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Printmaking With Solar Plate

Photo Sensitive Printmaking Related Materials and Equipment

Solar Plate, Printing Press, Paper, Transparent Film, Drawing materials or digital printer, Inks , Exposure units or Contact Frame for sun exposure, Tint Screen

Exposing Solar Plates

Factors that Influence Exposure Times

Exposure Time Drawing weight Ultra Violet Light Source Desired Results
more heavy Exposure unit high contrast
  medium    
less light Natural sunlight fine details

Exposure Units And The Use Of Sunlight

Exposure units are the preferred method of exposing photo sensitive plates and achieving fine details. The repeatable U. V. exposure when using an exposure unit produces more consistency and reliability. The use of sunlight when exposing Solar Plates requires a contact frame. The Solar Plate's exposure to U. V. light is at the whim of nature therefore, this method can be unpredictable in terms of results.

Using A Positive Image

What is a Positive Image and How Will it Transfer To Paper?

The creation of a image on translucent or semi transparent plastic film are considered positive images. Digital prints on transparencies are commonly used as positive images. Other methods of creating positive images such as hand drawings in pen on mylar can be used. Photo sensitive plates allow the printmaker to easily transfer a positive image to a plate and then print the plate by traditional methods. The areas of darkened information on the transparent film will transfer to the plate and those areas will hold ink. During exposure the areas of the photo sensitive emulsion that are "shaded" by information on the positive will be the areas that retain ink. Printing the plate will result in a photo realistic print that will look similar to the positive image used. Solar Plate etching results in higher detail than most other photo printmaking processes including Photo-Litho.

Processing Solar Plates

Evaluating Exposure Times and Achieving Desired Results

Every positive image and light source are different. To establish an exposure time that will produce desired image, evaluate the light source and the specific positive image to be used. Follow the processing steps using small test strips of Solar Plate. Repeat in similar area of image altering the exposure time until the resulting image is as desired.

Processing Solar Plates : General Steps

The following general steps are not intended as specific instructions:

1. Place positive image face down on emulsion side of plate.
2. Expose Solar Plate for the time determined with test strips.
3. Remove positive image and replace with tint screen for the same length of exposure time.
4. Immerse the Solar Plate in room temperature water bath, massage gently with finger-tips or very soft brush for 1-1.5 minutes. The image will appear and can be felt.
5. Rinse the Solar Plate off with cold water, then blot dry with lint-free non textured towels. Kim-Wipes or Assembly Wipes are highly recommend.
6. Place the Solar Plate in the Sun to Cure. This will take between 15 and 40 minutes (depending on sunlight and humidity). When fully cured the plate will no longer be sticky and will have the feel of hard plastic. The plate cannot be harmed by being left in the sun for time past the curing stage, so it is better to leave it out for longer than risk inking an under-developed plate.
7. Ink, wipe and print as an Intaglio.

Nontoxic Cleanup


When finished printing Solar Plates can be cleaned using nontoxic methods. Remove excess ink from the Solar Plate with baby-oil or soy-oil, a slight color stain on the plate is to be expected.
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