What’s up Inland Northwest. This is Gary Bailey, Co-Owner of Inland Northwest Trading Co. Welcome to my Behind-the-Scenes blog series where I talk about the magic that goes into our subscription boxes and how we do what we do to create a unique brand experience for our customers.
INW Trading Co. is an emerging subscription box service that delivers locally & regionally made goods to our customers every month. We include a variety of products for you to try, featuring new and interesting makers in every box. We believe that it’s important to support local & regional small businesses, especially since COVID-19, and saw an opportunity to invite others on this journey with us.
With a background in photography and graphic design, I am the Chief Marketing Officer and am responsible for developing our brand, website, videos, photography, and more. I recently filmed a short Behind-the-Scenes video about how we screen print our subscription boxes out of our garage located in Spokane, Washington.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:
I thought it would be fun to share some more in-depth content on my blog. In this post, I am going to cover our process for making the screens, how I got into screen printing, and what we plan to print for our brand in the future.
What’s our process for screen printing?
1. Create the design
It was a lot of fun creating the design for this box. I like to think through what the end-user experience is going to be. With the help of creating a mockup, I was able to identify key areas on the box where I wanted to put our logo, website, and social media information.
After creating the design and knowing what I wanted it to look like, it came time to lay everything flat and plan how many screens I would need to make. I also needed to account for how many film transparencies I needed to print and where to put my registration marks that would help align the screen to the press.
2. Print design onto film
After deciding how many screens and film transparencies I would need, I printed everything out and double-layered my film to ensure maximum density and prevent any light leaking through the design.
3. “Burn” or expose the design onto the screen
I then position the film onto my screen and put it facedown on the exposure table I custom built out of wood, a plate of glass, and some basic light fixtures. The screen sits on a plate of glass with a 50-pound weight set on top to maintain “positive contact” between the film and the screen. The screen is then exposed by special UV lightbulbs that are designed to expose the kind of emulsion I use.
4. Wash away the unexposed design
I then wash away the unexposed design in a “rinse station” aka my bathtub but instead of a showerhead, it’s connected to a garden hose. After letting it dry, I then tape up the screen and it’s ready to go on the press!
5. Mount and align on press
Next, I line up everything on the press using the registration marks I made earlier. The base of the press is coated with a water-based adhesive so the box doesn’t move while it’s being printed.
6. Push ink through the screen
With my box in position, I fill the screen with ink, flood the screen, bring my press down and press ink through the screen with my squeegee. It usually takes a couple of passes to make sure the design is fully transferred.
7. Place in rack to dry
After the design is printed and looking sharp, I hang it up to dry in a drying rack. It only takes a few minutes to dry since I use water-based ink, and the drying rack holds about 50 boxes, making it easy to do large runs.
How did I get into screen printing?
I got into screen printing when I was going to school for Graphic Design at Spokane Falls Community College. I wanted to put my own designs on a t-shirt, so I watched YouTube videos on how to do it and turned the bathroom in my two bedroom apartment into a small production space complete with printing press and washout station.
After not too long, I got the hang of it and was able to print my own designs and even did a few large t-shirt runs for local businesses.
Making the screens and printing is a fun a fulfilling process. I take pride in the work I do and love seeing something I envisioned come to life in a tangible way. The thought of someone wearing and loving what I labored to make is definitely a motivating factor and the reason I put so much time and energy into producing a quality product.
When we decided to start our businesses and couldn’t find a vendor we liked that could produce a custom box for us, it became the perfect opportunity to leverage my screen printing skills and be able to produce a box that would represent the quality and uniqueness of our brand and the products we feature.
What will you screen print in the future?
Doing our screen printing in-house opens up a lot of opportunity for us to do smaller, more customized runs.
We’ve discussed doing “themed” boxes, so that every month you can enjoy a new and surprising box design to accompany the complimenting items included in your box.
We will also be printing and producing all of our own swag.
As our brand continues to grow and develop, we will design and create a variety of unique, hand screen printed INW Trading Co. t-shirts and other unique swag items for you to enjoy and represent your Inland Northwest pride.
Keep your eye out for more developments and join us on this journey by becoming a subscriber today!
Have any ideas or suggestions for cool INW swag? Hit us up at inwtradingco.com