Recently, Molly Crabapple and I have been working on releasing a new piece of merchandise for her each month – two weeks of pre-orders, two weeks for me to source, print and send it off to our shipping lady. Last month’s product was a 3-pack of Canson’s Inspiration 4×6″ sketchbooks, each screenprinted with Molly’s signature teacup illustration.
While doing my mock-up, I was inspired to utilize a split-fountain, as that is my go-to for making one-colour prints more interesting if I can’t do it in metallic. And if I printed it in a heavy gloss, it would be transparent enough to look different on the brown, red and black books. With this plan in mind, I went off to the Print Lab.
Normally, I would mix ink into gloss medium and do it that way. But I wanted mine to be as transparent as possible, so I went with adding a tiny amount of pure pigment to the gloss. This is a new pigment we received at the shop, which I had used for pantone matching in a previous poster silkscreen, so it seemed the right way to go. I mixed a warm brown for the middle colour and a deep violet (by combining purple and the same brown) as the two end colours.
The sketchbooks are thin and thankfully precise registration wasn’t *too* important like using a two-colour design, but I still wanted to be careful with registration. So I used a combination of wood and cardboard chips to form the jig to hold down the image. The important thing was that the chips were not thicker than the book, so it didn’t cause any bumps when printing this tiny design.
Keeping the contacts really high, I was actually printing on a board with hinges screwed into it. It makes a very effective mobile tabletop print setup. I’ve mentioned this to people before who say they want to set a studio in their home, but want the precision of hinge printing vs contact printing (just placing a screen on top of an item and printing, which results in off-register prints). The wood is heavy enough that it doesn’t slide around, but the table it’s on also has a thick layer of spray adhesive on it and the board absolutely went nowhere. You can also line the back with rubber. The important thing is that when you’re done with it, you can just slide it behind a bookshelf or in the back of a closet rather than have a dedicated workstation in your home.
Print time! So it looks like a mess, which it was, because this image is tiny. But, I have a reason for this shot.
Printing in straight gloss is HARD. Despite wetting the screen down with my usual “spray it down then squeegee it around until fully saturated” the emulsion kept sucking down the gloss to dry. This resulted in a lot of buildup, which would eventually dry into the thin little Molly-lines we all love and ruin everything. I tried different angles for pulling the squeegee, applying different amounts of pressure; every trick in my book, really. But in the end, I just had to scrub it out every 10 or so prints. Thankfully I was only doing about 90 books ahahahahahagods.
This was the screen by the end of it. The result of scrubbing and pulling the squeegee with a heavy hand. The gloss ate through the emulsion and the edges really did a number at weakening it from the other side. Holy shit.
But how did the books turn out?
Still turned out quite good! The transparency worked really well on making it look like I used different inks for each book. The fountain wasn’t as pronounced as I wanted, but I was really juggling a lot of issues at once and that kind of became the least important in regards to just getting them to print well.
Sorry the photos are a big grainy/off-colour. I was printing on the quick in the middle of the night and paying attention to the focus became a bit of an afterthought. Also, I think my camera is just starting to crap out!
If you picked up a set of the books, let me know! I’m excited to see people using them in the wild for all their note-taking and miniature drawing needs. Some of my best projects were conceived in tiny notebooks.