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Body Graphics with Silkscreen?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Tdog, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    I'm working on a commissioned guitar which will be graphics heavy. The artwork itself is straight forward....It is a black litho style image with just a touch of color.

    The black graphics will be over a white body....Soooo.....Here's the question....

    Has anyone ever painted graphics on an instrument by using silk screening techniques? It is easy enough to burn a screen. But, it is the application of the lacquer that I think will present the problem. Black nitro would be too viscous to spread using the traditional squeegee method, but what about spraying through a screen? I talked with a local sign artist that suggested it could work with 220 mesh.....I'm thinking that maybe a 110 or 150 mesh would be better.

    Decals may work, although the artwork will be quite large in some areas.

    I'd love to hear any and all input from the TB community.....Any thoughts?

  2. bass335


    Sep 6, 2010
    I have a vinyl cutter at home and have used it to make decals. Nothing that crazy or more than a couple of colors but tribal stuff, flames, band logos... all came out ok. I've covered large areas of guitars with good results. Never tried the silk screen process before.
  3. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    The vinyl cutter was an option which I was considering until I learned that it was not capable of cutting some fine details.....Thanks for the reply.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    My suggestion would be to forget the nitro lacquer completely for the finish. Put your base coats on the body in one of the water-based acrylic polyurethanes (I use Target EM9000, but there are others). Then do your silkscreening by the normal squeegee process, with the acrylic paint. That's what is normally used, right? Let the artwork cure, and then put some coats of clear water-based polyurethane over it to protect it. There shouldn't be any compatibility problems with that, as long as the acrylic artwork is dried.
  5. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    I'm locked into the nitro at this point. The silk screen idea came up after we were under the first coats of nitro. The original idea was to stay with the "old school" finishes and several small decals.

    But, you know how the creative process tends to expand into areas that were not even on the radar at the beginning of the project.

    I think I'm going to burn some screens and do some test prints....Cover me....I'm goin' in!
  6. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    This guy did a headstock logo with a screen and paint brush.

    If it's going on the body and the surface is flat, I would use a normal screen and somehow secure it in place and go with the squeegee method. The mesh count would depend on how detailed the design is and how thick or thin you want the ink to be. If you're spraying through it, I don't know if the spray would even make its way through the screen to fill the whole area. Post results on your test, please.

    If you use screen printing ink, are you going for water based or plasticol?
  7. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    I won't be using screen printing ink, so this looks like some new territory will be covered. I haven't done any screen printing in years, but one method that I may use will be to spray a wet heavy coat of black nitro on the screen and then squeegee over it.

    At the very least, I'm beginning to put a cogent plan in place. I'll post updates once I begin the trials.
  8. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    That might be cool. Post pictures.
  9. I would be sure to have a backup of the screen, just in case the solvents in the nitro melt the stencil.
  10. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    The solvents melting the emulsion mask was my first concern....I don't know how it will behave.....We'll see!

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