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Silkscreen Printing Unit Lesson 2: Gathering and Manipulating Source Images

This is an image of a female student sitting in front of a computer. The computer screen shows a black and white photograph of a middle aged African American woman. The digital photo editing software Adobe Photoshop is open and shows multiple options for editing on the screen.

Photo by Sean Carroll

Students practice Andy Warhol’s processes of gathering images for source material, using appropriation, photography, and still life arrangements. Students will digitally manipulate their images using Adobe Photoshop in order to create a film positive to expose onto their silkscreens.


  • Students discuss Warhol’s photographic process and use of lighting, cropping, editing, and contrasting to manipulate images as source material for his art.
  • Students use digital cameras or phones to take photos for source imagery for their silkscreens.
  • Students demonstrate working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop to digitally manipulate images.


Discussion Questions

  1. How did Warhol use lighting, cropping, editing, and contrasting to manipulate his source images for photographic silkscreen printing?
  2. Warhol’s source images were usually tightly cropped and highly contrasted before sending them off to the printer to be exposed on a screen. Why did Warhol do this? What aesthetic was he trying to achieve?



  1. Review the Gathering and Manipulating Source Images Powerpoint as a class. Discuss Warhol’s photographic process and use of lighting, cropping, editing, and contrasting to manipulate images.
  2. Students take photographs using digital cameras or phones, either inside or outside the school building. Possible Warhol-related subject matter: still-life arrangements of popular objects, abstract patterns found in nature, portraits, or architectural elements.
  3. Upload the images onto the computer and open them in Adobe Photoshop. Distribute tutorial handouts. Explain to students that they will use the tutorial to crop their images and transform them into high contrast bitmaps.
  4. Students follow tutorial instructions independently (or work with a partner) to create a bitmap of their manipulated image and save their work.
  5. Assist students in printing their images onto clear film using an inkjet printer, or print images onto paper and then copy onto transparency film to create their film positive. Be sure to select the clear film suited for your type of printer or copier.


When all groups are finished, hang up the film positives and discuss as a class:

  • Are all of the images properly bitmapped? (Example: if the dot looks too small it most-likely will not burn properly to the screen.)
  • Compare the bitmapped image with the original image. Is it adequately cropped and high contrast?


The following assessments can be used for this lesson using the downloadable assessment rubric.

  • Communication 4
  • Creative process 3
  • Creative process 5