Carving, Inking, & Printing
With four wooden plates and my image printed on them, I am ready to carve. I pull out my wood carving tools and go to town. When carving a wood plate, remove all areas that you don't want seen on the final image. So I am working with what artists call negative space. The positive space are the lines seen on the image and negative is all space around it. I carved around each line that was printed on my plates, very carefully. When carving a wood plate, there is no room for mistakes. I cannot glue pieces of wood back onto the plate or erase a mistaken line as if I was working on paper. Many times, if I make a mistake or my hand slips accidentally removing a piece of wood, my options are to create a little something extra around it or live with it. I just say it adds character to the print!
After I finished carving my wooden plates, which took me what seemed like eternity, I began inking my plates. Now inking up plates take a little bit of planning in regards to how the layering will work with each run through the press. It is always best to start with the lightest color first. I did a quick run of all the plates on some clear acetate to see how the registration of the plates were going to be and to see if I needed to make any adjustments. There did seem to be a few adjustments. I needed to print a couple of the plates about ⅛ inch higher than the rest.
Before inking my plates, I mixed my oil based inks to create the color I desired. My first plate to print was a light sky blue. I used a 4 inch roller to apply the ink to the plate. I started out inking them with just a solid blue, but after a few prints, I decided that I would use a darker blue on the top portion. I mixed my darker blue and put the ink next to the light blue on my table. I then centered my roller between the two colors and dropped the roller into the ink and rolled in a downward motion. I moved the roller up and back till I got just the right consistency on the roller. This is always tricky, but most of the time I can tell how much ink is right by the sound the ink makes as I roll it back and forth on the table. I then roll the ink onto the plate. I never use any kind of pressure when rolling the ink out or on the plate. I rolled the ink until it makes that special sound.
To print this plate, I placed the registration mylar onto the press face up, so that I can see all the marks as to where to place my paper and my plate. Next, I place the wood plate on top of the registration mylar and place my paper on top of the plate. So on the press, from bottom to top is the registration mylar, plate, and paper. Finally, I rolled it through the press and removed the paper and whaaaa la, just like magic, my image is transferred to the paper.
I followed the above process for all 4 of the plates, but for each run through the press, I used the same paper each time, so the first run had light blue on it. Then after the second run, it had blue and green. The third run had blue, green, and orange on it. The fourth run had blue, green, orange, and lastly I added red.
Drum Roll....and the final touches! The zinc plate enters the scene! Inking zinc plates is a slightly different process then rolling ink onto a wood plate. For Zinc, I take a small square of matte board and scoop a tiny amount of ink onto the plate I spread it in all directions until the entire plate is covered in ink. After full coverage, I begin dragging the card on the plate to remove the excess ink. When most of it is removed, I begin wiping the ink off the plate with a cheesecloth very gently until the plate looks like most of the ink is gone. The ink stays in the groves of the plate. In order for the paper to catch the ink in those small groves, the paper needs to be soaked so it is flexible. The fibers of the paper will be smashed into the grooves of the plate to catch the ink when the plate and paper are run through the press.
The zinc plate was the tricky plate. Unfortunately, I had a bit of trouble with registering that plate. I ended up having to run the zinc plate as two separate runs. One with the central area and one with the flower border, so they lined up better. This was a registration error on my part. Luckily, I was able to figure out a way to make it work.
Finally, I present the final art printed on white archival BFK and ready to be framed and hung in a special place, but hopefully close to your heart!