Photopolymer Printing

How about giving you an inside look into the techniques we use for our Artwork?

We’re going to do it in different Blog posts so that it’s a good comprehensive read. We’d like your curious minds to enjoy a bit of extra info, so you actually know the amount of love and attention that goes into each one of our pieces. 

Sometimes the price tag reflects the laborious process, sometimes the design and sometimes a bit of both.

We’re starting with Photopolymer Intaglio (such a mouthful of a name!).

First, you’ll need the image you want to print onto paper. This technique is great because you can pretty much use any image you want, from an illustration or a painting to a photograph. You may need to edit the image in your computer a bit if you want to alter the contrast between the light and the dark areas.

Positive

Once you are happy, the image needs to be transferred onto a transparency (or positive). You can either do this at home with a laser printer or order it from a professional, it all depends on how precise you need the image to be. Although if you have a good laser printer and you are skilled in image editing, doing it at home is perfectly fine.

This positive will now need to be exposed onto the polymer plate. These can be bought in specialised stores. They are thin metal plates with a photo-sensitive (light-sensitive) solution impregnated onto one side. They sell them wrapped in a special opaque paper to avoid the light damaging them. (Toyobo is a good brand).

To expose the plates you need an exposure machine. Which is a machine that simulates sun light in order to “develop” the image onto the plate.

There are different steps to follow in order to do so, but essentially once the image is exposed onto the plate and the excess photosensitive solution has been washed away and rinsed out, the image is imprinted on to the surface like an engraving would be (with little grooves and cuts where the ink will go later).

After rinsing the plate, it needs to be dried (we use a hair drier). And the final step before being able to print is hardening the plate. You can do this in the same machine which was used to expose the plate or, if you prefer a slower approach, you can leave the plate on the window sill for 24 hours. It works either way.

Plate

As soon as your plate is ready to print, you need to put the paper in a water bath so that it becomes malleable, soft and more absorbing. 

And now the messy part begins, the inking of the plate! It is quite rare that as adults we get the chance to be messy, so this bit is the perfect excuse to unleash our inner child. Because even if you wear gloves you’ll end up with ink everywhere… There is more than one way of inking a plate but the overall aim is to cover all the grooves and cuts that make up your image with oil based ink.

Inked 1                      Inked 2Clean Inked Plate
Once the plate has been inked it is time to start printing! Take the paper out of the water bath, dry it on a flat surface using clean towels until you can’t see any water spots or water marks on the surface and bring over to the press. and VOILÁ!!

Finished Print

I work at the East London Printmakers, where there is all the equipment I need and more. There are day and evening courses of all types of Printmaking Techniques both for beginners and advanced students on offer throughout the year. 

If you already are an accomplished printmaker and are in need of a studio, there are 2 Open Access sessions a week.

Just head over to www.eastlondonprintmakers.com and check it out!

I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this Blog post. I didn’t want to be over technical as I’m sure people with a real geeky interest in that aspect can either find more info in lovely Printmaking Books or of course, Google.