Now we are up to Day 3 of the course and a fairly different method of printing. We used the same enamel colors (shown on the left), but changed the medium we were mixing them into. The first medium was very oily (it’s in the clear container all the way to the left in the photo) and didn’t dry, whereas the new medium was white and much thicker – it looked like white school glue to me – and dried incredibly quickly. Since the new medium was thicker to start with, the mixing technique was a slightly different, requiring us to add a few drops of water to thin the enamel mixture at the end. This project would be similar to the last one, only printed onto a single layer of glass. With these last last two projects involving multi-layered imagery on a single sheet of glass, a quicker drying time, without needing to fire in between layers, was necessary.
The first step, as usual, was to prepare the imagery for burning onto the screen. In this project, we were to create a series of 2 to 4 layers of imagery that would be printed in layers, right on top of each other – similar to what you’d have to do if you were screen printing a 3 color T-shirt. I started with the image below on the right, and separated it into 3 layers of color in Photoshop. The three colors from the image that were most important were yellow, red, and blue, so those were the three areas that I separated my image into for printing.
Since we were short on prep time, I did a very rough job of my color separation by starting with the same image each time and then using the magic wand and paint bucket tools to paint the image black where I wanted that particular color of enamel to print. Then I went back in and used the paint bucket tool to turn everything white that I didn’t paint black. After I completed the color separations and printed them out onto film, I started to worry that I would lose all of the detail in the final printed multi-layered image and wouldn’t really be able to tell what it was. So I added one last layer by taking a piece of Dura-lar acetate film cut to the proper size and sketched in some details with Sharpie marker that would be printed in black as the last layer.
Once I was done preparing the three color separations and printing them on film, plus preparing the black sketch on acetate, the process was the same as before, get the imagery burned onto the screen and mix up the four colors of enamel for printing. We also had to choose four 6″ square pieces of glass to print on. Since my print was very color rich, I chose very muted colors, white, vanilla, pale green, and pale blue. The idea was to print onto the 4 different sheets of glass all at once, and then choose the best print to fire, cleaning off the other 3 sheets of glass for reuse by someone else in another class.
Because this medium dried so fast, we broke up into pairs, where we acted as assistant for our partner to do the printing. When our partner was complete, we would take our turn as printer and they would act as our assistant. It was the assistant’s job – and a very important job it was indeed – to keep the glass properly oriented so that the screen registration would be correct for each sheet of glass and each color of ink. It was also the assistants job to make sure that there was space to put all four printed sheets of glass while they dried. It took no more than 15 minutes (and maybe much less, but I didn’t time it) to complete all four prints.
Once we had all four pieces of glass cleaned, our enamels mixed and ready to go, and our screen in the printing station, it was a quick process of laying out the enamel ink, flooding the screen, pulling a print, flooding the screen again, letting the assistant pull out the glass and swap a new piece in, and repeat another three times. Clean the screen and squeegee – by which time the enamel is dry, lay out the next color of enamel ink, and print another four times. Repeat the whole process for the next two colors of enamel ink and all four prints are complete. All I had to do then was pick the best print and put it in the kiln and clean off the other three prints.
If you compare the print on the left with the original image I started with, my printed version certainly doesn’t do the original justice. However, given the amount of time I had to create the separations, and the fact the enamel colors don’t blend very much, and the problems I had with the screen coming out of the print station several times which threw the image registration off, along with the point of view that this was just a first experiment, I think it turned out pretty well! I was told by a few of my classmates, who hadn’t seen the original, that it was a really interesting graphic image. And, it turned out that I was right that the black details really did bring the image together well. So, all in all, I was pretty pleased with the end result.
So I have a second possible method for printing red rock tiles now. I could print the multi-layered imagery of the red rock – blue sky, red rock formation, green trees, black halftone – in a similar fashion to printing this lizard image. Once the multi-layered imagery was sinter fired over night, all I would have to do was cap it with a piece of thick clear glass, and I’d be done. The one down-side to that idea is that – at present – there are not very many choices of enamel colors that fire to a high temperature and remain color stable at that temperature. Trying to mix my own colors for the right shades of green and red from what colors are available would take quite a lot of trial and error. Possible, but time consuming. I’ll probably start with the layered block approach where I will have access to the huge range of Bullseye frit colors for my powder printing, unless I find that I’m not getting the results I want.
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