Dahlia Print: Transparent Inks

Yesterday was a big day of learning as I tried to grasp the controlled use of semi-transparent inks to create a greater range of tones in a printed image.

[Best print of the day]
The day began with a mistake that I didn’t realize until I was way into it. I started by mixing the pigmented inks to get my hue, and then started adding tint base and opaque white to get the right coverage. This is exactly the opposite of how we were taught to mix paint in school, and now I remember why. It leads to waste.

[Purple with tint base and plate oil]
Here you can see it starting to go wrong. Notice the wax paper in the background where I’ve started collecting extra ink? Even at this point I still didn’t remember the lesson from oil 101.
[Adding more tint base]
Despite my giant mistake, I was able to make some decent progress and achieve a little color mixing. See the spots in the deep shadows where the medium pink was laid over the deep purple? The layering is starting to show.
[Better coverage in the second ink]
Unfortunately, the day’s work was also plagued with registration issues, which distracted me from focusing completely on the ink study.
[Better layering with a little registration problem]
By the end of the day I had wasted so much ink that I scooped it off into a jar. One day I’ll have a use for a very transparent pastel purple.
[Jar of waste ink]
[Slab shot]
I did take some time out to replace the blade on my radial arm saw and build a new jig for cutting blocks. Each one is now perfectly square and exactly the same size. This should fix the little registration problems and let me focus completely on whatever my next lesson is supposed to be teaching me.
[Perfectly square and measured blocks]
I also has one happy accident where I inked and printed the wrong block, leading to an accidental “pop art” print. I like it! I may use this type of style intentionally in the future.
[Pop art dahlia]
At the end of the day I realized that I am in such a hurry to achieve good results that I’ve skipped a foundational lesson. I’m experimenting with additives as if I’ve already grasped the transparency of my base inks without plate oil, tint base, or opaque white. I have not done this. My next lesson will focus on the pigmented inks with white. I’ll experiment with ink thickness and press settings to see what effects I get. Then I’ll experiment with letting layers dry before adding the next ink. There are so many variables! A million chances to learn, right?

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