Sunday, March 07, 2010

Gocco prints on acetate

I had a lovely time on Friday afternoon printing these using a screen made with my gocco machine and taking photos of the process to show you all. I didn't realize that it was all a waste because of the ink I was using...but I'll explain that later.

For those of you unfamiliar with a gocco, this is what one looks like. It's a Japanese crafters tool which allows you to create screens for printing, in a process closely related to silk screen printmaking.

I bought my machine probably 18 months ago, enticed by the fact that you can print both on paper and on clay (using different inks). I only recently got around to testing it out, and this page for "Judy and the Jacarandah" is my first use of the gocco for a project.

The pages are wet media acetate, and herein lies some of the issues I've been experiencing. The printing process required a bit of refinement and a move to "off-contact" printing. If you've done screen printing, you'll know that this means that when you pull the ink across the screen, the screen doesn't actually lie on your paper or whatever substrate you are printing on, it sits above it, and then snaps back up into place after the squeegee passes over. Working with acetate also requires this, because otherwise when you lift the screen off the acetate, the screen pulls up most of the ink that you have just applied.

The gocco site in Australia, has loads of information and I soon worked out what the problem was and set up a printing "station" as suggested. Below you can see the white foam core guide I've glued to some strawboard for the acetate and the blue non-slip mat to stop the screen from moving. I also used some double sided tape to hold the acetate down and stop it sticking to the screen.

Below is the screen in place over the acetate. You can see it is sitting about 5mm off the surface. I've taped a border of foam core around the frame to achieve this height.
Here you can see the ink I used and the gocco squeegee. I mixed the brown using my new Akua Kolor inks and the Akua intaglio transparent base to achieve the desired consistency. I decided to use this ink because it is non-toxic and clears up in water, but stays open for ages and wouldn't clog the screen. I was really happy with the way it printed, and if this project had been on paper, there would have been no problems.

I finished about half the print run on Friday and was feeling pretty pleased with the result. Then I re-read the Akua ink user guide and saw this:

"Akua Intaglio ink does not contain dryers. These inks dry by absorption unlike other inks which dry by evaporation....Glossy or coated papers are not recommended for use with this ink."

So now I am concerned that these pages may never dry!! Certainly they haven't had much hope these past 3 days with the rain pouring down and the humidity through the roof. Ah well, I guess I can consider it printing practice. If anyone has any suggestions or knows whether these prints will dry, please drop me a line.

Postscript Wed March 10th

Thought I should add that I emailed Susan Rostrow who developed the Akua inks to see what she thought about using the inks on acetate. She answered very quickly and confirmed my fears. She offered a few suggestions and I thought I would share them with you. I've cut and pasted her thoughts below:

Akua inks are formulated not to dry on plastic so printmakers have endless time for creating the image on the plate. I don't think a fixative would actually dry the inks. I have 3 suggestions:

  1. You could try several coats of an acrylic spray. It would form a skin on top of the ink. You would still need to handle the print on acetate very carefully.
  2. Apply a light sprinkle of baby powder or corn starch to dry the ink on the acetate. However, the white powder would sit on top of the ink and change the color. You would still need to handle the print on acetate very carefully.
  3. Sandwich another acetate sheet on the side where the ink lies. This would offer protection from rubbing off.

The "sandwich" works well, but I'm still deciding between this and re-doing the print with some other inks, seeing this is to go in an artists book and will therefore be handled. I should finish this post by saying that the Akua worked beautifully with the gocco screen, and if you are printing on paper, it's an excellent non-toxic choice.


  1. Hi Amanda. Thanks for taking the time to comment @ my blog.. I love reading yours as its so informative & also to look at your lovely work of course...cheers karen

  2. Hi Amanda
    I have been enjoying reading through, your more recent blog posts - catching up with your artistic exploits................coincidentally I am just about to do some solar plate for the first time also.
    Not been posting to my own blog lately although I have been working -- it will come soon --- when I am ready. Lots of things are looking good here.

    Love what you are planning to do where using text in your artwork is concerned . It's something that I also didn't rush into, as it needed to be clear to me, in a sense - what purpose ( so to speak) it performed as an element in my artwork.

    That was a few years back. Now I dont worry about it so much and it just seems "right' in certain works and that's fine.

    I also have a print workshop I use about 10 minutes up the road and yes its great isn't it !!

    Take good care of yourself


  3. That's quite a process but I would imagine an enjoyable one once you get in the swing of things. The only experience that I have had with any type of printing is back in high school when we did some screen printing, so your process and techniques are all new to me.

    Hope that your prints ended up drying after trying the sandwich of acetate.

  4. Wet media acetate is so much fun...if the result dries. I take it these never dried? Hmm... Still, I guess it was a good learning experience.

    I got a Gocco about 15 years ago, but haven't used it in a long time. I keep thinking I should dust it off. I'll be careful if I print on acetate though!

  5. Do you know, they have dried! I kept them and just stowed them away (I have real trouble throwing anything away) and after your post on wet media acetate I dug one out and tried folding it - perfect! IT's brilliant stuff, isn't it! Have you used any other media on it other than the paste?

  6. Hi Amanda,

    I think people like us (speaking for myself here) probably don't need extra positive reinforcement not to throw out anything, but isn't it great you kept them! I'm so glad to hear they dried.

    I haven't yet tried anything else with the acetate aside from paste painting. We'll see... I'll be curious what else you do with it.