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Paper and Ink Workshop page 18
The color of your paper can directly influence so many
things in your print project. Which color inks do you
use? How opaque can you run those inks, and how do
they change when they interact with a darker color
below them? How does the color of the paper impact
the viewers’ perception of the imagery or message? If
you are working on a dark sheet, how do you invert your
imagery so that it reads the way you want, or do you?
The weight of the paper is just as important. Heavier
paper feels more substantial, and a nice thick sheet can
leave a deep impression via letterpress printing and
prove to be the deciding factor in elevating it in the eyes
of client or consumer. Sometimes, screen prints are cele-
brated for their transient appeal—the thin and inexpensive
stock, even going so far as using newsprint.
If you do your own printing, you will soon find your
favorite sheets, but it is always worth remembering that
paper is inexpensive for small print runs, and it is a great
time to experiment, especially with the option to just feed
in another style of sheet, if needed, for the next pull.
Printing Techniques
Small press runs have so many unique features that
many people consider them printing techniques in their
own right, and silk screen and letterpress would certainly
fall into that category, but additional techniques, used in
various printing processes, can be incorporated into the
way our small-press operators work. As letterpress and
woodblock printing are relief methods of printing, they
fall under the same theory as embossing/debossing,
where a raised or depressed impression is created on
the paper stock by exerting pressure from an ink-free
piece (likely metal) on the press. Screen printing is much
the same process in which varnishes and foils are applied,
as it requires a separate pass on the sheet. Varnishes
apply a liquid coating in the place of ink, with a finish
in varying degrees of reflectivity, to highlight an area
or to act as its own effect. Foils require heat as well to
affix but add a shiny reflective surface to the final print.
Experimentation and Innovation
Now that you know all of the rules, it’s about time to
start breaking them.
Creating artwork to print seems like a pretty straightforward
endeavor. We draw or paint something, or we want to make
copies of a photograph or some type created on the com-
puter, so we burn a screen or make a plate to run an edition.
But it can be so much more, and once you have a press set
up, or ready access to one, making the art to print can be
an adventure in its own right. You can slash at your screen,
lay old patterns or leaves rubbed in olive oil between two
pieces of acetate, or have bits of cut paper strewn about as
you burn your screens. You can substitute plates and metal
type on your letterpress with actual pieces of objects, going
so far as to use an actual broken LP to serve as a print of a
broken record. Once you know your equipment (don’t break
anything!), you can stretch its abilities.
Laying ink down is also one of those givens in the process,
but the order and manner in which you do so can change
everything. Under- and overprinting are elements crucial to
expanding the range of what you can do in making unique
screen prints, as are techniques like a split fountain, where
each print is sure to be unique as the inks meet in the middle.
A little bit of thought beforehand can go a long way when
creating art that appears the way you want it to on paper.
Finishing techniques are exactly what they sound like,
the last thing done to a piece, and they often take the
final product into another realm. Embossing, diecuts,
varnishes, and so on, all make a piece unique and special,
which also makes them prime candidates to get pretty
wild on a small-print edition. The expense of a die or
emboss can be substantial, but a small run also means
that you could build your own emboss or use existing
metal pieces and type to accomplish that, and you could
hand cut (or even stitch) what would have needed an
expensive die for a larger run. Once you realize you can
do anything fifty to a hundred times to get the final
piece you desire, you are limited only by your time
and imagination.
  
   
The Little Friends of
Printmaking’s “Blush”
The husband and wife team of JW and Melissa
Buchanan set out to adapt an illustration
they had done for the paperback edition of Joe
Meno’s short-story collection Demons in the
Spring, only to encounter some complications.
“Sometimes, when we are making an illustration
that we think will never be screen-printed,
we have a tendency to go a bit crazy with
the colors and the kinds of details that don’t
work in that process,” JW explains. When they
posted the image online, there was soon an
onslaught of requests for an art-print version.
“It became a nagging question in the back of our
minds,” JW admits. “How would we accomplish
a ‘Blush’ screen print?” A year later, they had
a mental breakthrough and were determined
to realize this project fully. “The background is
printed last, with outrageously big and willfully
stylized trapping on all of the layers below, he
adds. “We never wanted to use halftones; we
don’t like that fuzzy, noisy look. So it ended up
requiring eight different screens in order to get
all of the colors in there. Eight inks and about
sixty distinct color variations.
Techniques and Tools page 19
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