Meet the printmaker: Lucas van Hapert on the (im)perfections of screen printing

Lucas in his studio at Wolvenplein’s former prison

Utrecht-based graphic designer and screen printer Lucas van Hapert is known about town for his beautifully simple blue-tone screen prints of local landmarks.

After finishing up his studies in Belgium, Lucas moved to Utrecht to follow HKU’s graphic design course. It was there he first came into contact with screen printing, a technique that lends itself well to his clean designs which use simple forms and colours. Since then he’s set up his own graphic design business creating book covers, posters, socks and, of course, his iconic Utrecht-themed prints.

I met Lucas at his studio in Wolvenplein’s former prison to discuss how he got into screen printing, where he finds inspiration, and why he loves the technique so much.

“During my time at HKU I did an internship and my first assignment was to set up a screen printing studio with all the equipment the company had just bought. It was fun, but it took me quite a long time as I had to find out how everything worked. Like how many meters the screen should be from the exposure lamp, how long to expose it for, how to wash it out – everything. And there’s so many things that can go wrong during the process.

A few years later the company called me and asked whether I wanted the equipment, so I bought the entire screen printing set-up. At first I put in storage because I didn’t have space, then after a couple of years my current studio became available. It’s great to have all the equipment there so I can print whenever I want to.   

I work 50% of the time as a graphic designer, mainly creating book covers for publishers including Thomas Rap, and festival posters and campaigns for places like Het Literatuurhuis. The other half of my time is free to divide between different jobs. If I have time, I make screen prints or work on my own designs for calendars and things like that. I have a web shop and a few places that sell my work in Utrecht, so I also spend time managing that, delivering goods, etc.

Making my own prints started as a personal project that I just enjoyed doing. I realised pretty soon that I love screen printing, but I also like it when other people are interested in what I’m making. I decided to focus on the city of Utrecht so there was a group of people who would potentially want to buy my prints, and that worked out well.

I love work by designers like Jason Munn and Noma Bar. Malika Favre is also fantastic. They use a few simple colours and layer them together, like pieces of a puzzle. But also, as you can see from looking at my book cabinet, Dick Bruna for sure. He’s really my biggest hero. He made probably 4,000 book covers.

My favourite part of the screen printing process is adding the final layer, when everything fits perfectly together. But in reality it doesn’t happen that way… it’s never perfect. But that’s the charm of screen printing. Your focus is to get it perfect and then little white lines appear between layers, which is cool. But if you start with the idea of wanting a gap, you won’t get one.  Then there are days when it simply doesn’t work – when your hands are covered in ink and everything gets dirty – you just have to stop, wash everything, drink a coffee and start again.

A trick I have, which is great if you have an unwanted hole in your emulsion that’s too small to fill in with tape, is to cover it with stamp paper – you know the extra bits at the top and bottom on a sheet of ten stamps? You stick it on the underside of the screen and it blocks the mesh.

For someone interested in getting into screen printing, my advice would be to just do it. At Kapitaal in Utrecht they have great screen printing courses where you can learn everything the whole process. Or the Bobbinhood screen printing kit is really easy to use – I got one for my wife. You don’t need emulsion or anything, and you can complete a project in as little as one hour, it’s so fast.

Limited edition Maximum Ride screen print by Lucas van Hapert

I recently designed a poster for Utrecht’s Maximus Brewery, for their annual bike ride – it’s a limited edition of 50. I wanted to do something totally different from my usual work, to push myself. I used various textures to create a kind of roughness unlike my normal block-colour style, and I’m really pleased with it. It’ll be on sale after the Maximus Ride for anyone who wants a souvenir.

I’m currently looking to move house and we want somewhere with a small garden building where I could put my screen printing equipment permanently. Somewhere with big open windows, where I can screen print in the evening, that’s the dream.”

Visit Lucas’ website to check out more of his work and buy his beautiful prints and socks, and  follow him on Instagram.

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