Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solarplate: work in progress

Last week I booked half a day in the studio at Impress Printmakers, my first time there to work on my own, rather than attend a workshop.

I spent some hours beforehand preparing more than I thought I would need for the time, as I wanted to make the most of the afternoon there. I took four transparencies of cloud imagery to expose to solarplate using their UV box, as well as plenty of paper, torn to size for testing and printing.

I tested the cloud imagery using a small piece of solarplate and a 1 minute exposure in the box, as recommended. The imagery has been simplified and is now a straightforward relief plate, designed to be printed on an etching press. Below you can see one of the original images and two of the plates.

The test worked perfectly first try so I was able to expose all four plates. Next step is to wash the plates in water using a soft brush to gently remove the parts of the plate that have not hardened. With an intaglio plate this is not a long process, but with relief you remove the polymer down to the metal plate (the grey areas you can see above). All that scrubbing took a while, and after two plates I only had about forty minutes left till I had to leave. It's quite possible to delay this stage, so I put the unfinished plates into a black plastic bag to protect them from the light, and left them to clean up at home.

This gave me a chance to quickly ink up one of the finished plates and test out the ink and the press, which were both new to me. The ink I chose from the studio supply was a Heidelberg relief ink which washes up in water. I didn't really enjoy working with it, and although I did love the colour (prussian blue) I wouldn't say it's a great ink for a beginner, like myself.

That was as far as I got at Impress, but on Saturday at home I was able to test out two plates using the pasta press. The relief ink I've been working with here is made using the Georgian block printing medium which is coloured by adding ink paint. I actually find this really nice to work with, and I love the almost chalky-look of the ink when printed. Despite it being oil-based, I don't find it's hard to clean up. I use vegetable oil followed by soap and water.

So below are the first impressions from two of the plates, and I am pretty happy with the results so far.

Below: detail


  1. I've still not managed to find the time to do anything with my solar plates, nor have I tried out the Georgian relief medium you mention but I will... once I get the accounts out of the way! I love your cloud prints, particularly the embossed effect of the polymer plate. Sara

  2. Thanks Sara! That raised or embossed effect has been part of my visual language in ceramics for a long time, so I'm happy to be able to continue it with paper.

  3. I love the embossed effect too, it looks fantastic on the paper. Looks like your afternoon in the studio was quite productive.

  4. I too love the embossed effect :)
    I have never tried solar plate print making, but from looking at your great results here, I'm very interested.

  5. Really interesting Amanda, so good to watch this process. I too like the embossed effect. KEEP POSTING.

  6. Hi Sonya, Jo and Carol,
    Thanks so much for your interest and comments! Looks like we all like embossing...I certainly will keep posting.