You get up in the morning, excited to print.
You’ve been inspired by some AMAZING blogs and web content by your favourite technicians.
You negotiate with housemates, and commandeer the kitchen table.
You roll up the ink. You might have a lino block ready, or a monoprint image to trace.
You put down your paper, and carefully, press, press, and press.
And then this happens:
That sinking feeling in your chest. The bitter taste of disappointment. The desire to give up, and turn on the TV. Step back. Breathe. Try a different paper. It might make all the difference.
Here are ten prints, on ten different papers. Monoprinted with a pen, the handle of a wooden spoon, and the back of the spoon. Rolled up the same way each time, and printed off a thin perspex plate.
Left: Newsprint, 52gsm. Nothing will ever print as well as newsprint. It is smooth, flat, sensitive, and beautiful. And no, there is no archival, cotton, thicker version of the stuff. It is going to disintegrate. It is going to fade. I’ve even ripped it, bottom right corner. Truth to materials.
Right: Graph paper, 60gsm. Smooth, machine made, wood pulp. I used this, because I don’t have any plain copier paper at home. Easy to print, and I love a grid.
Left: Simili Japon, 130gsm. Made in the Netherlands to look like Japanese woodblock paper, it is high grade pulp, acid free, unbuffered. Beautifully smooth, very sensitive, highly absorbent.
Right: Zerkall Smooth, 145gsm. Mould-made, acid free, blended cotton and woodpulp. A favourite for relief printing, but the increase in weight means a bit more work is required. Less absorbent. Look at those spoon marks in the flat section!
Left: Somerset Satin, 300gsm. Really thick, very lush, 100% cotton paper. This is the one we recommend in the workshop, but it is HARD WORK if you’re printing any flat section by hand. This print shows the distinctive surface pattern of a mould made paper. It is also my fourth attempt on this paper.
Right: Fabriano Eco, 200gsm. The hard surface of this paper, and the very slight tooth, means that monoprints look quite ‘dry’ and crayon-like. Completely different when compared to the Somerset. You would not know these were printed with the same ink, and exact rolling technique, except that I’m tell you, it’s true!
Left: Hosho Pad, 90gsm. This mid-week Japanese paper has the advantage of being designed to be printed by hand. Soft, sympathetic, and yielding. Almost romantic.
Right: Colourplan Smoke, 270gsm. This GF Smith paper is a favourite amongst graphic designers, and comes in a wide range of colours and weights. I have two colours, so I printed on both.
Left: Colorplan Harvest, 270gsm. Sturdy, robust, woodpulp paper, these take quite a lot of work to print a flat area by hand.
Right: Mystery paper, approx. 135gsm. Some say Fedrigoni, others say GF Smith fluted, this random paper was under my sofa. It prints beautifully, holding a soft line, and its lighter weight made it much easier to print than its graphic cousins.
When you have access to the press, you take for granted the pressure, evenness, and ease, that 500 years of careful engineering have produced. When you only have yourself, and a spoon, you have to embrace the process of uncertainty, and research the familiar in an unfamiliar way.
Paper choice matters. Whether you’re making a book, a print, a drawing, packaging, poster or other publication, the physical qualities of the paper will inform your work, and place it within a wider making narrative. This is true by press, or by hand. Sometimes, the best-laid plans are scuppered, and other times, you find yourself pleasantly surprised by the mystery scrap you found underneath the sofa, as I have.
PS. Moments of dissatisfaction and frustration come to us all. Even when things are going well. Here is the moment when I take a print onto the balcony to photograph. The wind catches it, and it’s gone.
PPS. What papers are YOU using? Reply and let us know!