Impression Printscomments (13) August 4th, 2008
In 1970 my parents gave me a pocket-sized image processor. With it I could capture, store, enlarge, edit, and distort images, both color and black and white. It was an incredibly well-engineered piece of "software" as well as an indestructible piece of "hardware." It required no electricity to run. It never needed to be rebooted or upgraded. And, it worked without aid of a keyboard, a drawing tablet, or a mouse. Despite its many fantastic and futuristic qualities, it was, ironically, packaged and sold under the most unassuming of product names: Silly Putty.
Sure, it had its limitations. For starters, it only allowed me to capture two images at a time (one on the front and one on the back of it), and it required a fair amount of kneading to "erase" one image before capturing a new one. True, it only worked on newsprint, but it did that so well that it hardly counts as a strike against it. Worst of all, it was a magnet for pocket lint, cookie crumbs, and sand. Despite these minor shortcomings, though, it was a joy to hold, a pleasure to use, and it gave me the power of possession—I could see an image I liked and, within moments, I could capture it for myself and hold it as my own.
This short journey from “I see” to “I like” to “I want to have” might easily have resulted in me becoming an underage thief (a minor major kleptomaniac?) but, thanks to Silly Putty, I escaped a life of crime and juvenile detention for a life of graphic design, photography, and collage.
As a teenager, I briefly flirted with doing Polaroid photo transfers, but I abandoned this affair some years later when my local drugstore stopped carrying Polaroid film.
Since then I've come to realize that there is little chance I'll ever find anything to take the place of my first love. However, I realize that now and again one might have need for an image-transfer method other than a wad of pink goo. For those occasions, I am happy to offer the following. This process, too, has its limitations, but it works very well when your source images are drawn from glossy magazines and the results have a lovely, hand-drawn (and slightly nostalgic) look that I find terribly pleasing. I hope you feel the same.
Easy Impression Prints
Impression Prints are created by remoistening the ink on a glossy image and then, by exerting pressure, transferring that ink to another sheet of paper. For this project you'll need the following supplies:
1. Some images: Color or black and white, preferably torn out of glossy magazines. There's something about the way ink is absorbed on glossy paper that makes it well suited for this sort of "reverse" printing.
2. A bottle of lighter fluid: Yes, the old-fashioned lighter fluid that is HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. If you do not have lighter fluid, you can also use Acetone (i.e., nail polish remover) but your results will suffer a bit. This craft is NOT suitable for children.
3. Some burnishing tools: I find a bone-creaser, the end of a craft knife (not the blade end, obviously), or the capped end of a pen work very nicely.
4. Some tape: Either Scotch or masking tape will suffice.
5. Some heavy white paper onto which you will transfer your image(s): A somewhat smooth paper works best, but you may wish to experiment with more textured papers to see the effects you can achieve.
Begin by selecting the image you wish to transfer. Using tape, add a frame around the part of the image you will be working on. If you don't mask off the surrounding page, chances are you will inadvertantly capture them in your transfer. I recommend against trimming your image to exactly the size you want to transfer for reasons that will become apparent in the next few steps.
The image-transfer process entails using a household solvent. This has the potential to be messy, so I always suggest crimping the edges of your transfer to form a shallow rim to help contain the liquid when it is applied.
Below is my image with its fully creased edges. When I begin working on this image from the back, these same creases will indicate to me the area in which I need to burnish.
This transfer process will be done from the back side of your image. Flip your image over and make sure all of the edges are properly raised.
Tape a sheet of white paper to your work surface and then position and tape into place your image. In the picture below, I have folded back the edge of the image I intend to transfer so you can see how I have positioned it—slightly away from the right edge of the white paper but with enough of the sheet left over on the left to turn the finished piece into a small greeting card.
With everything taped into place, apply a thin layer of ligher fluid to the back of your image. You want the fluid to saturate and be absorbed into the paper. Once the fluid has sat for a moment or two, you can begin burnishing your transfer.
I often burnish from an upper corner down to a lower corner, moving diagonally across the page. It may help you to hold the edges of your transfer with the fingers of your free hand to prevent it from moving or coming untaped.
Pressure is required to make this process work. In the image below, you can see hatch marks in the page as evidence of my burnishing tool moving back and forth across the page. You will also notice that the solvent has made the image on the other side visible slightly through the paper.
Before removing the transfer to reveal the image beneath, I often lift one corner and check to make sure the inks have transferred properly and that I didn't miss burnishing any part of the image. If need be, additional solvent can be applied to the back of the transfer and the process repeated to give a denser transfer of ink.
Below, the finished piece wil become one of my New Year cards. For a more finished look, consider running your finished prints through an inkjet printer to add captions, titles, or other greetings.
For a more free-form approach, forego masking out your image with tape before applying the solvent. This will give you a softer-edged image.
In some cases, you may find your image has transferred incompletely or without the color density you had hoped for. If that should happen, a few strokes of a graphite stick or some colored pencils can greatly enhance your work.