It turns out that Rheotech gloss gel medium – which I actually use much more often as a clear or tinted glaze, since it’s better at covering odd surfaces than picture varnish is, and it’s more permanent – interacts really badly with printer’s ink. It picks it up and smears it around, making a peculiar hazy grey smudge everywhere.
Whilst it’s an interesting effect, and one I’ll almost certainly want to use some other time, it’s just ruined a collage I was making, so I’m quite annoyed.
I’ve been experimenting today with block printing directly onto fabric, and it’s come out pretty well. I used my cartouche block, with the same printer’s ink (incidentally, using a 1lb tin and a spatula instead of a squeezy metal tube makes things quite a lot easier) and a metal spoon to make sure the ink penetrated right the way through the fabric.
This stuff has proved far too tenacious to wash out of paper once it’s dried in, so I’m hoping it’ll be the same in a normal wash – obviously, I’ll do a test wash first rather than putting it in with my good shirts!
The only problem with the setup I was using is the difficulty of keeping the fabric away from the block once I’ve done the transfer and started to peel it off. The way I set it up was to turn the T-shirt inside out, lay it on my worktable with the label facing down, lift up the top (front) side, and slip the pre-inked block in before letting the fabric down slowly and smoothing it out as I went. That part worked out pretty well, though next time I’ll probably use some artist’s tape to stiffen the fabric around the printing area first.
Another way to do it would be to lay the block down first as normal, then lower the fabric onto it with something inside the garment to stiffen it up and stop the ink from transferring right through. Rubbing it through both layers probably wouldn’t work well, but given that the ink glues the substrate down very effectively it would be extremely easy to turn the T-shirt inside out around the block.
A third way, of course, would be to lay the T-shirt down right-side-out and front-up, and then lower a vinyl block onto it. Whilst I haven’t tried printing this way yet, the vinyl is flexible enough that it should be entirely possible to rub from the back of the plate rather than the back of the substrate.
It did turn out that I could have done with a couple of extra hands when peeling the fabric off the block, but stiffening it up (ideally I’d use a tapestry frame, but finding one large enough to give enough clear space inside but small enough to fit inside a T-shirt and get a decent grip all around might be problematic) should deal with that one too.
Elly (my girlfriend) was watching me do some printing the other day, and asked if she could have a go just as I was thinking about suggesting it. (Especially since I’d just picked up some Ellie Poo paper…) Here’s the results. It’s turned out rather nicely.
I haven’t been posting for a while, because Various Circumstances pretty much entirely took away my creative impulse. It’s getting better now, though, and I’ve been doing some more printmaking. Partly, the impetus for that came from a visit to Falkiner’s, and the discovery of three really nice recycled art papers.
The one in the centre there is Fabriano Ecologica – it’s bright white, with a good middling texture, comes in two grades (Sketching and Drawing – Schizzi, Sketching, is 120gsm, and Drawing is heavier so I left that), and comes in A4 pads of 80 sheets for £6.50, which is a really good bargain for acid free good quality art paper. It’s made entirely of recycled post-consumer materials using renewable energy; the pack quotes “more than 50% of the energy used for producing this paper is hydroelectric”. There’s inevitably going to be some secondary bleaching of the pulp, but still.
The one on the right is Redeem 130, which is a good solid, hard-textured paper with a pleasant parchment-beige tint. It looks like it will be extremely good for computer printing. Pleasantly, it’s also extremely cheap!
The third, which I’ve been wanting to try out for some time, is Ellie Poo paper, which is as the name suggests made from elephant dung. It’s lovely tactile stuff, with small vegetable inclusions and a warm pale beige colour.