Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Mono Printing

Well, the title says it all really. Today I tried mono printing. It was drawn out, laborious, horrifically messy and the results were poor. Brilliant 5 hours of my life.

I didn't expect to gain much from it, but I said that about drypoint and I was wrong so I had to give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a go. Mono printing is not for me. I can see its uses - solid colours, graphic shapes - great for stencils, but the images I'm using are primarily photographic and it's extremely difficult to get that across through mono print without it looking like a child has executed it.

The Death of the Author

As I mentioned in the previous post our group was given this text by Roland Barthes to study. Because I'd already read 'The Designer as Author', which is a response to Barthes, I already had a general idea of what was going on but it was still so difficult to get our heads around the text because the language was just so intense.

The purpose of group reading was to understand each sentence before moving to the next. Share ideas and thought; responses and criticisms. At first we were none the wiser, but eventually things started to creep into our brains.

Although Barthes refers to the author of the written word in his essay, his theories can also be applied to design. The main question he asks is 'who creates the meaning?' - so what relation is there between the name on the book cover and the story on the pages inside? His example is a character in a play making a sexist comment; is it the writer making this comment, is it the character, or is it society as a whole? As soon as anything is applied to a narrative, its origin is lost and we no longer know who's voice we're hearing.

He talks about ethnographics - the study of individual human societies - where the author relies on the sociological context. For instances in some communities the value of a story is never measured by the narrative itself but by the mediator; it is how well the story is told that renders it good or bad.

And if it is so crucial that we assign a name to a piece of work then can we say that this work defines this person? Do we know intimate things about them because we know their work? Does their work explain events that happen in their lives? And ultimately, can we judge them as a person simply by their work, because did they really write this message at all?

What Barthes is trying to say is that by authoring something with a name we cannot look at the piece objectively because our interpretations are clouded with all the excess baggage that society has assigned to that name. In his words 'it is the language which speaks, not the author' and we must learn to sacrifice the name so that we can appreciate a message for what it really is.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Digital Printing

I work evening shifts at the Halifax Share Dealing call centre - it is boring and slow. Fact.

I've decided to start bringing reading material in to pass the time between calls. This week I've been reading 'Digital Printmaking' by George Whale and Naren Barfield - I say this week, I just about managed to get through it in a night, it wasn't exactly what I'd call intense.

Considering it was published in 2001 it is shockingly basic. My favourite extract being:

"Computers usually come with a monitor (screen) for viewing, keyboard for typing and a small device called a mouse with one of two buttons on top. Whenever the mouse is moved a small pointer is moved across the screen, enabling the user to interact with the computer by clicking. All of the input devices (keyboard, mouse, scanner) and output devices (monitor, printer) are connected by cables to the main computer unit, a box with slots at the front and sockets at the back or side."

... That's right. I said basic.

Having said that though it does cover prepping an image for screen printing quite well, and also details various ways you can integrate intaglio prints such as etching into modern technology.

I'm not going to lie - a lot of the infomation covered is pretty irrelevant and the stuff that could potentially be useful doesn't go into enough detail. It's an awful book.

However.. One of the last chapters is titled 'Printmaking in the Age of Global Communication' and is split into 3 sections 'New Collaborations', 'The Virtual Museum' and 'The Future'. Again it's basic and outdated but probably the most relevant content for my project and it is interesting to compare what people in the past thought it would be like to today with reality.

New Collaborations brings the possibility of vast interactivity into play; Exploding Cell, a project involving artist Peter Halley enabled audiences to create one off originals of his work by randomising the colours of one of his works, placing their name alongside the artists and then outputting the piece. The book is also concerned with collaborations between very geographically dispersed artists. They refer to this as concurrent collaboration, whereby a series of sourced images are available, artists download them and alter them as they see fit then upload them back onto the website so they can then be developed by others. At the time this was merely a concept but the technical capabilities of the internet today means that this idea would be incredibly simple to set up.

The Virtual Museum toys with the idea of digital printmaking no longer needing to be represented on paper. Scanned in images and creative software mean that a work of art can be just as effectively presented on screen. There is also reference to wafer thin display technologies, or digital paper, that may render some traditional methods obsolete

Since I'd never heard of digital paper I had a potter round Google and there were only a few results I could really use. I did find a site with a couple of interesting short articles, saying that electronic paper can be used like wafer thin TV screens and inserted into magazines and newspapers just like leaflets.. but really, that's more to do with moving image than printmaking? It's an interesting idea, but I can't really see it's advantage in print over a regular sheet of paper..

The Future was a lot less interesting than I had hoped. Basically the said that digital printing technology would progress to no end, and that the longevity of traditional practices seemed uncertain and dependent on the creativity and preference of art practitioners... No shit.

They were almost cock on. Digital printing is constantly evolving into a better and more efficient version of itself, with both technology and software becoming more complex. However, in what is almost a rebellion to the vast amounts of pressure to utilise the crisp, cleanliness , the art industry has seen a rise in traditional printing in the past few years. With artists returning to hands on, 'more creative' means of practice as a medium for their work. But this sort of pattern can be applied to any creative industry. Animation, for example, is constantly fluctuating between amazingly accurate CGI capabilities and other more primative techniques. If you watch children's television today you'll see a lot of shows that are based around simply cut out animation - the techniques are the same as when they first came about, however technological advances allow us to apply them in a much more effective way, creating a revival of traditional methods.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

35mm SLR

A visit to my dad and his girlfriend's this weekend resulted in me returning with an old 35mm camera. A massive thank you to Annette for giving it to me! It's a PRAKTICA B100 with 3 lenses - one of which is a nice chunky super macro beasty! It had been sitting upstairs because they were told it wasn't working but on closer inspection it looks fine so I'm going to take it into college one day this week and get one of the guys to have a look at it and maybe give me a quick run through of how to use it properly. So hopefully this means I can start using the darkroom drop in from time to time.

I've been contemplating investing in a digital SLR for christmas but I'm unsure as to whether I'll use it often enough to justify it. This way I'll get to play around with photography in my own time without committing a small fortune to it!

Book Binding Equipment

My dad's girlfriend is ultimately the most thoughtful and observant person on the planet. She found a bookbinding supplies store close to where they live and ordered me a catalogue, which came through the post on Saturday.

Apparently the guy that runs it, runs it from his home so you can't just turn up and have a walk around, but they are willing to show you stock by appointment. Most of the basic things required for book binding are available from college but it's good to know that if I did need anything I have this to hand.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Print Induction at Blenheim Walk

I should have posted this last week really, but I've only just got round to scanning this screen print in. Basically the induction was really useful in the sense that I never realised that we don't have to walk all the way down to Vernon St just to do some lino/monoprinting/drypoint/etching (although you do have to go to Vernon St to prepare the copper plate), and they have drop in much more regularly which is awesome. Also, Blenheim offers some much more decorative techniques as they have to cater for printed textiles people; flocking and foiling are definitely on my to do list, along with screen printing onto fabric (at this point I think it's going to be the buckram for book covers).

The tedious part came when Gareth (he is so lovely) took us through the screen printing process and how it differs to Vernon St. Oh. My. Days. It takes so long. They're really big on health and safety at Blenheim as well so you have to kitted up with a lab coat, gloves, eye protection, ear protection and breathing aparatus JUST to prepare your screen. Brilliant.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Send and Receive Workshop #2

I'm not going to lie... When we were told in the last workshop about the various texts we had to read it baffled me. I didn't understand how it linked to volunteering so I took the 'ignorance is bliss' approach with regards to them until about 7pm the evening before. At which point I read a selection whilst getting ready to go out. Shocking, I know, but at least I'm honest.

The texts that I read initially were the First Things First 1964 manifesto, and the 2000 manifest, and a couple of the essay responses to them. To be perfectly honest, they angered me. I know this brief is all about looking at the deeper value of design and its application, but I just don't agree with a word these pretentious 'god-like' designers have written! In summary, they created manifesto in 1964 trying to re-radicalise design that had become lazy and uncritical - they wanted to highlight the humanist dimensions of graphic design; saying that we should be assigning moral value to our work and not selling out to consumer culture. This I can handle and I agree with. The manifesto was then rewritten in 2000 and the designers that contributed to it have put themselves on some sort of pedestal with so many airs and graces.

They basically want us to all stop designing for consumer culture altogether and apply ourselves to 'pursuits more worthy of our problem solving skills'. Bearing in mind that at the time this was written the majority were busy working on 'consumer' briefs and in this air of design arrogance in which they find themselves so highly placed they seem to have forgotten that it was their undertaking of commercial work that got them so well established that they were in a position to have there names on the manifesto in the first place! There are that many design graduates today that if we all took moral high ground and refused work because 'it is not worthy of our time' then HELLO WE'D ALL BE UNEMPLOYED!

Safe to say I abandoned that approach after the 3rd text and moved onto 'The Designer As Author' by Michael Rock which is a response to Barthes' and Foucault's writing on the issue. I did initially try and read Bartes (I assumed that because I'd studied him for critical studies that obviously means I'm a literary genius..... errr yeah ok then) but I just couldn't get my head around it. Quite by chance, in the workshop our group was given 'The Death Of The Author' by Roland Barthes... AWESOME.

Paper Samples

I'm currently in the process of pilfering free paper and wall paper samples from manufacturers. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. I've got the wallpaper sussed but not a lot of paper houses are willing to dish things out for free. Little do they know - I am nothing if not persistent!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lino Printing

I've done lino printing before back in school so I was confident enough to try a bit of colour separation - exciting.. It took me hours to carve both pieces of lino as some of the detail was quite intricate, and I also had to sacrifice several of my knuckles. They came out really well though, I love the vibrancy of the inks.

It was a very slow process. Inking then clamping then cleaning then inking...

Because I had two lino cuts that needed to be registered almost perfectly I had to make myself a jig to use when putting my prints in the clamp.

Dry Point Printing

I really wasn't that excited about drypoint. The prospect of scratching into a sheet of plastic seemed basic and pretty primitive. I was sure that the results would be less than impressive. I wanted to try it nonetheless, just to prove my theory. I bought my perspex and a scribe tool and got to it at home.

I decided to use the japanese paper Nick gave us to try out transferring the image to the print. I printed my image onto the paper, glued the plastic sheet with PVA and stuck the print face down. EPIC FAIL. I had my suspicions about the glue and the shiny surface of the plastic not really getting on and I was right. It just wouldn't hold, and the watery nature of the PVA made the print buckle. Never fear - I tried again using a fresh print and my good friend pritt stick this time. It was still a bit temperamental but it held and was usable. Good times.

Then I began using the scribe tool to scratch the image into the plastic. EPIC FAIL no.2. The tool just shredded the paper. I can see how this method of transfer would work on woodcut though, the wood is absorbent and would bond with the paper much better but the plastic was having none of it. I had an idea to cut the outline of the flowers with a craft knife then it would be easier for the scribe to follow the lines and not tear the paper - turns out I just ditched the scribe all together in favour of the knife. I know there are SO many reasons why I shouldn't be carving intricate flower details into a sheet of perspex with a bulky stanley knife but I found a method that works for me and I stuck to it - the detail I managed to get was incredible. The knife was hard manipulate into curved lines but I was careful and I think I did a pretty good job. Despite my initial thoughts, this is actually my favourite type of printing so far!

I don't think these scans give you an exact feel for the print method but they'll have to do I'm afraid. I still need to have a go at printing it a few more times to really get to grips with correct ink application and different colouring techniques but for my first run I'm really impressed!

Shame about the failed attempt with the scribe in the bottom corner though :(

Leeds Children's Circus Visit #1

Last night was my first visit to the children's circus. I'd had the most god awful day, it was pissing it down and it was COLD, and I didn't have a bastard clue where I was going (Harehills?!?); so to say I was a bit apprehensive would be an understatement.

As soon as I got there though I was instantly glad I'd made the effort. Richard, the guy I'd been emailing, was so welcoming and he genuinely seemed thankful that I was there. All the staff at the circus are voluntary and an extra pair of hands is always appreciated. When asked how I wanted to approach the evening I was a bit unsure, because it was such a strange environment to be in I decided to simply start out by observing; just getting to know the sorts of things they do and how they interact with the children. This was definitely a good idea - under 10's are MENTALISTS. Seriously, they don't stop running, singing, screaming, eating, crying, climbing, fighting, EVER. I would not have been prepared if I just jumped straight in.

Because the attention span of young children is pretty limited, the under 10's group tends to involve more games based activities than anything else. They started off playing some running games, and then the giant parachute came out, then it was juice and biscuits time, then they were split into 3 groups and rotated between plant pot stilts, spinning plates and tight rope. The hour flew by. Even though I wasn't participating I found myself just sat there smiling, as psycho as those kids are they really are very entertaining!

The over 10's gave the kids a little more freedom. Again they started off with some running games but after the break Richard set up various balancing activities and the kids could flit between them as they pleased - the tight rope was a clear favourite! A couple of the regular staff were missing last night so Richard asked me if I could step in, I didn't mind at all. Basically I was just spotting for them to make sure the kids used the equipment safely and I'd be there to catch them if they fell. I was teamed up with another volunteer and we helped them on the balancing ball, then I learned how to strap them into stilts. I had a great time!

Between classes Richard came over and spoke to me, he apologised because normally he would have been able to talk me through everything and answer more of my questions etc but because they were short staffed he had to get really hands on in the session. Honestly he needn't have worried, I was quite happy sitting and watching, and I didn't arrive with the expectation of being attended to for the whole session - it was their group and I'd be happy to fit around the way they operated.

I don't really know what exactly it was that I was expecting, but my experience there was really refreshing. After observing both the under 10's class and then the over 10's class I understand that the word 'circus' is irrelevant to the purpose of the group. LCC is more about bringing children together, providing them with a place to meet new friends and release some of that excess energy (oh dear god they have a lot of energy) - the word 'circus' just serves as a theme under which to do so.

Richard went into a little bit of detail about the Christmas show. Apparently this year they're trying something a bit different. Usually they prepare a various routines within the group to fill the whole show using all the members of the under 10's, over 10's and the adult session. But this year they're getting professionals in and giving the kids a 20 min slot in the show. Because the sessions are just for fun and skill isn't essential, it's pretty difficult to prepare an hour routine consisting of things people actually want to watch. And it's also hard to keep the kids focussed. So by bringing in professionals the children get to showcase their work, they get to watch an entertaining show, and LCC manages to put on a performance worth the £3 admission fee - everyone's a winner!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Today me, Claire, Amber and Rob took a trip to Duffield Printers on Kirkstall Rd (organised courtesy of Paul, thank you, you diamond). We got there for 9am, but the guy that Paul had been emailing was unavailable for whatever reason, so we got to hang around with Clive Elston, the sales rep. He was awesome; so, so helpful. He gave us his card and everything. :)

He started off by showing us a selection of their current jobs. I was surprised to see they printed the LCA Graphics graduate books, I assumed it would go to Team Impressions along with the majority of the print jobs from our college... It was interesting to hear that the print industry now receives more work from freelance designers (like ourselves) as opposed to design agencies, because clients are becoming less and less willing to pay the additional charges accumulated by going through an agency - good news.

In relation to the corporate side of the business, we were told that Duffield has built up a respectable reputation within the industry. It offers competitive prices but at the same time, won't compromise their level of service. If someone requests a quote for a job that they know they're not suitable for they will turn it down as it can be done better and more reasonably priced elsewhere, which I think is a pretty good ethic considering the money grabbing attitude of the economy at present.


We were then introduced to one of the graphic designers who prepares clients files for print. She took us through a few of the core requirements of print files.

  • Files can be prepared in either InDesign or QuarkExpress, as long as they are saved as PDF files then it's entirely down to personal preference.
  • All print work needs a 3mm bleed (we learnt this last year in our reportage book project)
  • Along with the document intended for print, send any fonts and images that are used in the design.
  • Industry prints in CMYK colouring, try to avoid RGB images.
  • Be aware of 'trapping' - eg. a black box on top of a part yellow, part red background, the black will be slightly different shades. Where you can, block out the base colours.
  • Save pages in the right order - whereas in our book projects we had to arrange the pages correctly for print, industry has software (called Cockpit) that does this automatically - save them in the order they will read.
Once the files have been prepped by the print team they will send you back a final PDF document for your approval before using lasers to prepare the print plates.

We were then given a tour of the building and shown all the technical equipment used in industry. It was really quite fascinating. They have 3 printers: an HP Indigo Digital Press (fucking HUGE); a 5 press lithograph printer; and a 10 press lithograph printer. The 10 press printer is a lot more efficient as it is able to perfect the images. 'Perfect', as we learned, is where you are able to print both sides of a document on one run through a printer; the machine flips the sheets when the pass the fifth press, pretty clever.

We also saw the colossal folding machine and the 'muller' which combines all the sections and 'stitches' ( we would definitely call it staples) them together.

Overall I'm SO glad we went. Even thought we're explorong traditional print methods in this project it's important to know the specifications that will be relevant to our commercial print practices in the future - not everything can be solved with a silkscreen!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Paper Making

I organised a little paper making session for a few of the guys in the print group today. It was really helpful. We have so many inductions into various workshops in first year but nothing ever actually materialises from them - only an extensive knowledge of inappropriate footwear.. I thought Comm-Tech would be an ideal opportunity to make use of some of the facilities that Viscom rarely see.

If I'm studying print, then surely the single most important question is what the hell am I printing onto? Of course a lot of importance lies with the content of the print, but it is a culmination of every aspect of the print that defines it's context. Paper type should be prioritised pretty highly I reckon. A glossy finish is indicative of professionalism, high end and clinical. A very light newsprint-esque sheet can be associated with printing in bulk; quick and cost effective. Whereas handcrafted paper offers a very personal touch - often romanticising and fragile.

Also to be taken into consideration is the relationship between print method and paper. Cartridge paper works perfectly well for most processes but how will the texture of the handmade paper affect the quality of an etching print, for example?

These are all things that I need to explore as part of this brief.

Another road to go down is the range of professional printing paper available; I need to research various paperhouses and request some samples!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Personal Tutorial

I find our personal tutorials really helpful. When I had mine with Nick on Wednesday my main issue was with PPD and work placements. I'm applying to do Camp America this year which, if successful, will obviously consume my whole summer - so when am I supposed to fit a placement in?

In my mind I was set on the fact that this meant a term time placement, which meant I have to start applying asap which in turn meant I should ideally already have started building a portfolio relevant to the sorts of things I want to do. BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO!! =/

I admit I was in a mild state of panic.

But Nick assured me that the fact that I know I want to apply for Camp America and that I have already started setting the wheels in motion is a really positive thing. There's no need for me to put pressure on myself to find an industry based placement if I'd only be doing it because I thought that I was being made to. Maybe my design related experience this year is just research - talk to people in the industry, look at job applications, find out what makes a good portfolio etc.

I will benefit more from gaining a deeper understanding of my place in the design world than a forced and rushed placement.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Nick Cass - Woodblock Printing

In our group tutorial today Nick showed us some of his woodblock print work that he used as part of an exhibition.

I found it extremely helpful. Woodblock was something that I had never really considered using for an image. I assumed that carving a woodblock was basically a more difficult version of linocutting - harder to get the control you need for precision. But Nick showed us ways of transferring images to the wood and cutting in such a way that crisp, clean lines are easily achieved.

I'm still unsure as to whether I'll use woodblock for image printing, as opposed to type, due to its close comparison to lino but this has definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of using it in the future. Because I've seen Nick's finished prints I know the sorts of things that you can achieve with woodblock therefore it's not essential that I explore it in this project.


SO much more complicated to make the plate than I anticipated! I did some normal etching a few years ago in school and all that involved was putting the ground on the plate, scratching in your image, etching it into the plate in the acid bath then grab your ink and you're good to go.. This was hard to keep up with. It involved photosensitive film, exposing it to a dot screen and timing the erosion exactly right so as not to bubble the film.

I only managed to do a few test prints but they turned out pretty well!

With photoetching you have two options:-

  • print from the tonal relief of the photographic film on the etching plate, leaving the actual copper plate untouched and reusable
  • put the plate in a further acid bath and actually etch your photo directly into the plate to make a more permanent printing tool
I chose the first option as it's quicker and easier since I'm only experimenting, but if I were to use this technique again I'd much prefer to permanently engrave the image into the plate. It provides a much more reliable print and is a much more versatile tool.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Screen Printing: Colour Separation

Colour separation for photographic screen printing - went pretty well! I've included photos of all the layers and various combinations



As described in a previous post, I played around with colour halftones as well. These are probably my favourite prints due to the greater opportunity for experimentation. The first image is just the 3 colour print and the second is with the black on top. I know it doesn't come across well in the scans but if you look closely at the darkest areas of the halftone prints they're actually amazingly enchanting. Areas that are simply a dark shadow on a photograph are made up of so many colours!

Eraser Prints

Since I don't have access to the print room over the weekend I decided to use my time productively by beginning to look at type. I bought a giant rubber - for BIG mistakes, apparently - and started with a basic and relevant word: printing.

I sized the typography on Word, I found that 85 point Impact fit just about perfectly and seemed relatively simple to cut out - no serifs, heavy weight. I used a soft pencil to trace the word from the laptop screen, then flipped it over and transferred it onto the eraser by scribbling on the back of the paper with biro. It transferred surprisingly easily!

I then used my lino cutting tools to carve away the background leaving only the raised surface of the letters.

Using acrylics for the black and poster paint for the colours I inked up the stamp and began printing. Below is merely a sample page from my sketchbook. I really didn't expect it to turn out this well to be honest - the edges are actually quite sharp, I'm really pleased!

The use of the eraser in this print is extremely similar to lino printing, the only difference being that the lino is a little bit sturdier; I had problems with accuracy of the lines because the rubber was so flimsy.

I don't think I'll use lino for type in the future though. It's too similar to wood block printing which has set typefaces pre cut so I don't have to mess around carving them out by hand. I still plan on using the lino for an image though. I'm considering trying out a bit of colour separation by using two sheets but I may be being a tad optimistic here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Bad Typography

I may/may not have attended the Topshop student night. And I may/may not have spent enough money to qualify for the free goody bag. And in the bag that I may/may not have received there was this magazine. The idea of the typography is quite cool but this is a WHOLE MAGAZINE of this cut out type. Literally full pages of it. It's almost impossible to read - and you can barely even look at the pictures as the text obscures it.

I have ultimately no appreciation for this layout.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Leeds Children's Circus is GO

We have confirmation kids... LCC are thrilled that I want to get involved!!

I'm in the print room this Tuesday after college but the week after I'm fully there. I need to figure out some sort of balance. The circus meets every Tuesday evening but I also need to take into consideration print drop in times and the fact that I work 2/3 evenings a week. Brilliant.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Jodie's Birthday Cake

For those of you who aren't aware of this powerful fact - Jodie Curley is a fan of cakes in a big way. Another thing that should be taken into consideration is the fact that Chris Gauntley and Vickie Wallace DO NOT BAKE CAKES.

Only by acknowledging these facts can you even begin to comprehend the true value of this cake. I'm not gunna lie, we may have gone over board when shopping for decorating materials and it may have reduced me to a life of crime when I was forced to steal 3 candles (what use is a pack of 18 condles for a 21st birthday?!?).

I know what you're thinking..... yes... they are Cadbury's fingers round the outside.

Leeds Children's Circus

I spoke to Christian yesterday about the send and receive brief. I had a few ideas in mind but I really wasn't sure on how to approach organisations - I didn't know what to write in the email because I didn't fully understand what it was I was asking for.

From the council's database of voluntary organisations I had picked out After Adoption Leeds (a charity that deals with all the issues that come with adoption - teenage pregnancy, finding birth parents, counseling for adopted children etc) and Artlink West Yorkshire (an organisation that helps all kinds of community groups through the medium of art eg. people with disabilities, young mothers, eating disorders). There was also something I came across which sounded amazing but obviously way too much fun to be appropriate for this brief..... LEEDS CHILDREN'S CIRCUS!!

Christian assured me that I am more likely to get a deeper level of learning from something that excites me than I am from something I feel like I have to do - the man even offered to teach me how to juggle, legend.

LCC's website can be found here, it looks like quite a small group but nonetheless it looks genuinely amazing.

Safe to say I have emailed their contact address and I really hope they get back to me!

History of Printing

This timeline was taken from Wikipedia and although it's presented in a basic list form I still think it shows a lot about the nature of printmaking. The image appears a bit small but you can click to enlarge.

Woodblock printing is still widely used in art practice today and it's astonishing that it's been around since 200 - and I highly doubt that the techniques they used in the beginning are all that different from those used today! Even screen printing - although it's official date on the timeline is 1907 it had actually been around in China for centuries.

When it comes to traditional print methods I think it's safe to say that the reason they are referred to as traditional is because they have already been perfected. There has been very little development in the actual printing techniques; it is how they are applied, that is important.

Woodcut images, for instance, were initially the only efficient way of illustrating a book. The image would have been cut into a block of its own and used adjacent to movable type blocks. It was then discovered that combining type and imagery in one single block created opportunity for more elaborate layouts. At the time this was cutting edge technology, but if you were going to illustrate a book today, woodcut would probably be the last thing you would consider! Like I said, the technique hasn't changed, only its social context.

With regards to print for industry, I think this is where the real progression has been. Most professional printers today use offset lithography for mass production and the timeline shows lithographical techniques emerging in the 1700's. Whereas traditional print techniques are still celebrated in art practices to this day, the professional print industry is constantly looking to improve the process; make it quicker, cheaper, ecofriendly. Industry has no need to preserve the methods of the past as that will only restrict them from discovering those of the future! Even now, printers are trying to incorporate more digital printing into their work and move away from lithography which requires at least 4 passes through the press for full colour images.

Toy Story 3D!

Holy shit the bed - AH-MAY-ZING! If you are or ever have been a fan of the Disney Pixar classic then fully jump on this bandwagon. Not going to see this genuinely makes you a lesser human being.

Toy Story 2 is being rereleased in 3D in a couple of weeks as well, and also the highly anticipated 'Up'. Safe to say it's a good month for cinema goers and animation enthusiasts!


Taking advantage of the Urban Outfitters 20% student night last night, I bought the Walls Notebook. I seem to have an uncontrollable urge when it comes to jazzy notebooks so my purchase didn't catch me off guard.

It's genius.

As the title suggests, the pages are simply photographs of 80 different New York walls, free for you to vandalise however you see fit without the threat of a criminal record.

Also - check out the website, it has a virtual version on there so you can try before you buy!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Basic Handcrafted Print Techniques

As well as exploring the print techniques available in the print rooms, I've been looking at the various ways I can do printmaking at home.


Finger/body printing is by far the most primitive printing technique. It's one of the first artistic activities you try as a child as it represents the most basic means of creative expression. I had a lot of fun playing around with this but it's impossible to transfer an image to a page using this method - it's more like painting than printing.


Potato printing is essentially an unglorified step back from a lot of today's traditional print techniques. Lino print, woodcut and, to a certain degree, etching all follow the same basic principle - cutting away part of a flat surface to leave a raised printable image. Again this is very childlike and because of it's simplicity is extremely difficult to get any sort of detail.


A different approach to potato printing - instead of cutting away at a flat surface I drew into a soft, pliable one. It wasn't until after I'd finished the drawing that I realised that plasticine is oil based and so will never harden which posed quite a problem when printing... However it actually worked suprisingly well! I had to adapt to the softness of the naterial by using a sponge to apply the paint in place of a roller, and laying the paper on top of the plasticine then rubbing gently to print the image.


I covered a square of corrigated card in duct tape to make it waterproof and then used a hot glue gun and a skewer to draw my raised printable image onto the surface. Unfortunately it didn't work very well as there was too much of a height difference between the two layers and the paper didn't mould very well around the glue - at least I tried!

Letterpress - Vernon St

Last week I joined a few of the 'Graphics and Print' guys to learn how to use the letterpress. It was by far the most tedious thing I've had to do on this course, but at the same time I found it quite therapeutic. I always get a strange sense of satisfaction out of really practical, hands on work and it took so much concentration to load all of the font pieces into the bed.

Your text must be reversed in the bed in order to read the right way when printed - so to load the bed you still insert the letters from left to right, but you work upside down. Yes. Confusing.

The length of your lines of text has to match the length of the leading exactly. It's incredibly frustrating trying to find the right combination of spacing because most of the time your line will be out by a hair's width - once you over space one line, even fractionally, the others begin to wobble.

The press itself I found relatively easy to use - some people struggled achieving a fluent motion with the roller as you have to walk with it whilst guiding and extracting your paper. I've always been quite good with hand-eye co-ordination though, and that definitely helped.

Above is a scan of one of my prints (they're all the same), highlighting each typo. It's difficult to spot misplaced letters when setting up the pieces as they're so small, but when printed they stand out like a sore thumb causing words to look poorly aligned.

Also highlighted is the 'fl' piece. When trying to set two letters together such as 'f' and 'l' or 'f' and 'i' it can't physically be done because the top of the 'f' pushes the other letters out of the way, which would cause them to snap if they went through the press. So there are specially designed pieces to accommodate such combinations.

Pantone and Spot colours

Another thing I learned in the preparation for print workshop with Mike was about the colour referencing systems used in commercial print. The most common one in the UK and Europe is Pantone.

Pantone are a company that provide what are known as 'spot colours' to print studios. Spot colours are inks that are ready mixed to particular colours to save both money and time when printing. Where CMYK printing relies on the inks being physically mixed on the paper (meaning the paper goes through the press four times), spot colours allow you to print solid colours in a single transition.

They're also a good way of introducing metallic inks and varnishes to your work. Definitely a useful thing to know for the future.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Halftone Printing

After mastering colour separation in Photoshop I needed to print my positives. Apparently to successfully screen print from a photograph you need to use a low resolution printer. The gray tones are made from tiny dots, and if you use too high a resolution then you'll have problems with bleeding. Ideally you need to use a 300 dpi printer but the ones in the mac suites only go down to 600 dpi.

Consequently, you can alter this manually on Photoshop by going to Filter > Pixelate > Colour Halftone..

I really like the effect created by the exaggerated halftones, so I've decided to try out both a realistic approach and an experimental, abstract one.

Contrast between RGB and CMYK

Highlighting the loss of vibrancy mentioned in the previous post

I asked Mike about this and how it would transfer to images both screen printed and commercially printed. Basically, RGB photos are made up of red, green and blue lights (like on a TV) as opposed to CMYK's colour layering. Because RGB is composed of light it creates colours with a vibrancy that is impossible to replicate using simple ink layering.

The image above highlights the differences as seen on the computer screen. I tried printing out both variations and as RGB's vibrancy relies on light which cannot be transferred to print they both came out the same.

First Lesson for Commercial Print:

You will never achieve the vibrancy of an RGB photo through the medium of print, to avoid post-print disappointment ALWAYS convert to CMYK before doing anything else.

Workshop - Preparing Images for Screen Printing

Preparation for print workshop today with Mike Flower was really useful. I would have got a lot more from it if I had a basic grasp of Illustrator but I just can't for the life of me operate that software. We were told to create a basic image to demonstrate colour separation and to say I was baffled would be an understatement.

Instead of trying and failing at something I don't vitally need right now I decided to apply the same concepts to Photoshop using one of Holly's photos, which I intend to print.

Firstly, I had to convert the photo from RGB colour scheme to CMYK - the image lost a lot of its vibrancy but CMYK is essential for screen printing. You can then see the four different colour layers in the 'channels' tab in the panel on the right.

Then, you simply go to print, ensure you print B&W, scale to the desired size (printing on paper the next size up eg. A4 image on A3 paper) and amend the options.

From the 'colour management' menu select 'separations'. This will give you the four different positives you need. From the 'outputs' menu, tick the boxes titled 'registration marks', 'corner crop marks', and 'labels' - this will keep allow you to align your layers when printing.