Transparent Inks

To achieve the effect that I want in my printmaking, I will need to learn to control all aspects of the ink. Opacity is a huge factor, turning ink from a solid layer that obliterates any color beneath it to a transparent layer that interacts with the layers beneath it. The amount of opacity can be controlled.

[the components of a transparent ink]
The magical ingredient that I used is that buttery-looking Tint Base. It increases the volume of ink without increasing the viscosity. This basically takes the pigment and stretches it out over a larger area, reducing its coverage and increasing the transparency.
The other ingredient shown here is Burnt Plate Oil #3. Straight litho ink is too tacky to use with soaked paper. Since I don’t have a press yet, I’m soaking the paper to soften the surface and get good ink coverage with less pressure. The soft paper surface tears if I don’t thin the ink with plate oil.
[transparent magenta]
Here, you can see through the ink to get a feel for how transparent it is. Ordinarily, I cannot see through my rolled out ink at all.
[overview of the inking slab]
Here you can see the movement of ink from the tin to the roller. I use a clean palette knife to pull ink from the tin. Then, I would ideally have a separate knife for each roller. I use the second knife to pull ink from the “pure” pool, being careful to never let mixing reach the first knife in case I need to pull more ink from the tin. In that second row of ink blobs, I’m mixing in my modifiers and blending colors.
[geometric blocks]
For this exercise, I used one of my favorite types of math to generate non-repeating geometric shapes. I wanted large areas of positive and negative space so that overlapping ink colors would be easy to assess.
[some test prints]
I had some snafus with ink coverage, mostly because I kind of need to over-ink in order to compensate for the lack of a press. This leads to the third plate sliding around when I applied pressure. You can see the results in the lower right. The magenta plate slipped, leading to bad registration and a blurry edge on the shapes.
Right now I’m registering these blocks by hand. Soon I’ll be designing and testing a registration jig to take the guess work out of it and prepare for larger, more complex blocks.