Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Solar Printing and Silkscreen Exposure Unit

There has been a thread going in the Baren Forum regarding solar printing and UV exposure. I decided to post a few pictures of an exposure unit I set up...

Contact Frame made using a hinged frame with black craft foam backing to press glass tight. This wore out quickly, I highly recommend getting a contact frame for this if you're serious about doing it a lot, try ebay.

Went to Target and bought a $12 wire shelf set up for 3 shelves. bottom shelf is about 2 inches from table top. The top shelf is set so that the lamps that will be hung using tie straps are about 14" from the frame. Yes I did remove the glass from the lamps. This system worked great but you must take care of safety!!!

Please click these pictures to open them for a better view. Your safety is important. Use your back arrow to return to this page.

You see this setup? Notice the industrial UV vision protection, do go to the hardware store and invest a few dollars in a pair, your eyes as an artist are your most valuable tools...I have a timer that automatically shut the lights off at the end; you can get one at Adorama for $150 or you can get one for about $10 from ebay like I did. I did end up timing some of my exposures longer than a minute and used a kitchen timer. I simply stayed in the room and hit the powerstrip toggle the second the buzzer went of. The reason my exposure times took longer was because I kept my lights so far from the contact frame. This prevented the melting of the solar plates but the long time in the heat still melted my aquatint screen.

OK now how to hang out with your lights without getting sunburn by the uv rays...easy I made a case from black foam core that drops down over the top. I cut a little door hinged with duct tape in the front and a cut a hole in the back for a small fan to suck out the heat. I used little blocks of wood to hold the case up off the table about an inch for ventilation. Close the door when before turning on the lights or you will get sunburned!

It is possible to set this system up, it does take some trial and error to get your timing right. You should make sure to ventilate things well. In addition to the little fan in the back I use a little clip on fan to push air at the bottom crack.

I kept the room dark enough to use during daylight as well by putting black foamcore in the window. I used a 40W yellow bug lite to adiquately light the room without exposing the plates. I did a lot of internet research on this settup as my online college classes had us spending a fortune on specialized products. I found in my research that many of those special products were discovered by artists using regular household stuff...I also use this set up for exposing silkscreens.
Some of Patti’s research on Halogen Exposure Units
8. Halogen Bulbs can be used and there is no complication of reduced light emission after a set amount of time. It simply burns out.
a. both photo-flood and halogen bulbs can be used immediately, there is no need for warm up. Also both are best as 500 Watt bulbs used in pairs or fours.
9. Mercury and Metal Halide Bulbs provide true and intense light.
a. both need at least 5 minutes to warm up to their true intensity before using for exposure of photo-polymer plate.
b. you should protect your eyes from extreme light.
c. need a shutter box set up since light must remain on between turning on and exposing of plate to various screens and transparencies.
1) 1996, Dove article on how to make an Exposure Unit Box, Printmaking Today.
My UV setup is simple and inexpensive. For the Imagon plates I use two 500-watt halogen worklights suspended about 14 inches above the plate. My average exposure time is about two minutes using a halftone laser positive. For the solar plates, I use 4 black light bulbs (BLB) suspended about 6-8 inches above the plate. My average exposure time is about 3-5 minutes with a laser halftone. Both plates are developed using a tray of water (for solar plate) and water with soda ash (for Imagon). The plates are then re-exposed to UV light for about 3-5 minutes to harden the plate

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Life Outside the Studio Window

I've started a new blog: Life Outside the Studio Window at

It's all about the distractions that slow the making art. Of course it may just become one of those distractions...It's mostly about the backyard outside my deck studio. I try to make art out there but am so easily distracted by the goings on in the back yard full of wild bunnies, chickens, an irascible goose, occasional hungry hawks, migrating ducks and other wild birds that visit my feeders, creek and birdbath.

I hope others are as joyfully distracted by this blog as I am by the environment that inspired it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An April Fool

Here's the 1st proof of the Keyline block of The Fool. Very appropriate for April Fool's Day don't you think? I will print 5-6 more of these on very thin calligraphy paper from Japan. Since the paper is designed for brush and ink it doesn't bleed and since it's thin when I glue the image face down to other blocks I will be able to still see the image from behind. I will then carve through the paper into the blocks for the various colors I will be using. I believe I will have one block for green, one for yellow, one for red and brown and one for blue. The extras will be in case I find I need more blocks as the much of the keyline block that I printed this proof from will soon be cleared so there is nothing but thin line art. This is because this block will be black. I left the background here for the transfer prints because the back ground will come from much of the green and blue blocks.I also printed The Magician proof. I will use the same process to create transfer prints. The blocks will most likely be: 1-blue, 1-yellow, 1-red, 1-brown, 1 royal blue & violet.

I have started carving the keyline for The Priestess. I'm really pleased with how she is turning out. I wish I could say the same for the Bee Tessellations...

I thought my rough proofing was the reason for the halo in my first proof but as I print with various papers I find that I still get a halo effect. I've printed aligned the plates to every edge and found that on one edge the yellow and black align perfect but the violet or blue doesn't align no matter what side I align all the edges to. This indicates to me that the violet plate is not square.

This little halo becomes a big problem when I try to print to handmade paper with 4 deckled (uneven) edges. Trimmed edges will eliminate the specialness of using hand made paper, I knew there would be some misalignment because of my paper choice but anticipated it being minor because I assumed that contracting professional engravers would give me plates of cleaner perfection than I could do...If I had done these plates myself they would have been square and I would be $100 richer. Beings I'm out of work $100 is that extra pigment brush, yellow ink and trans medium I need but can't buy right now. You know the old say if you want something done right...but

All that may be moot if I don't figure out what is making patchy areas when I use the paper for the cards with these plates. I've got some of the paper dampened; I'll try it and see if that will give me even pigmentation, if that doesn't work I'll try hand burnishing rather than using the press.

All in all of I can't get the copper relief plates to work I'll simply have to do wood plates. I wonder if cherry will hold up for 800 prints...I bet so, the Japanese used cherry for centuries to print advertising leaflets so I'm sure it will work. I'll check with the expert bareners at