Printmaking MaterialsThe Ink Makes the Print…

The choice for Watermark Press to specialize in water based media was not a difficult one, after getting used to the differences between oil based and water based inks. This is not to say that there is a bias against artists using oil based inks. That’s not so. There are several favored techniques that would not be possible without utilizing the specific qualities of oil based inks, so non-solvent cleaners are used to clean up. However, for many printmaking techniques oil based inks are not absolutely necessary, therefore it makes sense to use a healthier alternative whenever possible.

Akua© Kolor and Akua© Intaglio inks

are the principal water based media used here, and not because they are the only such inks available, which they are not. The choice comes from recognizing their high quality, for being manufactured with food-grade binders and internationally known pigments equal to any other professional media, such as oil paints and watercolors. The choice is simply that they are safer than many common inks that require solvents, therefore artists of all ages can use them without worrying about exposure to a hazardous environment. The air is clean and clear in the shop, and water based inks are simple to wash up.

Printmaking MaterialsThe Akua© recipe for pigment load makes them an economical choice as well. It’s amazing how little ink volume is needed to thoroughly cover a printing plate. In particular, Akua© Kolor, an ink in squirt-able liquid form is measured out by drops. A recipe for a favorite color is easy to duplicate when you know how many drops of each color is needed to make more. Used primarily for printing Monotypes, Akua© Kolor can be applied by brush, brayer, daubers, and many other creative tools, and built up in many layers for increased intensity and opacity. Prints can be made on dry or damp paper, with a press or by hand rubbing, making Akua© a very versatile medium. They can be combined with Akua© Intaglio inks for expanding into many other techniques and custom color mixing. Akua© Intaglio is a heavy bodied ink, also with an exceptional pigment load, making all the colors thick and rich right out of the jar. Originally intended for Intaglio plate inking, they are favored for relief blocks (linoleum and wood), stenciling, stamping and silkscreening, and those who like to make very painterly images for hand rubbed monotypes.
All these inks remain “open” for a long time, making additions and changes to the plates very easy, even to the point of putting an inked plate aside for a day or more, and starting up practically where you left off. A variety of modifiers can be used to alter the working properties of the inks, for a very customized result unique to the individual artist’s needs.

Vandercook Press

The Press Makes the Print…

It’s not necessary to have a printing press in order to make prints, but having one means many techniques and multiple copies are easier to do. The shop has an Etching press which is large enough to receive a standard full sheet of paper, which is usually 22″ x 30″, and a flatbed Letterpress which will hold a plate up to 18″ x 24″. An etching press is the one type most printmakers are familiar with, and many schools have smaller versions in their art classrooms.

But a letterpress has certain attributes that make it an interesting and useful alternative. Originally designed for printing text onto paper, such as newspapers and stationery and posters, it is also used to make multiple color plate prints in perfect registration. Our letterpress was manufactured by the Vandercook company in Chicago, a revered brand in the commercial world of printing. We were lucky to save this one from the metal scrap dealers, it has been completely reconditioned, and is easy to learn to set up and use for all relief printing or monotypes.

The Paper Makes the Print…

There are so many different papers, from all over the world, that can be used for printmaking. It is impossible to try to list them. Paper choice is always covered in the classes because it is an important element of the final image, but an expensive paper may be reserved for final prints. Commercially made papers come in degrees of quality, including some with features that imitate hand-mades, and the best ones will rival the results of more expensive papers. Certain techniques require certain types of paper, but in general a good quality print paper does not need to break the bank. The appropriate paper for the technique is provided in each class, but an experienced printmaker, or one working independently in the shop, will probably want to choose a particular paper for themselves. The shop has samples of many papers, catalogs and advice on where to buy all sorts of papers. Except for monotypes, which are usually one-press-pass-and-done, practice pieces and proofs are often run on an inexpensive paper until the artist is happy with the plate. There are also ways of combining papers in a single print, such as adding collage pieces or chine collé. Using different papers is part of the creative process, and the excitement of pulling that first print on the press is truly magical. Kudos to the countries that produce the amazing variety of papers that makes printmaking so much fun.

The Artist Makes the Print…

There’s no printmaking without the inspiration of the artist, but the artist also needs tools. The shop provides just about everything a printmaker could need in each class. Where a special technique requires special tools it is discussed with the student before any purchases need to be made. Rollers and brayers, blank plates, brushes, drawing pencils, knives and blades, rulers, gloves, palettes, glues and templates and cardboard and newsprint… it’s a long, long list. This means the student and the member artist does not have to carry a bag of supplies back and forth, nor buy something they might only need a few times.

Being “Green” …

was not the only goal of Watermark Press, but it became a driving one. It’s not for a politically correct agenda, but as a health issue choice. Numerous experiences with poor air quality in print shops became a serious question of how and where to work more safely. This 30 Arbor Street space was easily tailored to the special requirements of a printmaker, and allows elbow room for several enthusiastic artists to work at the same time… which led to offering a variety of classes and workshops to spread the word of safer printmaking to all ages and abilities.