A few days ago, I saw the amazing ruler project by @reliablepants which included some really great block printing. I really wanted to try some printmaking myself, but also I’m impatient and didn’t want to wait for a relief printing block to etch in the laser machine. Then I had the idea, intaglio printing!
Intaglio is a style of printmaking where lines are etched into a plate, ink is buffed into the plate and remains only in the lines, then paper is put on top of the plate, a thick wool pad on top of that, and the whole thing is run through a special high pressure press. During pressing, the paper is squeezed into the etched lines and picks up the ink. Because material only needs to be removed where you want a line, if I did intaglio printing on acrylic, I wouldn’t have to wait for the entire plate to etch, just vector-score where my design was!
So I made this little linear design:
And then I etched it out of acrylic. In this photograph you can see my printing plate, as well as a test plate I did to try out various settings:
This is where things went completely haywire. Have you ever read a recipe review online, and it goes something like this: “This Hummus recipe came out awful! Well, I didn’t have any chickpeas, so I substituted peanuts; and I didn’t have any olive oil, so I used bacon fat; and I didn’t have any tahini so I substituted ranch dressing. Also I used Mountain Dew instead of lemon juice. It tasted horrible! 1 star worst hummus ever!!” That’s pretty much my printmaking approach.
You see I don’t have an etching press. Or the special felt blanket. Or printmaking ink. Or the special ink buffing cloth. Or the right paper. Or basically anything else you’d need to do this.
So first I tried black acrylic hobby paint. Didn’t work at all, as it dried before I could pull a print. Sadly I surrendered and ran out to the art store and bought some oil based printing ink for $5.
I don’t have the special wool blanket, so I used a piece of fleece underneath a piece of neoprene from an old wetsuit I had.
I applied the ink with a business card like a squeegee to smush it down into the grooves. I didn’t have the special ink buffing cloth, so I used an old pair of undies. Really. I’ll spare you a picture.
I also don’t have an etching printing press. But an etching press is really just two pieces of wood, and a wheel that rolls over your print while applying a bunch of downward pressure. I’ve got something basically like that:
So there ya have it. Smear your acrylic plate with ink, buff most of it off with your underwears, dampen your paper with water, slap it between two boards layered with some old clothes and sports equipment, and run it over with your car. Congratulations you have made an art!
For settings I found the proofgrade draft score worked pretty good but was maybe a bit too deep. I eventually settled on s300/p25 but I do think there is room for improvement. This photo also shows the water-based printmaking ink I also purchased, which beaded up on the acrylic in a weird way… oil-based was better.
If any glowforger out there has actual printmaking equipment and/or actual printmaking skills, I’d love to see what you can come up with!
With some real Akua intaglio ink, good quality stonehenge paper, and using a vacuum bag as a press, the prints are coming out really well.