Print 1. Project 3: Further two colour masked prints

I’ve cut a simple candle design that I drew earlier in the course to see if a less detailed shape will give better print results.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not looking at the artistic side of my designs, I’m solely concentrating on getting a good transference of paint from the print plate to the paper.  If I can’t get the process working there seems little point in spending time working on designs that won’t even print correctly.  This may seem a short-sighted view to many but the hours spent cutting these stencils mounts up and is all wasted if the images aren’t satisfactory.


Arches 88 300gsm.  The paper was soaked in water for a minute then towel dried.  The candle mask was applied to the print plate and the background grey was printed through the print press.  Not bad, but a small lifting of the paper surface has occurred in the bottom right corner.

After 24 hours, when the first oil paint layer was not quite completely dry and the paper still a tiny bit damp, I applied the outer mask and printed the yellow through the press.  After checking, I also worked across the back with my fingers ensuring the edges had transferred as well as possible.  Good result.

P3-St1mHere I have the same paper, the same background technique and, initially, the same foreground technique but the blue simply wouldn’t transfer.  The only difference, at this point, was that this print is a deliberate misalignment, so the darker blue sits off-centre on top of the paler one.  Was the slightly damp surface of the initial colour stopping it adhering?

As I had no print and nothing to lose I took a small sea sponge, lightly dampened it and pressed it to the back of the paper.  This softened it and I was able to press the paper with my hands onto the stencil and get a better ink transfer.  However, when trying to remove the print from the plate, it really wanted to stick.  It finally came off but the transfer isn’t great so dampening a second time isn’t the answer.

The photo above left shows the masked plate after printing and the unevenness of the ink pick-up can clearly be seen.  There is also some puckering of the mask where the water came through the print paper and affected it.

So what’s the problem?

  • Obviously I can’t wet the paper twice – once for the first print and then for the second colour – as the surface lifts.  It works very well for one print so perhaps I should save this better quality paper for techniques that use only one layer of printing, or use it dry which doesn’t seem to work as the imagery doesn’t transfer fully.
  • I’m much more confident with the consistency of my oil paints but perhaps I’m still not getting them exactly right.
  • I’m also confident that the print press is at the correct pressure.
  • Should I be waiting longer between print layers?  24 hours allows it to be 90-95% dry but does that mean that it is still tacky enough to stick to the print plate when overlapping colours?  I feel I should probably be waiting 48 hours between layers – which is going to eat up the weeks and I’ll have to reorganise my work and course schedule and deadlines.
  • Perhaps I’m just an idiot.

Possible solutions:

  • To check the issues I’m having I’ll use 110gsm cartridge paper, dry, throughout the next exercise.  If I stick to one type of paper and get consistent results (be they good or bad) that should tell me if I’m using the wrong paper type and weight or if it is a paint problem.
  • I’ll keep reminding myself that frustration is all part of the learning process.  A new big sign on my work board sounds like a good idea.
  • And finally, most important, stop working on the printing side by 4pm.  When I’m tired and things aren’t going well they aren’t going to improve that day.  Give it up and start again the following day.

About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in Print 1: Assignment 1, Printmaking 1 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Print 1. Project 3: Further two colour masked prints

  1. Jane B (epocktextiles) says:

    no you are not an idiot!!! I think its a difficult task – doing a course like this – and especially a technique such as printing with no on site guidance. How many people learn printing alone in their own home studio set up? Even in a face to face tertiary situation you would normally be in a studio set up by the institution, with other people experimenting (sucessfully and unsuccessfully) alongside you. I just hope you are getting lots of feedback from your course supervisor.

    • Claire B says:

      It is difficult as so many things can go wrong and identifying what the problem is can be very hard – too many variables. Tutor feedback comes at the end of each assignment when they review our progress. There are 4 projects in this assignment and as I’m still on number 3 I’ve a way to go before I get tutor involvement.
      I’ve signed up for a 1 day printing course on Sunday, even thought it’s printing on fabric. I hope to get some pointers from that despite it being done on a different background. Unfortunately I just missed another printing day that was held at the AGNSW.
      I’ve read all the textbooks but none cover exactly what we are doing and each say that experimentation is the only way to go.
      Anyway, today is another day and I’ve cut 8 more masks – as each one can only be used once – so we’ll see how it goes for the next exercise.

  2. Nola says:

    Sorry just catching up on my reading! I guess my first response is that printing is not easy. I don’t use oil-based inks – I probably have at some point but it’s lost in the dim recesses of time! – so I can’t really comment on that aspect. One thought that occurs is, if the drying time turns out to be 48 hours, to work that into a cycle. Print Experiment A on Day 1, Experiment B on day 2, return to A on day 3, and so on. Does your head in a bit, of like me, you like continuity, but does allow you to experiment with different options. Hope the paper works out.

    • Claire B says:

      Ah, a woman after my own heart!! Yes, whilst waiting for some to dry I’m already cutting templates for the next part and preparing paper. Tomorrow I’ll do the next layer on the current project and then start looking at the research project and first layer of the next section. Got to be careful not to jump the gun though as much of it builds on existing work.

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