Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 3: Newsprint proofs/deadproofs

 I'm beginning to take on my duties as a press assistant. Today I sponged for a demo and for one of the students as they worked on their own projects. As my hands were full most of the day, my notes are somewhat limited. Hopefully I'll be able to supplement with some photographs soon.

Press Setup

Choose a scraper bar the width of the plate or just a little less. Tamarind sometimes uses the plastic beveled bars without a strap, but students should use a strap to minimize damage to the bevel edge of the bar.

After centering the plate (on some kind of backing, like a slate or aluminum slab to elevate it off the press bed and ensure proper pressure) mark the travel with tape for a hand press and magnets for an electric press. A start and end mark should be placed on the press bed, with a base mark affixed to the press frame. The scraper bar should hit within the plate borders but not on the image. Set the pressure with two newsprints and a tympan on the plate to be accurate. Lower pressure bar, tighten to kiss empression (first contact with the plate surface). Raise pressure bar, turn an additional 1/4-1/3 turn. Place a magnet on the press bed to keep the tympan from sliding down when you rest it against the pressure head. Gather your materials:

gum arabic
shop mix
crayon black
leather roller
ink knife
newsprints for proofing
one bowl of cold water, one empty bowl for wringing
gum sponge
water sponge(s)

Newsprint proofs

Replace the gum film, buffing in a new film tightly with cheesecloth. Wash out the image with lithotine. Buff in aspaltum, wash out the gum. Roll up until black, pull one newsprint proof. Continue pulling proofs until you have the ink film quality the way you want it. Be sure to record your printing order.

Printing order goes something like this at Tamarind, although you can certainly develop your own style.

Snap+ - a snap is the first pass of ink. after pulling an impression, the snap should be done immediately to protect the image from the sponge water. after a snap is done, you can inspect your prints or preform other tasks. make sure you or your sponger keeps the plate wet.

passes- depending on the image quality and desired ink film, you may make several passes in addition to the snap.

charge- for each pass, charge fresh ink with eight rolls on the slab, charge the plate with eight rolls as well. 

Snap + (1,2,3,4,5....)
Charge slab (8 rolls)
Charge plate (8 rolls)
Repeat the charge for ever pass in addition to the snap, then pull the impression. 

a small to medium bead of ink (the amount you take up on your knife before spreading on the slab) can only cover a certain amount of sheets, depending on the paper and image. determine this limit, then replace the bead every time you reach the sheet capacity for the bead. (if the capacity is 2, replace the bead ever 2 prints. roll onto the slab with eight rolls)


After pulling newsprint proofs, you can begin deadproofing. this means printing on the backs of reject prints and proofs. this process helps to further develop the image and the printer's rhythm and process, and also allows the printer to consider different paper types and make a selection that fits the image and printing concerns of each plate. 
(deadproofs generally have a corner torn off to indicate that the print is not viable for sale. in an industry where you're basically printing money, making exact reproductions of fine art, every impression has value unless marked in this way. without marking the rejects, the value of the final edition is decreased by these other impression floating around. it's very serious business in the world of fine art printing)

At Tamarind, they stress standardization and consistency in every aspect of the process. keeping count of your rolls and passes is extremely important. also, this facilitates a more efficient and faster process. time is money. 


I sponged today for the first time, and the horror stories are true. they're just as picky about their spongers as everyone says they are. i was shown several almost imperceptible sponge streaks in prints that were pulled, and was cheerfully informed that in the world of contract printing, sponge streaks are rejects. this costs everyone a lot of money, so the sponger must be extremely meticulous and consistent as well. every aspect of the process is dissected and examined in the most minute detail. being meticulous, methodical and anal will get you far in the industry. 

a few cool tricks

*when editioning, every 20 impressions or so, cover the plate with gum and massage it in. Wash it off before it dries, taking care to remove it all. this cleans the plate, removes impurities and further stabilizes the plate.

*before you start proofing, pull some newsprint proofs, then close the plate and reopen it to start proofing on good paper. the more times you open and close the plate, the more stable the image becomes. 

*to take a break, either for lunch, overnight, or even over the weekend, without having to close the plate (this requires another washout and roll up, which is time consuming) you can put the plate into a loose gum holding film. Roll the plate up 2/3 of the way to full, sponge wet, apply gum arabic and massage in with a sponge. smooth the film down, do not buff, and with a barely damp sponge, smooth out any ridges or lines. dry immediately with a fan. 

*when sponging between passes, a little wetter is good. right before dropping the paper, sponge the plate rather dry. flex the sponge outward in your hand to minimize contact with the edges of the sponge, which can drag water in streaks, lightly float the sponge across the surface with quick sweeps, pulling up and the end to minimize an end mark. the goal is a very slight, very smooth water film, streaks WILL show up in the print, i've seen them myself!

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