If you’ve held a box of Mason & Co dark chocolate before, you’ve probably noticed how different the packaging is – a beautiful, velvety pop of colour (depicting the flavour) contrasted with the mellow browns of compostable craft paper.
Ever since our inception in 2015, all of our packaging has been screen printed by local artisans from the bioregion. The effort & attention-to-detail required in this traditional form of hand printing gives the packaging a beautiful finish and makes our chocolate products a tad more special!
Screen printing (a.k.a silk screening) is a traditional technique of pressing ink through a stencilled mesh screen to create an imprint of the design on the surface beneath. One of the oldest methods of printmaking (with examples dating back to the Song Dynasty in China!), it involves creating a stencil of an image/graphic on a screen made of porous mesh. A roller, commonly known as squeegee, is used to pull paint over the stencil – pushing it through the mesh & onto the paper being printed. Unlike the paint used in some other forms of printing, screen printing paint sits right on the surface of the paper & doesn’t get absorbed fully, resulting in incredibly rich & vibrant colour!
Created: To start, the artisans take the selected design & print it out onto a transparent film – this will be used to create the stencil. Prepared: A mesh screen then is chosen to suit the complexity of the design & the texture of craft paper. This mesh screen is then coated with a layer of light-reactive emulsion which will harden when developed under a bright light. Exposed: The transparent film with the design is then placed onto the emulsion-coated screen, and the whole thing is exposed to a bright light (or the sun!). The light hardens the emulsion, so the parts of the screen which are covered by the design remain in liquid form. With the bar packaging that includes many colours, a separate screen must be used to apply each layer of paint – so the artisans must use their skills to design each stencil, and line them up perfectly to ensure the final design is seamless.
Washed: Once the screens are exposed (for a set time), areas of the screen that weren’t covered by the design would have turned hard and the extra emulsion is rinsed away, leaving behind a clear imprint of the design for the ink to pass through. Dried: Once the screen dries, the stencil is now ready to be used. Print: The screen is then placed on the printing press – the craft paper is laid down flat on the board under the screen.
The screen is carefully placed onto the printing board. Paint is added onto the screen & a squeegee is used to drag the paint along the length of the screen. During this, the ink is being forced through the pores of the stencil, imprinting the paper beneath.
Once all the papers have been printed, the emulsion is removed using a special washing fluid so the mesh can be re-used to create new stencils.
Dried & checked: The printed papers are then put next to a fan, which dries or rather ‘cures’ the ink and creates a smooth finish. Once dried, the artisans thoroughly check and wash away the residue.
Like most hand-printing methods, screen printing has a very distinctive look. The compostable paper with the velvety finish & extreme vibrancy of the paint cannot be replicated with any other technique. Although, screen-printing has it’s limitations. Fine details can be lost or broken up in the printing process which means we have to work with different styles of art. But here lies the beauty of this traditional printing technique – it’s hand made.
While opting for digital printing has its own set of advantages with more colours & complex designs, the authenticity of the screen-printing art form (which is almost lost in this time & age) with the touch of human element brings great value to our bars – making them truly artisanal.