I have been print a bit (and trying to print a bit more) using polyester lithography, or poly litho. Some lessons learned (beyondthe basic process):
- start with a good plate! I don’t know the sources of the plates I have, so no recommendations yet. But if you are struggling, and you have a new brand of plate, you may be wasting your time: not all poly litho plates are equal!
- keep your plates and your hands (or gloves if you use them) very clean! Once a plate gets greasy & picks up ink where it should not, it will be hard to clean! It may be best to cut your losses and start over: thorough cleaning will likely remove some or all of your image!
- keep it simple until you know you have good plate material and understand your wetting solution, etc. (hint: using multiple media types for your drawing is not keeping it simple)
- using china marker and other greasy media to create your image requires more care if you want clean prints: they may smear, generate fingerprints, etc.
- “permanent” markers aren’t. I find they don’t stand up well to plate cleaning. And they vary by color and manufacturer.
- editions are best run all at once, so start first thing in the morning!
- if the ink seems to be building up a little after several prints, run a cleaning print directly on to damp newsprint before the next inking.
- remember you probably need to “charge” your plate: lots of inking for the first 2 prints, and those may be discards (or a good basis of further work).
- it takes longer to “charge” some materials: ballpoint does not seem to require much or any charging, if you ink the plate very thoroughly for the first print.
- mixing materials makes charging & inking trickier. Ballpoint picks up the ink so well, but laser toner needs more work, as does sharpie. The contrast is not always desirable.
- Ballpoint makes very clear distinct lines that don’t result in much bridging. It is useful to know this if you are trying to work back in to an existing plate done with laser toner or other materials: the ballpoint lines will stand out distinctly on your prints unless you work to integrate it.
- Ballpoint pen is my current favorite: it is durable, needs little charging, and is OK to draw with (I don’t like drawing with sharpies!).
- Heat your prepared plate before using: this won’t hurt and may help set the image. I generally use a hairdrier on high for 2-3 minutes holding if very close and moving it slowly around the plate (don’t do this on a glass surface!!).
- A smoother paper will display fine lines & detail better (Duh!) I am liking Arches 88 silkscreen paper at the moment!
- It may be helpful to use a larger thin plexi plate on the press bed under your poly plate: this will help you set the press pressure. Use one the same size if you want a platemark…
- And if you are a multimedia artist, you can always tranform those printing failures into artistic successes somehow!
These are two different prints from a new laser copier plate, not yet fully charged. Note the unevenness of the inking! I printed over the poly litho prints with a transparent water based ink rolled very thinly on a plexi plate. Tthe ballpoint pen lines stand out clearly visible & different: I added rather too quickly to the laser copy plate. I will need to do more work to integrate them with the piece and make it work!