Viscosity Print

I was asked to drop by the print room on a Friday morning recently as a university marketing film crew was visiting to record activity.  As no one was booked into the etching space I would be welcome to demonstrate an intaglio print for their short film.  I had wanted to print another proof of the ‘Freecom Abstract’ Hard disc with another as yet undecided colour as an alternative to the orange and decided to proceed with this print.

The press was set up, paper put in to soak and the plate inked up when the camera crew arrived. As I was ready to print, they set up and began to record. Camera crews recording my practice has happened a few times since I began my research, and I always hold my tongue and get on with making the print. Aware of what a camera person will want I always am prepared to repeat an action, slow it down or go through it in preparation so they can frame and focus. Before they asked, I removed my covid mask and off we went.

They got some footage and as I offered to print again for any pick-ups, Justin asked if we would like an alternative? A viscosity print? He explained that I should ink up the plate as normal and he would roll out some oil-based ink with the ‘big roller’. What colour shall we use? Blue is said. Viscosity printing is the mixing of relief and intaglio print where the surface of the inglio inked plate  is inked with a hard rubber roller, so that it covers the plate in one pass and only transfers onto the highest areas of the plate. This technique was developed by S W Hayter in the Atelier 17 Print workshop which was ‘known for its collaborative atmosphere, with artists sharing ideas on technique and aesthetics’. So appropriate to the Birmingham School of Art print room with its collaborative and supportive ethos. 

A Further definition: In simultaneous colour viscosity printing, all intended colours are applied together to the plate before printing. This conveniently resolves the problem of a multiple registration process for multiple-colour printing.  The technique relies on the modulation of three factors: the levels of deaths of the incised plate, the varying quantities of oil in adjacent colours of ink and finally, the hardness or softness of the ruler used in the sequential application of inks to the plate. The critical innovation of viscosity printing specifically lies in its exploitation of the tendency of liquids of different floor properties ie thick versus thin to repel each other when applied in proximity. Post Digital Printmaking. P.Catanese & A. Geary 2012.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscosity_printing
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atelier_17
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_William_Hayter