07 February 2012

Tech Talk About Printed George

This print will have a lot fewer color applications than most of the prints I make. It looks like there will be just five layers. The first three were background layers -- a yellow and then a couple of layers of brown along the edges, making a kind of circular bokashi (fade).


Onto this base I then printed the fourth layer, the George Washington block. I wanted the darker corners of the background to push his facial features forward a little.


One more layer to go.

Technically, this has been a hard piece to print. All of the money prints have been hard to print, actually, just because they're so large. Registration is difficult at this size and there's a lot of paper expansion as moisture gets added with successive overprintings.

There have been some issues with the paper I chose as well. My favorite paper for moku hanga has been Echizen Kozo from McClain's, but it costs between $27-$30 per sheet. I've used 50 sheets for these 5 prints, which would have cost me between $1350 and $1500 if I had used the Echizen Kozo. I couldn't afford it! Plus, McClain's has been out of stock on the Echizen Kozo for several months.

So I tried Shikoku White from Hiromi Paper, at $5.75 per sheet. This paper is a machine-made blend of pulp, kozo and hemp. It's great for the dollar bill series because it feels kind of like cotton, a little the way currency feels. It takes ink well, stands up to the baren, and the inks stay bright even when the paper dries, but there's one drawback: the Shikoku White has had a tendency to wrinkle and/or become wavy as I work with it. Here's a photo from the Prominent Printmakers show that just opened in New Hampshire:


You can see that the prints wrinkled quite a bit when sandwiched between foam core and plexiglass. I probably should have framed and matted them, but live and learn. Anyway, I tried an experiment for this print. I brought the 10 sheets I had selected for the George Washington print to Zea Mays studio and ran them through the press there to pre-stretch the paper (this is called calendering the paper). I wanted to see if the paper would behave any differently if it was pre-stretched.

It did not behave any differently. It has a gentle wave in it, just as it has for the past four prints.


Linda said...

I also used the Shikoku for a large print and thought the wrinkling was just my experience and the fault of how I handled it. Guess not, eh?
I still like the paper a lot. Hopefully we can solve this problem somehow.

And I just want to say that I had NO idea the money prints were so big! Registration is a bear at this size. Nice work!

Haji baba said...

We call the wrinkling you talk about cockling in Britain. Not being a printmaker, I assumed it developped after the print was made and wasn't to do with the paper. You see sometimes on British and Austrian colour prints from around the 1920s.


Magic Cochin said...

Really interesting. I'm starting work on my woodblocks and want to eventually do larger work. I hope you can solve the wrinkling issue, I can still appreciate your prints but to galleries and buyers it's important the paper looks flat and the mount/frame is perfect too.


Hannah said...

It this was printed with western inks I would just say to soak the paper in water and then re-dry it flat with weights and cotton linters. But I am not sure how the Japanese inks would take to being soaked.

etcherman said...

Beautiful work, Annie.

I have, on occasion, dampened the back of a print and ironed it flat, or else pressed it between blotters to "re-dry" flat. Once this equalizes the cockling, it should remain nice and flat unless exposed to humid conditions.

Annie B said...

@Linda, I'm glad to hear that you experienced the same issues. I'm thinking that it's about dampening the paper and then drying it again.

@Charles, thank you for supplying the word "cockling." It allowed me to find some helpful information online!

@Celia, If you print the paper dry I don't think you would have any of these issues. I agree, the prints need to be flat for gallery display. Again, I was scrimping on money for this show. To have these four prints professionally framed would have cost me around $1000, so I opted to send foam core backing and have the gallery put plexiglass over the top. This scheme could have worked if spacers had been added, but they weren't.

@Hannah, the Japanese inks can easily be re-moistened with no problems. I've tried weights in the past and found that the paper wrinkled even more. I need a good lesson from someone.

Annie B said...

Thanks Etcherman. I think I may have some blotters big enough for these somewhere... I'm also looking into using a drying system at my local print studio. I'll definitely be doing an update post on all this in the near future.

Rick Finn said...

I've always had excellent results by re-dampening my completed prints and stretching them on a board with gummed watercolor tape. Although it's not practical for large editions, it works well if you just need a few prints for a gallery show. Also, you lose a bit of your paper margin.

Tom Kristensen said...

The simple answer is to buy better paper, I think your work deserves it. Try a few superior sheets at the back end of your next edition and see whether you don't get superior results. For large prints a thicker paper will perform better. Hakudo from the baren mall is excellent, and I still use the cheaper Shioji, both 100% kozo fibre.

The printing process drives various amounts of moisture into various sections of the paper. It is important that all this water is given time to equalize in the paper before you dry the print. Alternate stacking helps. Extra time under plastic helps. The print margins may need additional moisture applied as these dry out quickly. If you have areas of blank paper in your design it helps to blind print these with the baren. I dry my prints between 12 mm birch plywood boards which act as re-usable blotters. I still get wavy prints on occasion, its a challenge.

Annie B said...

Tom, thank you for your paper suggestions. Much appreciated. I trust your judgement implicitly and your tips save me a lot of testing.

You bring up a very important point about allowing the moisture to equalize and settle through the stack before drying. I sometimes (often) rush the drying. I've tried various combinations of blotters, boards and weights with mixed results but I haven't tried just plywood, so maybe I'll give that a go.

Nice to hear from you. I hope all is well down under. xo

Annie B said...

@Rick, I've never tried stretching the prints on a board, but that makes a lot of sense. Isn't that essentially how Japanese paper is dried after it's made?