Semenoff on Safer (and
Seeking Safer and Easier Printmaking Methods Until the mid 80's, most printmakers were quite content to make do with the processes developed over the last few hundred years. While many complained about the odor of commercial products or the smell of solvents, few realized that some of these chemicals were dangerous if used carelessly over a long period of time.
into safer printmaking started with my concern in the use of hydrocarbon
solvents for screen printing at the printmaking studio at the University
of Saskatchewan. As students hurried to finish projects at the end of
term, the amount of solvent used increased and had nowhere to go in the
tightly sealed buildings designed for subzero weather. Although my main
interest was lithography and the problems in printing grease tusche washes,
I was also concerned about the use of hydrocarbon solvents within this
Less Expensive, Readily Available
of materials and care in using all products is the only way to be safe
to practice any craft or profession. By knowledge I mean to get the true
facts and not listen to some of the scare mongers who seem to find nothing
safe to use. It is important for printmakers to know their materials just
as well as the processes which they employ.
Dry Copier Toner for
of toners will vary with the company manufacturing them and the needs
of the machine; in view of the patents of competing companies. While not
all toners are the same, practically all I have encountered can be used
when one understands their characteristic. Buying fresh toner from a stationary
store can be expensive, but it should be available for free from the many
new companies that refurbish laser printer cartridges.
Types of Toners
To find out
which toner you have, a simple test with hydrocarbon paint thinner will
show you that the toner will slightly fuse or ball-up; designating it
as type B. Type A is very useful to do solvent washes on stone or plate
where you have gummed out an area to keep white. Since there is no oil
or grease in toner, the solvent wash will not darken within the image
because of reaction with the substrate and print as drawn. When toner
is used with water, one must use a surfactant to wet all the particles.
Away From Soap
"Coat of Arms 1," 76 x 56 cm., 1997, waterless lithograph on Stonehenge 300 gsm rag paper. Image was plastic shapes on glass enlarged on to HC negatives. Edition was two Diazo negative plates, the rest used the Kwik-Proof registration for Sumi ink and toner. Printed by my linear offset system on a transfer press, 12 colors, 10 plates.
Closeup of "Summer Storm," 11 x 8 cm. section of Waterless lithograph drawn on the plate in 1990; one month after developing basic process. Image was drawn with toner wash on smooth grained aluminium plate.
"Summer Storm," 40 x 57 cm waterless lithograph on Rives BFK. Dark grey blue Van Son Rubberbase plus ink.
"Medal for Benjamin Jon," 65 x 50 cm waterless lithograph printed in 1994. Fourteen color edition using eight plates on Rising Mirage calendared rag paper. A 4 x 5 inch glass plate with plastic shapes attached was exposed to two HC negatives for the Diazo wipe-on plates. The remaining were drawn with Sumi ink and toner to Kwik-Proof exposed plates for better registration.
"Evans' Sunshine," 56 x 76 cm. waterless lithograph printed in 1994 on Arches 88, 14 colors from nine plates. Image was enlarged plastic shapes unto HC negative film. Two Diazo negative plates used to print the brown and black line image. Blue Kwik-Proof was exposed from the black line negative for registration purposes. The blue background is a toner reverse, while the flat colors were drawn with Sumi ink.
"Blueprint for a Henge," 76 x 56 cm. waterless lithograph printed in 2001 on Rives BFK by my linear offset. Nine colors from nine positive plates, using my own formulation. Image was clear plastic that was scanned and changed to line in Photoshop. Two of the plates were exposed to transparency from an Epson 3000 inkjet printer. Toner washes directly on plate and one line positive drawn on Mylar for exposure.
From "Jacobs' Coat," 71 x 51 cm. waterless lithograph printed in 2001 on Fabriano Rosipina by my linear offset. Image scanned and converted to line in Photoshop, the transparencies printed on an Epson 3000 inkjet. The line image was exposed to my own positive plate formulation. Flat areas were cut from red paper affixed to Mylar for exposure to positive plates, 13 colors, 10 plates with three iridescent pigments applied to still wet ink through stencils. A set of embossing dies were made from heavy card, hardened with epoxy resin, then run through the transfer press.
"Medal for Zackery," 66 x 48 cm waterless lithograph printed in 1998 on Arches Cover mostly by linear offset. I used 24 plates to print 24 colors to test the feasibility of using my positive plate formulation. A 4 x 5 inch glass plate with plastic shapes attached was exposed to two HC negatives. These were used for the line plates and red paper flats on Mylar for the color and texture plates.
washes can be applied over a set image without fear of disturbing any
of it. When used with grease crayons, I suggest that the toner image
be applied and set first because of the possibility of spreading grease
with heat or solvent. Because of the strong bond of plastic to the surface,
a lower pH gum etch can be used for much better desensitization of the
stone or plate. I have found that it is advisable to use vinyl lacquer
after washing out the toner image on stone. The plastic penetrates the
limestone surface and prevents asphaltum from reacting as it should.
A coat of vinyl bonds to the plastic in the limestone and accepts grease
toner in my waterless litho process is very easy - it becomes a delicate
mask to prevent the silicone from contacting the surface. More on that
Toner as Photo Images
I suggest using one of the acrylic floor polishes now available as the Mylar can be reclaimed with diluted household ammonia. Screen printing requires that coarse halftone photopositives are used for graduated tints, but this is unaesthetic for most artists. By using yellow screens above 250 TPI, it is possible to produce reticulated washes that would be mistaken for lithographs. I know, as some of my screen prints have been confused with lithos by experienced lithographic printers. Only the very finest tints are lost in screen-printing due to the very small amount of open area in the stretched fabric.
on Mylar and positive litho plates are a natural choice for many images.
Commercial positive plates are capable of retaining the finest tints
if printed by my waterless process. Photo intaglio methods have changed
with the introduction of many UV sensitive plastics into the media.
Of the ones I have tried, I find Solarplate capable of producing the
For those interested in learning more about this and other of Nik Semenoff's innovations in printmaking, go to his website at: http://homepage.usask.ca/~nis715.
Or, better yet, sign up for Nik's open workshop in June at the University of Saskatchewan. The Canadian prairie is beautiful in late spring! E-mail him at: email@example.com.
the Author, Nik Semenoff
See Nik's new website here: http://www.ndiprintmaking.ca
And his old one here: http://homepage.usask.ca/~nis715
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