Happiness is Learning a New Skill

It’s been a while since I attempted any printing. The pasta maker is still clamped to the edge of the table, but my last printing session raised a lot of questions about materials and methods, and made it clear I needed to seek more information and better tools.

On Saturday Paul needed an ideas journal and I wanted to check out local sources of paper for life drawing, so we headed to Zart Art. I came home with lots of printing supplies, including these two books:

I then sat down and read the Collagraph book from cover to cover. It answered a few questions and introduced me to even more techniques. However, it assumes you have a lot of knowledge about printing already. Much of this is in the Etching book, thankfully. But there were still things I had to work out for myself.

I’d bought an etching tool and some clear acetate sheets, because the plastic I tried to use for plates was very hard to cut and scratch into, and repelled the printing ink.

I also bought more ink.

On Sunday I dug out the collagraph I’d already made of cardboard and paper. Following the advice in the books, I varnished the back and edges, soaked some cheap paper – a page from a book and some used office paper because I didn’t want to use expensive 100% rag paper yet – inked the plate, wiped off the excess, blotted the paper and tried a print.

It came out a bit dark and blurry. I figured I hadn’t wiped enough ink off, and maybe the book page was too absorbent despite soaking. So I inked again, wiped more and tried the office paper. This time I could see I was on the right track, but the ink went kind of slushy.

A bit more consulting of books and of jar labels and I realised that the water-based printing inks are really only meant for relief printing (stamps, linocut, etc.). Paper that goes through a press is dampened in order to get an embossed effect and push into the grooves that contain the ink. Damp paper and water-based ink = blurred lines and ink gone slushy. I need oil-based inks.

There was no point trying the acetate sheets, as they’d need oil-based ink, too. Still, the prints that I did had black lines where the grooves in the collagraph plate were, and that was kind of an exciting glimpse at how things will eventually work once I get this process right.

So I have a new shopping list, and it goes a bit like this:

oil-based printing ink
printing paper
blotting paper
new studio with large sink for washing oil-based ink off printing plates

3 thoughts on “Happiness is Learning a New Skill

  1. And then the next thing you know you will be justifying the purchase of a huge printing press. I know how these things go! You start off with a few supplies. Then you realise you need a few more, different ones. Then you start eyeing off bigger equipment. And before you know it …

  2. Lol! You are so right. I waved pictures of printing presses at Paul the other day, saying “And you thought the prospect of a floor loom was scary”.

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