Monday, April 18, 2016

Using a Laser Engraver to Make Printing Plates

I recently read a post from one of my favorite art teachers, Cathy Hunt, from iPadArtRoom.  She posted about using a laser cutter to etch into plexiglass to create plates for printmaking. She gave lot's of tips and tricks as she starts to explore this idea with her students.  I can't wait to see what her classes create... it was fun to see her 'experiment' prints. I took an AOE (The Art of Education) Studio class earlier this year and tried a similar process when the assignment was linoleum prints.  I created several prints for this assignment but one of my favorites was when I asked my husband to give me a hand using his laser printer in his Technology Education shop for his Middle School Students. 

Rather than using plexiglass I lasered a wood block.  I did two... burning the positive on one side of the block and the negative on the other.  I sealed the wood with some painting varnish.  It made the block nice and crisp and allowed the ink to release. 

I experimented many times with dry paper, damp paper, and different weights of paper.  I found that the positive blocks were OK at best. I would have cut around the excess if I wanted to get a clean print (as shown in the image above).  To tell you the truth... I didn't mind the ink smudges, but I know that is a 'no-no' in printmaking.  Clean and crisp is desired unless it's a plate tone. 

So then I tried the negative.  I thought it would work a bit like a lithograph.  The engraved spaced collecting the ink and the paper picking it up.  It didn't at all.  The negative spaces turned out clean and the plate is what printed.  It took some practices again to find a good solution.  The first prints were dry paper and that didn't work well.  The second was a wet page but it didn't pick up the ink the way I wanted.  I switched to a very lightweight, almost rice paper weight.  To protect the paper when pressing it onto the plate I gave it a blanket of fabric.  This worked really well. I liked the result and will probably make more prints in this way.

I love that other art teachers, from around the world, are thinking in the same way as myself.  Experimenting with the same technology and it's applications to art. Cathy (and others) keep posting, sharing and experimenting.  We will be stronger and better artist and teachers because of it.

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