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Innovations in Digital Printmaking

Innovations in Digital Printmaking - Carrier Method: Printing on Thin Paper - A demonstration by Karin Schminke

digital printing

"Orchid"
by Karin Schminke

10" x 8.5" Inkjet Print on Thai Unryu paper
print front (left), print back (right)

The carrier method is ideal for printing on thin surfaces, such as rice paper or Thai Unryu, which either do not feed well through the printer or do not have a surface able to receive a print. Our carrier demonstration uses a polyester sheet to help your desired paper through the printer, then releases the paper easily after printing. If your printer won't recognize a clear material, use matte polyester or simply place white paper under your sheet of clear polyester. After cutting your thin paper to desired size, cut your polyester carrier sheet to fit through your printer's path. (With a large-format printer or other without pizza wheels, you can print over the paper's edges by making the carrier sheet about an inch larger than your thin paper; for a desktop printer with pizza wheels, or to print with the paper's border, cut your paper and carrier sheet to the same size.) Position the paper on the carrier sheet.

"Working with transparent papers often results in interesting prints on the front and back"

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STEP ONE
While holding your thin paper in position with one hand, apply inkAid clear semi-gloss precoat with a sponge brush. The paper will adhere into position quickly. Work outward from your original painted area, brushing a medium thickness of the precoat until the paper is covered. Translucent papers become more transparent as the precoat is brushed on.

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STEP TWO
Let the precoat dry thoroughly. If the carrier sheet itself wants to curl, tape its edges to your table so the thin paper will dry flat.

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STEP THREE
In Photoshop's Page Setup window, type in the top and left margins in the print box to position your print. For large-format printers: Measure the carrier sheet, paper, and margins between the two. Use software controls to position your image over the paper; you may overprint the paper's edges to get a full-bleed image. For desktop printers: If the carrier and paper are not the same size, either trim the carrier to the size of the paper, or remove all precoat from the sheet around the paper with a damp cloth.

With the second option, be aware that ink printed outside the paper will pool on the carrier and may run. With desktop printers, normally you can't print on polyester treated with clear precoat without damaging the print and/or printer, but in this case, the paper area is porous and should work if the precoat isn't so thick that it has a glossy finish.

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STEP FOUR
Place the carrier sheet with the paper still attached into your printer and print. Remove the printed paper from the carrier sheet by peeling it off from one corner.

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TIP
To center your paper on the carrier sheet so that its edges may be overprinted: Cut the carrier sheet, then print directly on it a rectangle the size of the final image you want to print. It should be transparent except for a one-pixel black border to mark its edges. Note print-setup settings so you can use them for the final print. This printed border will be damp and blurry, so mark the corners of the rectangle with tape and then wipe off any excess ink before proceeding.

CREATIVE EXPLORATIONS
Once you've made your first print, flip the paper over, invert the image in your digital file (or choose a complementary image), and repeat the above carrier process to print on the back of the paper. This creates an interesting effect on papers of varying densities and on papers with threads, leaves, and similar components.

Crinkle thin paper after printing and use it as a unique collage material.

Many artists experiment with ironing fabric onto waxed paper. This variation of the carrier method is good for small pieces of fabric that you intend to reuse in a collage. Precoating improves the density of the ink and works well for all fabrics, regardless of the carrier employed. However, precoating does stiffen fabric, so its application is not appropriate where the fabric needs to flow naturally, as in wearables.

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These nine examples of handmade surfaces were prepared using one of the methods -- Base, Carrier, or Support -- that convert unusual materials, such as canvas, rice paper, and plastic, into substrates for inkjet printing.

Please note: Because of the wide variety of inkjet printers on the market, results may vary.
Please see "Digital Art Studio" for technical advice.

Karin at work


About the Author
Karin Schminke began integrating digital technologies into her mixed media fine art over 20 years ago. A pioneer and educator in this developing field, Schminke's exploratory work has helped to define the role digital technologies play in today's art world. Her fine art involves combining photographic, drawing and printmaking techniques with new digital techniques. The outcome is a synthesis of traditions, which results in transformation of all the media involved. Schminke received her MFA from the University of Iowa in 1979, and taught art, design and digital imaging at several colleges and universities until 1994 when she began to focus full time on her art.

She is a founding member of Unique Editions and a member of the digital art collaborative, Digital Atelier along with Dorothy Simpson Krause and Bonny Lhotka. In conjunction with the Unique Edition and Digital Atelier artists, she received a Computerworld Smithsonian award for visionary use of Information Technology for her work in co-organizing and participating in a three week artist-in-residence at the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC.

Schminke has co-authored a book, "Digital Art Studio: Techniques for Combining Inkjet Printing with Traditional Art Materials" with Dorothy Simpson Krause and Bonny Pierce Lhotka. This book documents processes developed by the three artists over the past ten years to integrate digital technologies with traditional techniques and materials. It is published by Watson-Guptill and released in 2004.

Karin's work has been exhibited throughout the world and been covered by dozens of magazines. She is a frequent lecturer on the blending of traditional and digital media and lives in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Materials List

  • Protective Gloves (100pk)
  • Newspaper or plastic sheet to protect work surface
  • Thin paper such as Thai Unryu or Japanese paper
  • Dura-Lar polyester carrier sheet, 24" x 36"
  • inkAID clear semi-gloss precoat, Pint
  • Foam brush, 2"

Please note: Because of the wide variety of inkjet printers on the market, results may vary. Please see "Digital Art Studio" for technical advice.


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