I think we can all agree that the digital age has ushered in an era of unparalleled access to image making. There is a Photoshop plug in for nearly every look that Hollywood and pop culture has thrown at us. I do have to admit, though I like the “Thermopylae” setting in OnOne Software’s Photo Tools plug in for Photoshop.
Digital imaging has made available to the masses whole worlds that were previously the domain of only a select few. Almost anybody these days can go out and make a Baraka, or shoot models and have them look like they where shot by David LaChapelle. It’s incredible
Sometimes though, I feel like I’m cheating. I feel that at some point I lose the connection with my work. I know some of you out there feel the same way. You feel like there is a lack of process. There is no darkroom. There is no light sensitive emulsion or concoction of chemicals with fussy temperatures and rituals of submersion and agitation. At some point it’s just an automated parade of 1’s and 0’s.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, you’ve come to the right place. There are several movements afoot that put process back in the hands of the digital image maker. Pioneers of Alternative Photo Process such as Dan Burkholder and Christopher James have written tomes about coating substrates with various light sensitive emulsions and exposing them through digital negatives.
There are others, such as myself, who’s approach lends itself more towards the printmaking end of the spectrum. Class, this shall be the main point of our discussion today.
I’m sure there are a few of you out there who did Polaroid Transfers back in the day. There are probably even a few that have experimented with various transfer techniques using inkjet media, transferring with acetone or gel medium. So, how many of you have heard of using Purell Hand Sanitizing Gel to facilitate image transfer? I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I’m absolutely serious. See Exhibit A.
So, I guess your wondering how its done. Well, it goes something like this.
1. You need to print the image (reversed or rotated horizontally) on to some kind of clear film. I typically print on HP Clear Film. If you don’t have a printer that accepts rolls, your options shrink substantially, but don’t despair. InkPress recently introduced a Clear Film (not to be confused with Transparency Media, Transparency Media will not work for these kinds of transfer processes) that is available in sheets and rolls.
2. You need to pick a substrate. I find that printmaking papers such as Arches 88 or Rives BFK work the best. However, I do like to experiment with various fine art papers.
For this exercise I’ll assume you have chosen a print making paper such as Rives BFK. You will need a few more items, also.
A. Purell hand Gel
B. 11×14 piece of glass, lexan, or plexi
C. a Brayer (Speedball Hard Rubber works the best for me)
3. Place your paper on your piece of glass, lexan, or plexi.
4. Pump a few squirts of Purell Hand Gel onto the paper. Use the brayer to spread it around, eventually coating that entire side.
5. Flip the paper, if you have excess Purell on the edges use the brayer to work the excess back onto the paper. Pump a couple more squirts on to the paper and work it evenly with the brayer.
6. Flip the paper over again. Make sure the paper is evenly coated with Purell, but not to wet. At this point you are are ready to apply the image, usually I start at the edge, (printed side facing the paper) bowing the image away from my body. Slowly roll the image out to ensure there is even contact between the image and the paper. Then take the brayer, applying a moderate amount of force, roll it back and forth across all areas of the image. You can stop and lift a corner to see how the transfer is progressing. If your having a problem spot, you can use the backside of a spoon to burnish that area. It shouldn’t take more then 3 minutes to obtain a decent transfer. This is all about practice and developing technique.
This is pretty cool right? But wait, there’s more! This is all pretty simple, and cool because it is a legitimate process that ensures a unique result. For me though, it’s not always enough. Sometimes I like to take something sharp and scratch the hell out of the image before I transfer it. You get the idea here, the image can be modified, degraded, etc. numerous ways prior to transfer.
Sometimes this still isn’t enough. That is why I’ve saved the best for last. How many of you have heard of a little company called InkAid? InkAid makes inkjet precoats. This means that you buy a jar of this stuff and it will allow you to coat almost anything you can fit into your printer. I’ve coated aluminum, canvas, and hand made fine art papers with this stuff and then run it through my printer (Canon iPF6200) with amazing results (which will be the topic of a coming blog entry). Anyway, turns out you can coat acetate or in this case Duralar with it. Specifically InkAid Clear Gloss Type II. All you do is paint on a couple of coats as per the instructions, and then print on it like any other clear film. The results are interesting, and as you become more proficient, you can achieve more interesting effects based on how you paint the precoat on. Not to mention the Duralar can be re-used. Below is my example.
As you can see there is a whole world of possibilities that exist when you combine digital imaging with basic print making techniques. I can assure you that this is just the tip of the ice berg. It is possible not only to re-connect with your photography, but to take it to levels you never knew existed.