Lesson #24: Printing very delicate colours
(contributed by Dave Bull)
Controlling the depth and intensity of the colour in the finished print is usually a straight-forward process - the more pigment that is placed on the block, the deeper the colour one sees in the finished print. There are two ways to control this amount of pigment: the first is to make a 'thicker' or 'thinner' fluid in the bowl, and the second is to vary how much fluid one transfers to the block each time.
What happens though, when one desires an extremely delicate shade of colour in the print? 'Thinning down' the pigment solution in the bowl only works to a point - if the solution becomes too watery, the impression in the print will not be the desired smooth delicate colour, but will be blotchy and uneven. If the other method is tried, and only a very small dab of pigment is placed on the block, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to spread it smoothly over the entire surface.
The solution is to use an 'off the block' blending technique. Get a smooth ceramic tile - like the kind one sees on kitchen or bathroom walls - and place it next to the block. (I use one such tile as the 'stand' for my brush during all my printing) Prepare a reasonably thin, but not too watery, bowl of pigment, and prepare a normal cup of paste.
Moisten the wood surface as usual. Place a dab of paste onto the tile - not onto the block surface as you normally would. Beside it place a tiny dab of pigment. Blend them together with the brush right there on the tile. When they are smoothly blended, brush the mixture over the surface of the block. Take the impression; the result should be a smooth and very delicate tint of colour.
It will take a bit of practice to find out just how much pigment/paste is needed to get the particular tint you wish, and of course the first few impressions will be quite light - until the brush gets a bit 'loaded'. But once the proper balance is found, it should be very easy to maintain it throughout the edition.
Some astonishingly delicate colours can be printed with this technique ...