Monday, January 16, 2012

Making “The Great Library”, Part 2

The Inside Continued – Editioning

In last week’s post I had made it as far as a successful proof for the inside of my book object “The Great Library of Alexandria”. You would think that a successful proof would mean that things were sorted, but as soon as I tried to make an edition of the drypoint, I had problems.

As I’ve said before, I’m not experienced in intaglio printmaking, and with a drypoint especially, there is quite a bit of lee-way in how you wipe back the ink. In case you’re not clear, a drypoint works like this.

What is a drypoint exactly? 

drypoint scribes

* you take a plate (traditionally copper, but also used are zinc, perspex, other plastics and even illustration board coated with wood varnish, as I wrote here)

* and a pointed scribe of some sort (even a nail can be used at a pinch)

* and you draw, creating “a burr” or a raised edge on the plate. It is this which catches the ink for printing in addition to the line you have scribed.

Once your image is done, you cover the plate with ink and wipe it back with tarlatan (a coarsely woven fabric traditionally used by printmakers) using circular movements. Working this way forces the ink down into the line and  burr, while removing it from the surface.

When you print a drypoint, you achieve a very particular type of line. One that to me, is very beautiful. It is soft and fuzzy, yet rich and dark. And the burr is essential to that mark.


The Great Library of Alexandria (detail)

You can imagine that the burr is very fragile, even more so with perspex than say copper. So, as I tried to make my edition of about 12, I was wiping very carefully and also trying to replicate the original plate tone, which had contributed so much to the first proof.

After three or four attempts, none of which were usable, I began to realize that my plate might not last the edition. What to do? The plate was quite large, I didn’t want to start from scratch (no pun intended!).

Digital BFK Rives?

I knew that there is now a digital BFK Rives, produced by Canson. I wondered what the paper was really like, and whether it would be possible to reproduce a scan of the artists proof using it. I decided it was worth a try, and then I remembered that a while ago I bought a Canson inkjet paper sample pack. When I checked, there was a sample of the BFK Rives in the pack, so I downloaded the *free ICC profiles from Canson, pressed print and crossed my fingers.

I was actually stunned by the quality. I had expected to feel that it would be a major compromise to work this way, but in the end, it was such a practical solution for me. I love to work with my hands, and a mouse or even a graphics tablet can never be the same to me. Yet, so often I come up against my practical limitations, and am physically unable to create even a small edition like this without exhausting myself. It seems to me that making the original by hand and editioning it digitally is a good compromise.

*Using free ICC Profiles

Free ICC profiles can be downloaded from the websites of the paper manufacturers. If you’ve bought a fine art quality inkjet paper but found the colours hugely different from the colours on your monitor, using the ICC profile may help. I am planning to write a post about what profiles can and can’t do for you, and how to use them in the next month or so.


  1. Another very helpful post, Amanda. I am stumbling around, trying to find a way to reproduce drawings without sacrificing (too much) quality.

  2. Great informative post Amanda. You make the technical and daunting sound possibly achievable. I too love the mood you can achieve with a drypoint work that is just unattainable with other mediums.

    PS: I think I may have told you my exhibition is opening at 10am on Sunday, if you are coming along it is actually at 11am. Otherwise I think the Museum is open from 10-4 each day. Sorry for the mix up in times.

  3. Great, Amanda! Very interesting... I am still trying to wrap my head around the digital stuff, and you're proving very useful! Didn't even know about the special settings... Sara xx

  4. Very interesting Amanda! I very rarely use dry point in my work, but I do like the quality of the line too. I've seen some of that digital print making paper at Sennelier in Paris, but wow, isn't it insanely expensive? It's interesting to get a report on how well it works. Very cool solution!

  5. Great post (as was the last one). The effect of the drypoint is indeed really beautiful. And digitally printed work can indeed be beautiful too. I'm so glad the BFK worked. This turned out to be such a gorgeous edition.

    Thanks for the links to the ICC profiles. And I look forward to your coming post about it. I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions, but if I had any, tackling color management would be high on the list. This is good timing for me!

  6. Thanks again for loads of information and helpful advice - like Sara I had never heard of the colour profiles!

  7. Really wonderful posts, Amanda, so full of fascinating and
    helpful information. Posts to read over and over again.

    It was lovely to meet you at last yesterday, adding another hi light to a great vist to Brisbane.