Tuesday, June 7, 2011


From the beginning of the project we planned on printing the images with photopolymer plates. But as we drew closer to going to press, we decided to make the images 2 colors. The line art that the students initially made would be the key color (black), and then we would add a second color to provide contrast and make the images pop a bit more. In most cases, the second color was essentially solid fills in certain areas of the image.

One of the problems with using polymer plates with a beginner group is that it tends to make the process of image-making for the press very abstract—they make a picture, the picture goes into the computer, becomes a film, and then they push some buttons on the platemaker and out comes a plate. (We didn’t have the time or resources to allow them to experiment and possibly fail with the plates, so I took care of the digital pre-press and supervised the making of every plate. Which is a shame, because as one of the professors of the class, Carol Neel, said several times, “Learning is making mistakes.”) The “abstraction” of the plate technology tends to eliminate a hands-on engagement with the material aspects of making/printing, and the whole point of this project was to provide a hands-on engagement. But the speed and ease of the plates was also necessary, so what to do? Analog platemaking!

For the second color, instead of making digital films, I had them cut rubylith stencils from print-outs of their final image files. Rubylith is very straightforward and easy to use, but most of them struggled with it—they weren’t used to cutting gently with a Xacto knife (if they had used a Xacto knife at all), and they also weren’t used to thinking in reverse to make the negative (they had to cut away the section where they wanted the second color to be).

[I wish I had picture of this step, but I don’t. My apologies.]

In the end, using the Rubylith was successful, and I think that the students got a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the plates than if we had done it entirely in the computer.

And at that point we were ready to start printing.

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