Electro-Etching Introduction (print version)

Printworks is developing electro-etch techniques as an alternative to nitric acid for etching a range of metals (copper, brass, steel, zinc and aluminium). Electro-etching offers printmakers a very wide range of tones, textures and fine line etching using safer and more environmental friendly processes. Explore the application of both traditional and unconventional grounds and resists together with some exciting new hybrid platemaking techniques. Apply freehand line and tone, collagraphic textures and abstract/photo-collage images on a range of metal plates for deep intaglio etching. Understand the basic science, materials and equipment needed to enable successful electro-etching in the workshop or home studio.

DAY 1

Part 1 Practical Introduction

By the end of the first day you will take away two or three experimental etched metal plates that demonstrate some of the possibilities the technique offers.

Low-tech electro using salt water and other etching solutions
Use of batteries for small plates
Metals and etching action
Preparation: degreasing, basic resists & varnishes
Etching
Washing & cleaning off
Inking & printing
Plate care after printing
Cleaning up

Part 2: Tanks and Electro-Units

In part 2 we look in more detail at the theory and practical setup of typical electro-etch equipment. We also make some planned test plates to learn more about the way the etch process works with different resists and etch times.

Background: history, science and general guidelines
Electricity and water: basic safety
Tank Shapes: trays, vertical tanks
Electrical connectors, ‘bus-bars’ & insulator
Anodes and cathodes
Cathode: sheet or grille? (the ‘edge effect’)

Etched plate under the microscope
Test plates (resist, time, voltage and current)

Cleaning up

Part 3: Ground and Resists

In the third part we explore the variety of resists and grounds we can use with electro-etches to achieve an extensive range of texture and tone.

Traditional (Bitumen) Grounds
Acrylic Soft and Hard Ground
Acrylic Varnishes and Floor Waxes
Baldwins Ink Ground (BIG)
Stencils and Tapes
Varnishes, Enamels, Sharpies etc.
Other/Hybrid Resists

DAY 2

Part 4: Creative Tone, Stop-out, Multiple and Localised Bites

Traditional etching uses different processes to achieve fine even plate tones (Aquatint, Mezzotint, Spit-bite etc). We start by looking at these and at comparable ways to achieve controlled tone with electro- and other non-toxic etching. We see how to make the etch work more on certain areas of the plate and how to gauge etching time to intensify local tones or added textures.

Part 5: Working larger

In day 2 we will work on one or two plates (A5 size). We will employ some of the techniques and mark-making processes we have been developing on the first day and will learn how to use bigger tanks and a wider range of etching solutions.

By the end of Day 2 we should have prepared, eyched and proofed one or two complete intaglio prints and will see how the final proofs compare with the sorts of marks tones and textures we would normally produce using traditional chemical etching.

Going Further: other experimental electro-etch processes

These are some of the further areas for exploration that you may want to look atafter the two-day course. We will arrange some Open Access sessions where you will have the opportunity to ake these further.

Semi-dry etching
Open bite tone
Photopolymer and photo-emulsion resists
Using screen inks and screen emulsions as etching resists
Hybrid processes: screenprinting halftone resists onto plates
Sacrificial metal plates
Reverse etching (relief electroplating)

Here are a few inspirational images of Electro-Etching work from printmakers, craft makers and jewellers to give you an idea of what’s possible:

Electro-etching is not new! Some of these techniques have been used in mainstream printing since Victorian days. With the increasing interest in alternative and hybrid etch processes and a growing awareness of the health hazards associated with traditional acid etch, electro-etching has over the last ten to fifteen years become extremely popular and has attracted the attention of a new generation of artist-printmakers.

Many of these are not only very inexpensive and very low toxicity (unlike traditional bitumen based etching grounds) but also offer a very wide range of textures and tones. In this second session we see how to do safe and exciting etching both in the studio and at home without the need for dangerous acids or bitumen grounds.

Further Explorations…
If you would like to explore the amazing possibilities of electro-etching further then please get in touch right away. We are keen to go deeper into this very exciting subject by arranging some more advanced custom courses and by setting up a small workshop development group. Get in touch and let’s talk electro! or call/text John Wallett on 07757 305 327

View notes online: https://wivenhoeprint.works/electro-etching-introduction/

 

Photopolymer Course (September 17/18)

Photopolymer (Solar Plate) Courses
(re-usse this for future classes)
Saturday/Sunday September 17/18th. Times: 1pm – 5pm

Course will take place over one-day or two consecutive half-day sessions

Outline of programme

  • Welcome, teas/coffees and introductions
  • Examples of photopolymer artwork, plates and prints
  • Mini-darkroom equipment and process:
        safety, lights, printing frames, plates and use of tone-screen
  • Quick demo of the photopolymer process
  • Making test strips to find ideal exposure times
  • Developing artwork alternatives for your main print:
         using copier/printer to resize and print photographs onto acetate
         use ‘Tru-Grain’ textured drawing film for direct drawing of line and tone
         use collage materials (plant forms, fabrics etc) or pre-made acetates
  • Tonal screen and artwork exposure
  • Hardening your plates
  • Inking and printing
  • Review of results
  • Finish

Photopolymer process step by step…

1 Plan and prepare photo, design or drawing
choose a photograph, collage or drawing as the basis for your print
if necessary use a photocopier/printer to resize image
laser-print/copy onto clear acetate
this will be your ‘artwork’ when exposing image onto printing plate

2 Preparation of plates
take prepared artwork and tools into mini-darkroom
you will find printing plates all ready to use
turn on red safe-light and make sure darkroom is light-free
unwrap plate and peel off protective covering
lay plate on contact printing frame facing upwards

 

 

 
3 Expose the tonal screen
lay tonal screen sheet onto surface of plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip down tight onto the film
place frame in middle of the UV light area
start timer and switch on three UV lights
expose tonal plate for 3.5 minutes (depending on test plates)
switch off UV lights
take out tonal screen and put it away safe from scratches
stop timer and reset to zero

4 Expose your artwork
lay artwork FACE DOWN on the plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip it tight
start timer and switch on three UV lights…
expose artwork for 35-40 seconds (depending on test plates)
switch off the UV lights
take out artwork and put somewhere it will not get lost or splashed
stop timer and reset to zero

5 Rinse your plate
put the safelight down to the lower shelf near water tray
put your timer somewhere visible
submerge plate FACE UPWARDS in water
start  timer and gently rock the tray to soak plate for ONE MINUTE
GENTLY wipe plate with brush/sponge for ONE AND A HALF MINUTES
carry the tray and plate out to spray booth or sink
RINSE GENTLY FOR ONE MINUTE with a fine spray hose

6 Dry your plate
plate should now be well washed and surface of plate may  show faint image
plate will be soft so handle by edges only
lift plate from rinse and stand upright on blotter to remove excess water
lay plate flat face upwards on a clean dry cloth, towel or blotter
lay dry newsprint flat across plate to take off surface water (gently but quickly)
lean plate against wall, emulsion face forward
reset timer to zero and time
dry plate with hairdryer (cool) for FIVE MINUTES
make sure plate is dry on both sides and along all edges
leave plate to cool down for FIVE MINUTES
zero and reset your timer

 

 

7 Harden your plate
take dried plate back in darkroom and lay flat under the UV light face up
check image colour (which should be a kind of honey yellow colour)
start timer and turn on all UV lights
leave plate under UV for 15 – 30 MINUTES
as plate hardens under  UV colour will change to GREEN/BLUE GREY
after 15-20 minutes gently feel plate edge and press with thumbnail
plate should feel smooth and glassy, and will resist nail pressure
you can leave the plate under the UV (or bright sunlight) for up to 35 minutes
(this hardens the surface and make non-etched areas easier to wipe clean)

8 Ready to ink and print!
when plate is hard and dry you can ink and make a test print
or put it away wrapped in clean dry tissue

FAQ’s

What is Photopolymer/Solar Plate and how does it work?

Photopolymer is a simple and versatile process to create either relief or ‘intaglio’ (tonal etched) printing plates using UV light and a variety of natural, photographic or found/collage materials. In these sessions we will be showing you how to make a tonal intaglio plate that displays a wide range of line, tones and textures. You can also do a more simple black and white photopolymer plate to achieve an effect like a relief woodcut. We will demonstrate both processes.

How do I make a printing plate that displays tones and textures?
How big should my drawing or design be?

You may need to create your artwork (photo, collage or drawing) and then copy or laser-print it here onto transparent acetate film that will be contact-printed onto your plate. Your final artwork will be a ‘positive’ the same size as the finished print.

Can I make a plate from a photograph?

Yes! Photopolymer is excellent for making a print from a black and white photo image as long as it has a good range of line, tone and reasonable contrast. If you plan to use a photograph we suggest you just bring it on a memory stick or your phone so we can help you print it out on your acetate at the right size and resolution. If you have already chosen your image you can also email it to us beforehand so we can check how it will print. Alternatively if it is an old traditional (pre-digital) photo you can bring the print in and we will show you how to scan it to get good results.

What about a drawing?

If you prefer to make a drawing then you may want to use the wide range of art materials we have here and draw straight onto a smooth or textured piece of film so you get the best possible image quality to reproduce. You can resize any pre-made drawing in the session using our scanner/copier, or you can make your design here in the session using the art and collage materials which we will provide. If you are not sure how much to prepare before the session then please just call or email us and we will help you decide.

It may be best just to bring some sketches and work on a final image once you have seen a quick demo of the process!

What creates the different tones on my print?
Is it like making an etching?

Tonal photopolymer is similar to applying an ‘aquatint’ to a metal plate in traditional etching. You will first of all put a tone onto your plate before applying your drawing or design. With photopolymer plates this is done using a sheet of film covered in tiny random dots. (We call this a ‘tonal screen’.) Once you have exposed the plate with the tonal screen you will then expose it again using your artwork. This will combine your drawn or photographed image with the pre-exposed tones to create a very sensitive plate suitable for inking and printing on a traditional etching press.

What should I bring with me?

Artwork and art materials
If you want to use a photo please bring either a good print or better still the digital image on memory stick or phone. If you want to use found natural materials (plant forms, scraps of lace or other fabrics etc) to make collages or shadowgrams please bring a election with you. We will also have some collage materials you can experiment with. If you want to develop a tonal drawing we suggest you bring some preliminary studies plus any drawing media you like working with. We can then help you scan or copy the finished drawing onto laser acetate at the right size. If you are happy to experiment we will have a range of inks, pens, crayons and papers you can use.

Protective clothing
Photopolymer is a very simple process involving only UV light and water. There are no toxic chemicals or sticky resists involved in making your plates. It is one of the safest and cleanest processes of platemaking known. However the plates made are usually used to print intaglio as with traditional metal plate etching and this of course involves very sticky pigmented inks which can spoil clothing and may require detergent or oil-based thinners and cleaning agents. It is advisable to come wearing clothing that can cope with a few stains and smears, or to have a protective overall or apron for the printing part of the day! Also the Printworks workshop is a working environment with a certain level of dust and rough working surfaces so please don’t wear Sunday Best!. We do have a selection of characterful (if sometimes grubby) aprons that you can borrow.

 

 

Photopolymer Course September 2022

Photopolymer (Solar Plate) Courses
Saturday/Sunday September 17/18th. Times: 1pm – 5pm

Course will take place over one-day or two consecutive half-day sessions

Outline of programme

  • Welcome, teas/coffees and introductions
  • Examples of photopolymer artwork, plates and prints
  • Mini-darkroom equipment and process:
        safety, lights, printing frames, plates and use of tone-screen
  • Quick demo of the photopolymer process
  • Making test strips to find ideal exposure times
  • Developing artwork alternatives for your main print:
         using copier/printer to resize and print photographs onto acetate
         use ‘Tru-Grain’ textured drawing film for direct drawing of line and tone
         use collage materials (plant forms, fabrics etc) or pre-made acetates
  • Tonal screen and artwork exposure
  • Hardening your plates
  • Inking and printing
  • Review of results
  • Finish

Photopolymer process step by step…

1 Plan and prepare photo, design or drawing
choose a photograph, collage or drawing as the basis for your print
if necessary use a photocopier/printer to resize image
laser-print/copy onto clear acetate
this will be your ‘artwork’ when exposing image onto printing plate

2 Preparation of plates
take prepared artwork and tools into mini-darkroom
you will find printing plates all ready to use
turn on red safe-light and make sure darkroom is light-free
unwrap plate and peel off protective covering
lay plate on contact printing frame facing upwards

 

 

 
3 Expose the tonal screen
lay tonal screen sheet onto surface of plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip down tight onto the film
place frame in middle of the UV light area
start timer and switch on three UV lights
expose tonal plate for 3.5 minutes (depending on test plates)
switch off UV lights
take out tonal screen and put it away safe from scratches
stop timer and reset to zero

4 Expose your artwork
lay artwork FACE DOWN on the plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip it tight
start timer and switch on three UV lights…
expose artwork for 35-40 seconds (depending on test plates)
switch off the UV lights
take out artwork and put somewhere it will not get lost or splashed
stop timer and reset to zero

5 Rinse your plate
put the safelight down to the lower shelf near water tray
put your timer somewhere visible
submerge plate FACE UPWARDS in water
start  timer and gently rock the tray to soak plate for ONE MINUTE
GENTLY wipe plate with brush/sponge for ONE AND A HALF MINUTES
carry the tray and plate out to spray booth or sink
RINSE GENTLY FOR ONE MINUTE with a fine spray hose

6 Dry your plate
plate should now be well washed and surface of plate may  show faint image
plate will be soft so handle by edges only
lift plate from rinse and stand upright on blotter to remove excess water
lay plate flat face upwards on a clean dry cloth, towel or blotter
lay dry newsprint flat across plate to take off surface water (gently but quickly)
lean plate against wall, emulsion face forward
reset timer to zero and time
dry plate with hairdryer (cool) for FIVE MINUTES
make sure plate is dry on both sides and along all edges
leave plate to cool down for FIVE MINUTES
zero and reset your timer

7 Harden your plate
take dried plate back in darkroom and lay flat under the UV light face up
check image colour (which should be a kind of honey yellow colour)
start timer and turn on all UV lights
leave plate under UV for 15 – 30 MINUTES
as plate hardens under  UV colour will change to GREEN/BLUE GREY
after 15-20 minutes gently feel plate edge and press with thumbnail
plate should feel smooth and glassy, and will resist nail pressure
you can leave the plate under the UV (or bright sunlight) for up to 35 minutes
(this hardens the surface and make non-etched areas easier to wipe clean)

8 Ready to ink and print!
when plate is hard and dry you can ink and make a test print
or put it away wrapped in clean dry tissue

FAQ’s

What is Photopolymer/Solar Plate and how does it work?

Photopolymer is a simple and versatile process to create either relief or ‘intaglio’ (tonal etched) printing plates using UV light and a variety of natural, photographic or found/collage materials. In these sessions we will be showing you how to make a tonal intaglio plate that displays a wide range of line, tones and textures. You can also do a more simple black and white photopolymer plate to achieve an effect like a relief woodcut. We will demonstrate both processes.

How do I make a printing plate that displays tones and textures?
How big should my drawing or design be?

You may need to create your artwork (photo, collage or drawing) and then copy or laser-print it here onto transparent acetate film that will be contact-printed onto your plate. Your final artwork will be a ‘positive’ the same size as the finished print.

Can I make a plate from a photograph?

Yes! Photopolymer is excellent for making a print from a black and white photo image as long as it has a good range of line, tone and reasonable contrast. If you plan to use a photograph we suggest you just bring it on a memory stick or your phone so we can help you print it out on your acetate at the right size and resolution. If you have already chosen your image you can also email it to us beforehand so we can check how it will print. Alternatively if it is an old traditional (pre-digital) photo you can bring the print in and we will show you how to scan it to get good results.

What about a drawing?

If you prefer to make a drawing then you may want to use the wide range of art materials we have here and draw straight onto a smooth or textured piece of film so you get the best possible image quality to reproduce. You can resize any pre-made drawing in the session using our scanner/copier, or you can make your design here in the session using the art and collage materials which we will provide. If you are not sure how much to prepare before the session then please just call or email us and we will help you decide.

It may be best just to bring some sketches and work on a final image once you have seen a quick demo of the process!

What creates the different tones on my print?
Is it like making an etching?

Tonal photopolymer is similar to applying an ‘aquatint’ to a metal plate in traditional etching. You will first of all put a tone onto your plate before applying your drawing or design. With photopolymer plates this is done using a sheet of film covered in tiny random dots. (We call this a ‘tonal screen’.) Once you have exposed the plate with the tonal screen you will then expose it again using your artwork. This will combine your drawn or photographed image with the pre-exposed tones to create a very sensitive plate suitable for inking and printing on a traditional etching press.

What should I bring with me?

Artwork and art materials
If you want to use a photo please bring either a good print or better still the digital image on memory stick or phone. If you want to use found natural materials (plant forms, scraps of lace or other fabrics etc) to make collages or shadowgrams please bring a election with you. We will also have some collage materials you can experiment with. If you want to develop a tonal drawing we suggest you bring some preliminary studies plus any drawing media you like working with. We can then help you scan or copy the finished drawing onto laser acetate at the right size. If you are happy to experiment we will have a range of inks, pens, crayons and papers you can use.

Protective clothing
Photopolymer is a very simple process involving only UV light and water. There are no toxic chemicals or sticky resists involved in making your plates. It is one of the safest and cleanest processes of platemaking known. However the plates made are usually used to print intaglio as with traditional metal plate etching and this of course involves very sticky pigmented inks which can spoil clothing and may require detergent or oil-based thinners and cleaning agents. It is advisable to come wearing clothing that can cope with a few stains and smears, or to have a protective overall or apron for the printing part of the day! Also the Printworks workshop is a working environment with a certain level of dust and rough working surfaces so please don’t wear Sunday Best!. We do have a selection of characterful (if sometimes grubby) aprons that you can borrow.

 

 

Photopolymer Course September 17th & 18th

Photopolymer (Solar Plate) Courses
Saturday/Sunday September 17/18th. Times: 1pm – 5pm

Course will take place over one-day or two consecutive half-day sessions

Outline of programme

  • Welcome, teas/coffees and introductions
  • Examples of photopolymer artwork, plates and prints
  • Mini-darkroom equipment and process:
        safety, lights, printing frames, plates and use of tone-screen
  • Quick demo of the photopolymer process
  • Making test strips to find ideal exposure times
  • Developing artwork alternatives for your main print:
         using copier/printer to resize and print photographs onto acetate
         use ‘Tru-Grain’ textured drawing film for direct drawing of line and tone
         use collage materials (plant forms, fabrics etc) or pre-made acetates
  • Tonal screen and artwork exposure
  • Hardening your plates
  • Inking and printing
  • Review of results
  • Finish

Photopolymer process step by step…

1 Plan and prepare photo, design or drawing
choose a photograph, collage or drawing as the basis for your print
if necessary use a photocopier/printer to resize image
laser-print/copy onto clear acetate
this will be your ‘artwork’ when exposing image onto printing plate

2 Preparation of plates
take prepared artwork and tools into mini-darkroom
you will find printing plates all ready to use
turn on red safe-light and make sure darkroom is light-free
unwrap plate and peel off protective covering
lay plate on contact printing frame facing upwards

3 Expose the tonal screen
lay tonal screen sheet onto surface of plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip down tight onto the film
place frame in middle of the UV light area
start timer and switch on three UV lights
expose tonal plate for 3.5 minutes (depending on test plates)
switch off UV lights
take out tonal screen and put it away safe from scratches
stop timer and reset to zero

4 Expose your artwork
lay artwork FACE DOWN on the plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip it tight
start timer and switch on three UV lights…
expose artwork for 35-40 seconds (depending on test plates)
switch off the UV lights
take out artwork and put somewhere it will not get lost or splashed
stop timer and reset to zero

5 Rinse your plate
put the safelight down to the lower shelf near water tray
put your timer somewhere visible
submerge plate FACE UPWARDS in water
start  timer and gently rock the tray to soak plate for ONE MINUTE
GENTLY wipe plate with brush/sponge for ONE AND A HALF MINUTES
carry the tray and plate out to spray booth or sink
RINSE GENTLY FOR ONE MINUTE with a fine spray hose

6 Dry your plate
plate should now be well washed and surface of plate may  show faint image
plate will be soft so handle by edges only
lift plate from rinse and stand upright on blotter to remove excess water
lay plate flat face upwards on a clean dry cloth, towel or blotter
lay dry newsprint flat across plate to take off surface water (gently but quickly)
lean plate against wall, emulsion face forward
reset timer to zero and time
dry plate with hairdryer (cool) for FIVE MINUTES
make sure plate is dry on both sides and along all edges
leave plate to cool down for FIVE MINUTES
zero and reset your timer

7 Harden your plate
take dried plate back in darkroom and lay flat under the UV light face up
check image colour (which should be a kind of honey yellow colour)
start timer and turn on all UV lights
leave plate under UV for 15 – 30 MINUTES
as plate hardens under  UV colour will change to GREEN/BLUE GREY
after 15-20 minutes gently feel plate edge and press with thumbnail
plate should feel smooth and glassy, and will resist nail pressure
you can leave the plate under the UV (or bright sunlight) for up to 35 minutes
(this hardens the surface and make non-etched areas easier to wipe clean)

8 Ready to ink and print!
when plate is hard and dry you can ink and make a test print
or put it away wrapped in clean dry tissue

FAQ’s

What is Photopolymer/Solar Plate and how does it work?

Photopolymer is a simple and versatile process to create either relief or ‘intaglio’ (tonal etched) printing plates using UV light and a variety of natural, photographic or found/collage materials. In these sessions we will be showing you how to make a tonal intaglio plate that displays a wide range of line, tones and textures. You can also do a more simple black and white photopolymer plate to achieve an effect like a relief woodcut. We will demonstrate both processes.

How do I make a printing plate that displays tones and textures?
How big should my drawing or design be?

You may need to create your artwork (photo, collage or drawing) and then copy or laser-print it here onto transparent acetate film that will be contact-printed onto your plate. Your final artwork will be a ‘positive’ the same size as the finished print.

Can I make a plate from a photograph?

Yes! Photopolymer is excellent for making a print from a black and white photo image as long as it has a good range of line, tone and reasonable contrast. If you plan to use a photograph we suggest you just bring it on a memory stick or your phone so we can help you print it out on your acetate at the right size and resolution. If you have already chosen your image you can also email it to us beforehand so we can check how it will print. Alternatively if it is an old traditional (pre-digital) photo you can bring the print in and we will show you how to scan it to get good results.

What about a drawing?

If you prefer to make a drawing then you may want to use the wide range of art materials we have here and draw straight onto a smooth or textured piece of film so you get the best possible image quality to reproduce. You can resize any pre-made drawing in the session using our scanner/copier, or you can make your design here in the session using the art and collage materials which we will provide. If you are not sure how much to prepare before the session then please just call or email us and we will help you decide.

It may be best just to bring some sketches and work on a final image once you have seen a quick demo of the process!

What creates the different tones on my print?
Is it like making an etching?

Tonal photopolymer is similar to applying an ‘aquatint’ to a metal plate in traditional etching. You will first of all put a tone onto your plate before applying your drawing or design. With photopolymer plates this is done using a sheet of film covered in tiny random dots. (We call this a ‘tonal screen’.) Once you have exposed the plate with the tonal screen you will then expose it again using your artwork. This will combine your drawn or photographed image with the pre-exposed tones to create a very sensitive plate suitable for inking and printing on a traditional etching press.

What should I bring with me?

Artwork and art materials
If you want to use a photo please bring either a good print or better still the digital image on memory stick or phone. If you want to use found natural materials (plant forms, scraps of lace or other fabrics etc) to make collages or shadowgrams please bring a election with you. We will also have some collage materials you can experiment with. If you want to develop a tonal drawing we suggest you bring some preliminary studies plus any drawing media you like working with. We can then help you scan or copy the finished drawing onto laser acetate at the right size. If you are happy to experiment we will have a range of inks, pens, crayons and papers you can use.

Protective clothing
Photopolymer is a very simple process involving only UV light and water. There are no toxic chemicals or sticky resists involved in making your plates. It is one of the safest and cleanest processes of platemaking known. However the plates made are usually used to print intaglio as with traditional metal plate etching and this of course involves very sticky pigmented inks which can spoil clothing and may require detergent or oil-based thinners and cleaning agents. It is advisable to come wearing clothing that can cope with a few stains and smears, or to have a protective overall or apron for the printing part of the day! Also the Printworks workshop is a working environment with a certain level of dust and rough working surfaces so please don’t wear Sunday Best!. We do have a selection of characterful (if sometimes grubby) aprons that you can borrow.

 

 

Photopolymer Course September 2022

Photopolymer (Solar Plate) Courses
Wednesday September 14th. Time: 10am – 5pm
Saturday/Sunday September 17/18th. Times: 1pm – 5pm

Course will take place over one-day or two consecutive half-day sessions

Outline of programme

  • Welcome, teas/coffees and introductions
  • Examples of photopolymer artwork, plates and prints
  • Mini-darkroom equipment and process:
        safety, lights, printing frames, plates and use of tone-screen
  • Quick demo of the photopolymer process
  • Making test strips to find ideal exposure times
  • Developing artwork alternatives for your main print:
         using copier/printer to resize and print photographs onto acetate
         use ‘Tru-Grain’ textured drawing film for direct drawing of line and tone
         use collage materials (plant forms, fabrics etc) or pre-made acetates
  • Tonal screen and artwork exposure
  • Hardening your plates
  • Inking and printing
  • Review of results
  • Finish

Photopolymer process step by step…

1 Plan and prepare photo, design or drawing
choose a photograph, collage or drawing as the basis for your print
if necessary use a photocopier/printer to resize image
laser-print/copy onto clear acetate
this will be your ‘artwork’ when exposing image onto printing plate

2 Preparation of plates
take prepared artwork and tools into mini-darkroom
you will find printing plates all ready to use
turn on red safe-light and make sure darkroom is light-free
unwrap plate and peel off protective covering
lay plate on contact printing frame facing upwards

3 Expose the tonal screen
lay tonal screen sheet onto surface of plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip down tight onto the film
place frame in middle of the UV light area
start timer and switch on three UV lights
expose tonal plate for 3.5 minutes (depending on test plates)
switch off UV lights
take out tonal screen and put it away safe from scratches
stop timer and reset to zero

4 Expose your artwork
lay artwork FACE DOWN on the plate
close glass of the contact frame and clip it tight
start timer and switch on three UV lights…
expose artwork for 35-40 seconds (depending on test plates)
switch off the UV lights
take out artwork and put somewhere it will not get lost or splashed
stop timer and reset to zero

5 Rinse your plate
put the safelight down to the lower shelf near water tray
put your timer somewhere visible
submerge plate FACE UPWARDS in water
start  timer and gently rock the tray to soak plate for ONE MINUTE
GENTLY wipe plate with brush/sponge for ONE AND A HALF MINUTES
carry the tray and plate out to spray booth or sink
RINSE GENTLY FOR ONE MINUTE with a fine spray hose

6 Dry your plate
plate should now be well washed and surface of plate may  show faint image
plate will be soft so handle by edges only
lift plate from rinse and stand upright on blotter to remove excess water
lay plate flat face upwards on a clean dry cloth, towel or blotter
lay dry newsprint flat across plate to take off surface water (gently but quickly)
lean plate against wall, emulsion face forward
reset timer to zero and time
dry plate with hairdryer (cool) for FIVE MINUTES
make sure plate is dry on both sides and along all edges
leave plate to cool down for FIVE MINUTES
zero and reset your timer

7 Harden your plate
take dried plate back in darkroom and lay flat under the UV light face up
check image colour (which should be a kind of honey yellow colour)
start timer and turn on all UV lights
leave plate under UV for 15 – 30 MINUTES
as plate hardens under  UV colour will change to GREEN/BLUE GREY
after 15-20 minutes gently feel plate edge and press with thumbnail
plate should feel smooth and glassy, and will resist nail pressure
you can leave the plate under the UV (or bright sunlight) for up to 35 minutes
(this hardens the surface and make non-etched areas easier to wipe clean)

8 Ready to ink and print!
when plate is hard and dry you can ink and make a test print
or put it away wrapped in clean dry tissue

FAQ’s

What is Photopolymer/Solar Plate and how does it work?

Photopolymer is a simple and versatile process to create either relief or ‘intaglio’ (tonal etched) printing plates using UV light and a variety of natural, photographic or found/collage materials. In these sessions we will be showing you how to make a tonal intaglio plate that displays a wide range of line, tones and textures. You can also do a more simple black and white photopolymer plate to achieve an effect like a relief woodcut. We will demonstrate both processes.

How do I make a printing plate that displays tones and textures?
How big should my drawing or design be?

You may need to create your artwork (photo, collage or drawing) and then copy or laser-print it here onto transparent acetate film that will be contact-printed onto your plate. Your final artwork will be a ‘positive’ the same size as the finished print.

Can I make a plate from a photograph?

Yes! Photopolymer is excellent for making a print from a black and white photo image as long as it has a good range of line, tone and reasonable contrast. If you plan to use a photograph we suggest you just bring it on a memory stick or your phone so we can help you print it out on your acetate at the right size and resolution. If you have already chosen your image you can also email it to us beforehand so we can check how it will print. Alternatively if it is an old traditional (pre-digital) photo you can bring the print in and we will show you how to scan it to get good results.

What about a drawing?

If you prefer to make a drawing then you may want to use the wide range of art materials we have here and draw straight onto a smooth or textured piece of film so you get the best possible image quality to reproduce. You can resize any pre-made drawing in the session using our scanner/copier, or you can make your design here in the session using the art and collage materials which we will provide. If you are not sure how much to prepare before the session then please just call or email us and we will help you decide.

It may be best just to bring some sketches and work on a final image once you have seen a quick demo of the process!

What creates the different tones on my print?
Is it like making an etching?

Tonal photopolymer is similar to applying an ‘aquatint’ to a metal plate in traditional etching. You will first of all put a tone onto your plate before applying your drawing or design. With photopolymer plates this is done using a sheet of film covered in tiny random dots. (We call this a ‘tonal screen’.) Once you have exposed the plate with the tonal screen you will then expose it again using your artwork. This will combine your drawn or photographed image with the pre-exposed tones to create a very sensitive plate suitable for inking and printing on a traditional etching press.

What should I bring with me?

Artwork and art materials
If you want to use a photo please bring either a good print or better still the digital image on memory stick or phone. If you want to use found natural materials (plant forms, scraps of lace or other fabrics etc) to make collages or shadowgrams please bring a election with you. We will also have some collage materials you can experiment with. If you want to develop a tonal drawing we suggest you bring some preliminary studies plus any drawing media you like working with. We can then help you scan or copy the finished drawing onto laser acetate at the right size. If you are happy to experiment we will have a range of inks, pens, crayons and papers you can use.

Protective clothing
Photopolymer is a very simple process involving only UV light and water. There are no toxic chemicals or sticky resists involved in making your plates. It is one of the safest and cleanest processes of platemaking known. However the plates made are usually used to print intaglio as with traditional metal plate etching and this of course involves very sticky pigmented inks which can spoil clothing and may require detergent or oil-based thinners and cleaning agents. It is advisable to come wearing clothing that can cope with a few stains and smears, or to have a protective overall or apron for the printing part of the day! Also the Printworks workshop is a working environment with a certain level of dust and rough working surfaces so please don’t wear Sunday Best!. We do have a selection of characterful (if sometimes grubby) aprons that you can borrow.

 

 

Members pages

Wivenhoe Printworks has been started by a small core group of people who want to set up a printmaking facility here and who are committed to developing this as a community resource which will draw in a wide range of people with an interest in print.

Members contribute a subscription to help get the project started an keep it running: rent of the space, heating, running costs, insurance, legal fees etc. To kickstart the project we agreed to put in £400 a year each (or an equivalent monthly). As we get more core members and start to bring in additional income from ad hoc booking, short courses or through occasional sale of works we will be able to start channeling more of these funds into improving the facilities and running more courses.

During the current Coronavirus situation all our courses and public activities are suspended until further notice. Please use the Contact page and add your details to our mailing list so we can keep you informed of any new developments.

If you would like to find out more please contact Natalie Eldred (Promotion), Eliza Kentridge (Co-ordinator), Jean McNeil (Treasurer) or John Wallett (Chair) by emailing info@wivenhoeprint.works