Wednesday, January 25, 2012

By popular demand... A Lost Silkscreen

PROVISO: Each poster is a special case requiring specialized methods. We do tests on each piece before we begin working. We do this for a living, we are professionals. You absolutely must never ever ever try this at home. Okay? Okay let's go.

 This week we are going to repair a Tyler Stout "Lost" silkscreen that was damaged in shipping. It happens every so often that a poster is shipped in a weak tube and the tube gets folded or crushed or, God forbid, rained on during shipping. A poster is ruined and a lesson is learned. Except we can fix that poster. This particular case calls for the John Davis-innovated Isinglass Gelatin Backing Technique.

Here is our silkscreen. Unfortunately in this photo the business of the image conceals the degree of messed-up-itude which I assure you is indeed disturbing. When the light hits from an angle the damage is very distracting.

Pictured: "Lost" silkscreen by Tyler Stout

These photos were posted here by the owner, with a plea for help. Here you can see the damage clearly.

John began by washing the print. Since water causes paper to expand, it is important to make sure both sides of the paper expand at the same rate. This will prevent cracking the printing ink or warping the paper's structural integrity. We have already tested the ink to make sure it will not be affected by the water. While many types of printing ink are water soluble, they also contain a  plastic co-solvent that ensures resistance to water.

Here the front has been wet down but the back is still dry. Much of the image is visible through the paper.
Rinsing the back..
Once the poster is thoroughly wet and malleable, John massages the paper to loosen up the fibers. Once the poster is mounted to a flat board and begins to dry, the fibers will mesh and fuse together properly.

John uses his fingers to look for dents in the paper. In many situations your hands are more reliable than your eyes.

The excess water is then pushed out with a squeegee and the poster is now ready for the isinglass gelatin treatment. 

John innovated the gelatin technique as an alternative to linen backing. You can read more about how it's done here.

Once the print has been coated in gelatin and adhered to a sheet of hollytex, a sheet of mylar is laid over it and it is transferred to a clean, flat melamine board. All the air bubbles and excess gelatin are squeegeed out, the mylar is replaced with a second sheet of hollytex and the whole sandwich is left to dry and cure for about twenty-four hours.

 John lifts the Mylar, print and hollytex sandwich off the wet table...

...and moves them over to the melamine board.
He removes the mylar at an angle so that the print doesn't lift off with it.
And now we let it dry.

Sweet flatness. 

Adding another sheet of hollytex on top as an extra flattening precaution.
Once the silkscreen has dried, John uses a long, very thin and sharp spatula to separate each layer.

Removing the hollytex from the back of the print. Notice he pulls the hollytex backward rather than upward to ensure the paper won't tear.

 Tah-dah! Flat as a dream, no evidence of it's former woes. 
We are incredibly happy with the result of this project. The silkscreen looks as good as new.

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

An aside: This print is an example of a popular resurgence in contemporary silkscreens. Studios like Mondo, Alien Corset, New Flesh and Malleus are designing original alternatives to the posters issued by movie studios. One reason for this phenomenon is that we are in a time when most posters are designed by lawyers and financiers rather than artists, resulting in what might be called a certain dull sameness. Another reason is the unavailability and prohibitive costs of great original vintage posters.  Here are some of our favorite new silkscreens: 

Rosemary's Baby by New Flesh
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage by Malleus
Dracula by Martin Ansin


  1. Cool stuff, you guys do great work!

  2. Excellent job. Could you take stuff fr UK and send back? I may have sometime what doing - maybe linen backing ? Pm me. Jon.keithly"at"

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