jumped on it.
When Slagle swung by a few months ago to borrow some our ink buckets for a photo shoot, he’d never been to the shop, so we showed him around. While we were chatting and picking out some messy looking buckets, he asked us if we’d ever used split fountain technique for any of our prints. We were happy to show him a handful of examples.
For those unfamiliar, split fountain is a printing technique where different color inks are loaded next to each other on the same screen. When pulling the ink through the screen to create a print, where the two inks meet causes a gradient effect.
Slagle was curious because one of PRINT Magazine’s contributors, Steven Heller, wrote a short article on the technique as the June cover story. When Slagle said he wasn’t happy with the gradients the was getting in Photoshop while working on the cover design, I offered to print a few examples that he could use and build on for the cover instead.
I sent over three or four options of the cover by that afternoon. Over the next couple of weeks, there was a lot of back and forth on color and style. It was truly a collaboration between the two of us and the cover looks rad because of it.
Once everything was approved we printed out the film, burned the screen, mixed up the colors and got to it. When it comes to split fountain, it’s a process of working with the ink to get the right transition. The act of pulling the ink through the screen works the inks together to create a smooth natural gradient and it takes a handful of test prints to get it just right. After that, it’s just keeping a close eye on the prints and manually correcting while pulling the ink through the screen.
To me, split fountain is a way to produce a run of posters that are all just a little different. Because of their hand-pulled and changeable nature, all split fountain prints are one-offs. It’s one of my favorite techniques in screen printing for sure and an easy way to produce a print with more color for less work.
After we had more than enough prints we picked out the best one and took it over to our friends at OMS Photography to be photographed. We knew the best way to capture a digital copy of the print for the cover without it losing its texture would be to have it photographed rather than scanning it. The result is a fresh, awesome looking cover that was designed digitally, screen printed by hand and captured photographically. We couldn’t be happier with the result and experience was a blast.
Now go buy one.
For more information, make sure you check out Steven Heller’s article on the historic roots of this technique in PRINT Magazine’s The Color Issue on newsstands now or purchase one online at PRINT Magazine’s website here. To see more of Powerhouse Factories’ prints and posters, check out www.phfdesign.com.