Reduction Screen Printing ExplainedJuly 6, 2016

posted in landscapes

by Jim Winters

A friend of mine bought a couple of my Santa Cruz landscape reduction prints the other day. He mentioned that it might be a good idea for me to include some sort of explanation of the process with each print, because people might not really know what exactly reduction screen printing is. I guess I have been doing it so long, and it is so familiar to me, that the process seems obvious. It’s not. Let me illuminate!

Most people probably associate screen printing with the making of T-shirts – possibly it’s most popular function. I got into it as a high school kid because of my obsession with Andy Warhol. He pioneered the use of using screen printing (along with Robert Rauschenberg) in a fine art context.

I like to think of screen printing as a stencil process. The stencil, instead of being cut from paper or plastic and printed with a paint brush, sponge or spray paint, is actually a film, or a painted area adhered to a transparent mesh that acts like a mask. When printing, the ink – passed over the screen with a squeegee – goes through only the negative/open areas of the screen and makes an image on the surface you are printing on.

The “reduction” process is not unlike the Japanese woodblock or even a linoleum cut. In those methods, you cut the wood or linoleum and then print the block. Cut some more and then print more. During the process the block is permanently changed.

I took my friends advice and designed some cards to accompany each print I sell from here on out. I have tried to describe the process as simply as possible:

reduction screen printing cards


A couple years back I made a short video in an effort to demystify the process. In it, I am making one of my favorite reduction screen prints – a film still portrait of Divine from John Waters’ 1972 cult masterpiece, Pink Flamingos. (Be patient – it’s over 7 minutes long.) You can watch it here:


My goal is to turn people on to the amazing process of reduction screen printing. I love it! It has its own unique challenges that are different from traditional screen printing, but I find it more enjoyable (each project is like solving a visual puzzle), more organic (you make decisions about colors and forms as you go along, not with the entire project planned out carefully in advance) and a lot more efficient (no stacks of silkscreen frames lying around the studio)..

I taught this process while I was an artist-in-residence at Denison University in the fall of 2011. It was a great experience showing these students a new printing process. I welcome the opportunity to teach more. (If you know any art teachers, please feel free to pass along my contact information.)

The images below show me making a simple 2 color print. In this case, I used one screen, but painted two separate stencils.

jim winters at denison university

jim winters at denison university

jim winters at denison university

jim winters at denison university

The image is Miss X from the 1991 cult/drag/sci-fi film, Vegas in Space, directed by Phillip R. Ford.


Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

On a last note, I have just added a bunch of landscape screen prints – from my Travelogue show – to my online store. They are “on SALE”!

Take a look:
The Jim Winters Store

I also updated my website to feature my most recent Santa Cruz and San Francisco prints and paintings.

Thanks for reading. Over and out until next time..