Squash Screenprint

I carried on my recent screenprinting adventures by signing up for a second course at City Lit. This would consist of 5 sessions, 3 hours long. This time I wanted to try to get away from thinking about printed layers as in a linocut print; which is sort of what I did when I made my flower screenprint. Though I am pleased with that result, I wanted to explore more what screenprinting can do as its own medium. Two things I was interested in exploring was painting into the screen and pulling monoprints, and making a halftone photo-stencil which would convey tones.

I wanted to use my recent squash watercolour work for my photo-stencil. I combined in Photoshop a collaged image that showed a range of tones as grayscale and so should work as a halftone image. Halftoning is where the image is made up of a variety of dots, similar to printed newspapers. The final image below in black and white is the image I used to make a halftone photo-stencil.

For the first layers of my screenprint; I combined painting into the screen and pulling monoprints; and then using a paper stencil to print a slightly transparent teal colour on top. This meant that all the backgrounds would be slightly different.

I really like these backgrounds, but I was worried that as they have strong colour and bold shapes, my squash photo-stencil would get too lost when printed on top. In screenprinting to get an opaque colour you need to add white, which makes it difficult to get strong opaque dark colours.

I wanted to print my photo-stencil in red; below is a screenprint of just the stencil on its own; and then printed in red on top of my printed layered background. I admit I was disappointed, I did think that the red squash did not jump to the foreground enough; so I switched to the darkest and most opaque ink – black. I printed my series in black ink; but on reflection I now think I prefer the red inked squash! I would be very interested to know your thoughts on these final images?

I have really enjoyed screenprinting and I think it suits my figurative style of drawing, especially when combining monoprinting, paper stencils and photo-stencils. I look forward to continue  to work with monoprinting and paper stencils in my home studio; probably combining with linocut printing too.

(© Catherine Cronin)

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Flower Screenprint

I hadn’t done screenprinting in many years until recently when I signed up for a beginners class at City Lit. Here are the results of that short course, a multi-layered Flower print. The prints with the most colours were created by printing a rectangle of block colour (orange and blue);  using a paper stencil to create the green colour of leaf, stem and flower petals in part; and then the photo-stencil of my flower line drawing in red or black ink. For some of the prints I off-set the photo-stencil and printed it a second time which makes those prints a bit hard to look at! a bit psychedelic! I also printed the flower photo-stencil on its own and I intend to work into these prints with drawing inks. Fun times! I’m looking forward to making more screenprints.

(© Catherine Cronin)

Photography into Etching – Hand Colouring

I have finished a 3 day course on photo etching at City Lit taken over 3 weekends.

You can read about it here.

A couple of the prints with chine-collé weren’t working well, so I added some hand inking to see if I could get a more harmonious image. Have a look at the before and after photographs below.

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Before:
Alhambra Courtyard Blue; Orange Chine-collé

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After:
Alhambra Courtyard Blue; Orange Chine-collé
Orange & Green Ink Hand Colouring

AlhambraCourtyardRedOrange

Before:
Alhambra Courtyard Red; Orange Chine-collé

AlhambraCourtyardRedOrangeInked

After:
Alhambra Courtyard Blue; Orange Chine-collé
Blue, Orange & Green Ink Hand Colouring

(© Catherine Cronin)

Photography into Etching Day 3

I have finished a 3 day course on photo etching at City Lit taken over 3 weekends.

It was a fantastic course; a great group to work within and an excellent teacher Anne-Marie Foster.

On Day 1 we were introduced to the principles of photo etching; the three different techniques to get source material onto transparent acetate in readiness to expose to a prepared photopolymer plate. We produced a test plate and printed it to understand the process and how to get tones to print successfully. You can read about Day 1 here.

On Day 2 I prepared one of my own artworks in Photoshop for tonal photo etching; and printed test plates. You can read about Day 2 here.

Photo into Etching Day 3: The Final Prints

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Alhambra Courtyard Final Plate

On Day 3 I wanted to try different ink colours, different paper, chine-collé, and maybe colour rolls. I didn’t have enough time to get to try all I wanted. Below are the various experiments and results. I intend to work further on some of the prints with inks; so more to come on that.

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Alhambra Courtyard Red

AlhambraCourtyardRedYellow

Alhambra Courtyard Red; Yellow Chine-collé

AlhambraCourtyardRedOrange

Alhambra Courtyard Red; Orange Chine-collé

AlhambraCourtyardRedSkyBush

Alhambra Courtyard Red; Blue & Green Chine-collé

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Alhambra Courtyard Blue

AlhambraCourtyardBlueOrange

Alhambra Courtyard Blue; Orange Chine-collé

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Alhambra Courtyard Blue; Orange Chine-collé

(© Catherine Cronin)

Photography into Etching Day 2

I am attending a 3 day course on photo etching at City Lit over 3 weekends.

On Day 1 we were introduced to the principles of photo etching; the three different techniques to get source material onto transparent acetate in readiness to expose to a prepared photopolymer plate. We produced a test plate and printed it to understand the process and how to get tones to print successfully. You can read about Day 1 here.

To photo-etch and print a tonal image successfully from my source photographs or original artwork, I have to introduce digitally texture, like ‘dots’ to the image (like a newspaper image is made up of dots), so that the image photo-exposes and acid etches these ‘dots’ as ‘pits’ to hold ink and so print a tonal image.

Photo into Etching Day 2: Source Image

First of all I wanted to find a really good tonal image so that I could fully get to grips with the Photoshop techniques required for adding texture to the different areas of tone. I found a tonal colour image that worked well in grayscale, but I felt it was a little boring, so I combined it with a line drawing I made of the same subject. Combined in Photoshop using ‘clone stamp’ tool, and ‘multiply’ option on new layers.

Alhambra Courtyard Colour

Alhambra Courtyard Graysacle © Catherine Cronin

Alhambra Courtyard Grayscale

Black pen sketch of Alhambra inner courtyard.

Alhambra Courtyard Line Drawing

Alhambra Courtyard Grayscale & Line Drawing Combined

Adding Texture to Tones in Source Image

The next step was to separate onto different layers the dark tones, midtones, light tones and white areas of my source image. Using the ‘magic wand’ tool I could make these specific selections of tonal values and copy to a new layer. To add texture to the tonal areas we would simply be applying the filter ‘noise’ to each tonal layer; the darker tones would require a higher value of ‘noise’ than the lighter tones. As I wanted areas to remain as white paper, I did not apply the ‘noise’ filter to my ‘white areas’ layer. See below for a close up of a section of my image for before and after ‘noise’ filter is added. It is a bit difficult to see the ‘texture’ below; in Photoshop when you view ‘actual pixels’ you can really see a difference.

Alhambra Courtyard Detail

Alhambra Courtyard Detail
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Alhambra Courtyard Detail With ‘Noise’ Filter

Once I was happy with my filter application I printed out the source image onto acetate and printed a test plate to see how the tones would print.

Alhambra Courtyard Acetate Test 1

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Alhambra Courtyard Test Plate 1

It is hard to see in the images below but after my first print I felt I could add more ‘noise’ to the darker tones in my image and lessen the amount of ‘noise’ on the midtones i.e to make dark areas darker and midtones area lighter.

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Alhambra Courtyard Test Print 1

I adjusted my image; printed onto acetate and printed a second test plate; which I think printed better than the first – though admittedly hard to see the difference on here.

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Alhambra Courtyard Test Print 2

Anyway I managed to prepare a final printing plate from the 2nd acetate I prepared, so Day 3 will be spent in final proofing of the image; trying different ink colours, trying different paper, trying areas of chine-collé, and maybe trying colour rolls.

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Alhambra Courtyard Final Plate

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Alhambra Courtyard Final Plate Detail

(© Catherine Cronin)

Photography into Etching Day 1

I am attending a 3 day course on photo etching at City Lit over 3 weekends. Last weekend we were introduced to the principles of photo etching and the three different techniques to get source material onto transparent acetate in readiness to expose to a prepared photopolymer plate. I am interested in using photo etching to print drawn images.

A Little On Traditional Etching & Aquatint

In traditional etching a metal plate after being worked on with resists and acid will have grooves and furrows that the ink sits in. When the plate is passed through a printing press the paper is forced by the pressure into the grooves and furrows picking up the ink. If the acid has eaten away a large area of the plate, this is referred to as an open bite. An open bite because of its large area will not hold ink, as the ink gets wiped away from the surface of the plate easily. To get a dark tone over a large area you need to create many ‘pits’ or ‘dots’ in this area for the ink to sit in – imagine the many dots in a newspaper image. To get these ‘pits’ a powdered resin is applied to the area, heated, and then the acid eats away around the hard powdered resin resist and introduces ‘pits’ for the ink to sit in. The powdered resin is called an ‘aquatint’.

Photo Etching Day 1

Photo etching is where through a photo-mechanical process you transfer a negative of the source image onto a photo receptive metal printing plate; and after processing can print from the plate a positive image. The source image must be grayscale and it is transferred onto transparent acetate. The acetate is laid on top of the photopolymer plate and exposed to light in a special unit. The light penetrates through the acetate where there is no image blocking its way to the photopolymer layer on the plate. When you remove the photopolymer plate from the light unit you wash it in ‘developer’ which removes the areas of the photopolymer layer where your image blocked the light, so your image is revealed as bare metal on the plate. The plate is then submerged in acid which etches, ‘eats’, away at the bare exposed metal, these areas will hold the ink for printing a positive image.

Source Images

The three ways you can prepare a source image for photo etching are:

1) A prepared digital image printed onto acetate.

2) A photocopy onto acetate direct from source image.

3) Drawing with indian ink directly onto True Grain.

It is important to understand that when you transfer an image photo-mechanically onto a metal printing plate that you will need to introduce ‘pits’ to your image where you require tone; so that your metal printing  plate will print the tonal values of your image.

Test Plate

To help us understand how to print tone through photo etching, our first task was to produce a test plate by photocopying onto acetate direct from a source image. The source images I used were an image cut from a newspaper, black pen drawing, and part of a photograph I had.

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Source Image

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Photocopy On Acetate

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Etched Photopolymer Test Plate

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Photo Etched Print

The newspaper image was made up of many tiny ink dots; after photo-exposure to the metal printing plate these dots were acid etched and became ‘pits’. These ‘pits’ held the ink and so a tonal image was printed. The tonal image is quite dark, this is because many dots made up the newspaper image creating a strong tone; in fact too much of a strong tone.

The black pen lines after photo-exposure to the metal printing plate, and after acid etching became ‘thin grooves’.  These thin grooves held the ink and so printed as a line.

The photograph is a tonal image, and a smooth image unlike the newspaper image which is made from dots. After photo-exposure to the metal printing plate, the dark areas of the photograph were acid etched. On the printing plate you can clearly see the image; BUT after printing this section printed as a messy blur. Why?

Well, the dark areas of the photograph were acid etched as an open area of plate – an open bite. You wipe an etched plate’s surface to remove excess ink from the surface but to leave ink in grooves and pits; if you are wiping an area that is ‘an open bite’ then the ink is easily removed, the ink does not sit neatly like it does in a groove.

As I wiped the surface of my plate I found all the ink was wiping out of the area where my ‘photograph’ was etched. So I under wiped trying to leave ink in that area. But the ink wasn’t sitting nicely in grooves or pits, it was just messily sitting on the surface which is why it printed as a mess.

To photo-etch and print a photograph successfully I would have had to introduce digitally ‘dots’ to the image (like the newspaper) so that the image photo-exposed and acid etched these ‘dots’ as ‘pits’ to hold ink and so print a tonal image.

Photo Etching Day 2 will be focused on using Photoshop to manipulate a tonal  image I want to print.

(© Catherine Cronin)