Design Trend

Get creative with the retro screen print look

The retro screen print look is a huge aesthetic trend right now. Recreate it in minutes with Over, and up your design cred.

May 6, 2020
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In our 2020 Trends Toolkit earlier this year, we noted that ‘Vintage Tech’ is a tsunami we’re seeing wash over the design world. Amongst the range of approaches under this banner (which includes film photography, VHS glitch, and retro UI) is the screen print aesthetic.

Overlapping the same image in two or three different colors is the key to the screen print look. A generous serving of gritty texture also helps to recreate the analogue feeling.

Screen printing is a mechanical method of reproducing full color images and graphics. Mostly redundant in the wake of inkjets, this analogue predecessor to Ctrl+P is still popular for limited edition print runs. Far more laborious than digital printing, screen printing works by printing one color at a time. It requires patience and precision, and it’s this spirit of craftsmanship that gives it value right now.

You don’t need a vintage screen printing press to try out this look in your designs. Give it a go right now, with Over.

The screen print aesthetic can be applied to anything from text posters, to photographic images.
You can even create customised artworks for your home office space in this style. Just save as a PDF, print on textured paper, and put in a basic frame.

There are five key ingredients to nailing the screen print look:

1. Minimalism

This style looks best with simple graphics and big, bold text. Think poster art, t-shirt designs, and protest banners. High impact stuff, without too much detail. Naïve, chunky illustrations, and hand-drawn sketches work really well. There’s an inherent playfulness to this style, so embrace it with some childlike expression.


2. A limited (but juicy) color palette

Most screen prints will use between two and four colors, layered upon each other to produce secondary blends. You’ll need to duplicate the same graphics, but give them different colors. CMYK is the traditional screen print palette: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. A deep, vivid blue & shocking red/pink combo is almost always a winner, and lends an old-school 3D look. There’s almost certainly a science to this, but we suggest just picking two or three tangy hues and seeing how they work together.

Less is more when it comes to picking your color palette.


3. Blending in

On a screen print, pigments smoosh together to create new colors. In Over, we smoosh the pixels with the Blend Tool, which gives you some options as to how your layers interact with each other. ‘Multiply’, ‘Screen’, and ‘Darken’ will be your best bets for this look, but play around with some of the others, and the order of your layers, and you’re likely to see some cool/weird/bizarre/amazing results.


4. Texturise it

The final step in this illusion is to give your digital design a papery camouflage. Screen printing results in a physical product, so infuse some physicality into your artwork by using a textured background, or layering in some wear ‘n tear on the page. There are plenty textural graphics in Over, or you could use a photographic image just as easily. The Blend Tool is your friend here again, and will infuse this subtle grittiness into your design.


5. The perfect amount of imperfection.

Take some assurance in the fact that misalignment, inconsistency, rough edges, and stray splotches define the screen print aesthetic. This gives you liberty to play around without getting too hung up on pixel-perfect precision. Just let that creative energy flow, baby.

Top tip:

Because screen printing is usually done on textured paper, saving your design as a PDF and printing it on card or watercolor paper will enhance the aesthetic. It’s great for making cards, gift tags, business cards, and clothing tags.

Start your free trial with Over today, and see how deep the creative rabbit hole really goes...

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