Monday, 21 May 2012

In the Pressroom

When I talk to younger printers starting out in Letterpress I'm surprised by the way they work. They seem to use computer tools as they were taught in university and then use letterpress as a delivery process. Often files are output as CYMK from Illustrator or Indesign/Quark and then the image is "locked in" using process inks and a platen or cylinder press to realise the image on paper using Photo plates.
 I have used Photopolymer and its not all that easy, as I'd be the first to admit. Photopolymer has a very shallow etch, so the lock up has to be perfect and the rollers set to the lightest possible setting. If not then non-image areas get inked and will often print. Its very frustrating and ultimately a fun day of press work descends into lots of cursing and frustration as the printer tries to get a plate to work.

This put me off using the material and sent me in the direction of using more traditional materials. Photopolymer is not all that sharp either. Nothing like new crisp type from M&H foundry or Dale GuiId with their amazing foundry types. Using woodcuts and Linocuts too gives a nice low tech picture which carries a beautiful rich layer of ink on 100 year old presses. they seem to enjoy these materials! It always pays to remember the age when these presses came into existence and work with them. Same goes for deep impression. Too heavy an impression is very wearing of the plate, press and type especially so I avoid punishing the materials. Simple materials puts it all on the creators. those who cut the blocks, set the type and mix the inks. The 'art' is in assemblage and making choices.

With my work, colour is one of the last steps. The right mood is important. I try to match the content of the block with a colour. Sometimes we will print a block in a range of colours - some cool, some warm, to convey different moods. On a platen press you can change colour in minutes. I do own a pantone colour guide (the industry standard) but usually I just flick through it to  get an idea of possibilities. We use just a basic range of rubber based non skinning inks and use opaque white and transparent inks. Incidently mix from very light. Mix by sight and intuition. Start light and very gradually add a darkening colour. Tap a small amount out on paper to check. If you go too dark, "can it" and use it for something else. Start again.

1 comment:

lasimp said...

Great colour....