30 October 2017

The last eco printing post for a while

There's been a lot of eco printing going on at my house lately, the house seems to permanently smell of vinegar by now.
If you prefer just pictures and not a lot of chattiness, just scroll down to the bottom.
I've learned a lot, and here is a summary of what I like, don't like and a few observations:
I basically like the process, it's fun to gather leaves, flowers, various papers and assemble everything and be surprised by what comes out of the pan after the steaming process.
I tried both steaming and immersion printing and found I like steaming better. For the simple reason that it's easier with the equipment/supplies I have. When I first looked into this, two years ago, I bought a roasting pan which is meant for steaming. I cannot find the link or the instructions I must have printed out, but I'm sure that's what was recommended and I went with it. My pan is shallow, so when I add enough water to submerge my paper bundles, it almost comes up to the top of the pan. It's difficult to get everything out of the pan afterward and that's the main reason I prefer steaming.
I don't like using rusty things in the process, it makes for more grungy papers (for me, at least); not unattractive, but not what I'm after.
Adding dye to get a bit of color does not seem to work well for me. I use either too much or not enough.
I like being able to use such a wide variety of papers. Everything I've tried has worked out. The results on printed paper - book pages - are not as impressive as on plain paper, but it works. Also, and I only learned this in the last few experiments: when using thinner paper, it's quite possible that the plant imprint will transfer to the papers on top of and below the paper that's actually being printed. Could be a drawback or not, depending on what one likes.
If there's any paper I don't like as much, it's the really thick watercolor paper. I can't really think of a way to use it at this point. Everything else I can easily see going into a journal.
Flowers are tricky. You take a pretty, colorful flower and expect colorful results - and, no, red flowers do not translate into red imprints, neither does purple etc. My colorful mums ended up either brown or dark something (hard to tell, it could be blue, green, purple). Pansies don't work so well.
Anything thin, like pansies, thin leaves etc. can end up sticking almost permanently to the paper. There has been a lot of scraping things off with fingernails going on.
Dry leaves can work. I found that soaking them in water beforehand gave much better results. The same goes for bark.
Waxy leaves don't work so well. Neither do really delicate ones.
Fresh leaves, in general, work better than dry leaves.
What works best for me are maple leaves, eucalyptus leaves, hydrangea leaves and the leaves from those dreaded raspberry plants (they are like weeds around here. Don't watch for them, and your whole yard could be overrun with them.)
Alum versus vinegar - I haven't had the results I had hoped for with alum. Probably because I used more than recommended. The colors are pretty wild. I just might try that one more time, but with lots less alum in the soaking water.
I think Saturday's session may be the last one for a while. My house is overrun with wild papers by now and I signed up for an online class that requires a lot of my time.
It's been fun and a real learning experience and I am sure I'll do more of this - probably next year when there are flowers and new leaves.
Until then, here are a few pictures from my last steaming session:
 I used mostly thinner papers for this session and the above are just a few of the papers that came out of my pan afterward. The rest are kind of forgettable. Splotchy with not enough definition. There is a bit of pink involved. I had scooped out the water (a rather slow and painful process) from the immersion dyeing session and saved it. After I took the papers out of the pan this time, I heated up the reserved pink water and dipped the pages into it. The results are actually quite nice.
But, as I said, this is going to be it for a while. Hope you enjoyed my little journey into eco printing, it's been fun and I am sure there will be more, just not right now.

28 October 2017

Yet more of the same

Yesterday, I did three batches of eco printing, that's about two too many.
I tried different things, some worked, some not so much. I will try to recap as short as I can.
For the first batch, I used rusty bits in the water. I also tried different kinds of paper, regular printing paper, 32 lb.; parchment paper, 24 lb.; Bristol paper (don't remember the weight, but it's thicker and has a smooth surface); Stonehenge paper (also thicker); ledger paper; tracing paper; book pages and canvas (comes in a pad). All of it worked just fine. Yes, it takes more careful handling, but nothing fell apart in the steaming process and nothing ripped or tore. I also tried pink dye, this time not enough to really show up.
I am not completely thrilled with the results, it's all a little too grungy for my taste.
I think these are from the second batch, also fairly grungy. I dripped a bit of pink dye on the papers. Again, not that thrilled.
Next, I tried the immersion method, no rusty bits, with pink dye. This time, obviously too much. Sheesh! I don't seem to do just right.
The leaves imprinted just fine on the pages I photographed, but there's just a little too much pink for my taste around the edges.
And for the last batch, I just used copper again, my usual steam set up, with a little of the pink residue left in the pan:
I am very pleased with the last two- nice imprints, I think that's Bristol paper.
And here, just for fun, is a picture of the deli paper I use to protect my paper bundles. It's been through several steamings:
I have one more batch steaming as I type this and will show pictures - if things turned out well - and summarize what I've learned, what I like and don't like about this whole eco printing business.

Alum experiment No. 2

Just real quick, a few pictures from the second alum experiment (I took pictures of the process for the "this is how I eco print" post). The first time I used alum, I soaked the papers in a bucket for 1 hour. I didn't quite like the results and, this time around, I only soaked for 15 minutes. The results aren't much different, still very bright and vivid. If I ever use alum again, I will use much less in the soaking water.
So, here are a few pictures of what I ended up with:
All these are still drying outside. Lesson learned here: lay the papers out in a single layer as soon as possible.
This one is interesting (at least, to me it is). The really dark green splotches are made by dark red flowers, those little mums you find all over the stores these days.
Maple leaves.
Gingko leaves, a little disappointing. I was hoping for something more detailed, but they are delicate and it shows in the results.
Hydrangea leaves. Those worked well.
There were 3 eco printing sessions yesterday, not all the papers have dried yet and I experimented with pink fabric dye - with mixed results - but that's for another blog post.

26 October 2017

This is how I eco print

This isn't so much a tutorial as more of a "this is how I do it" description. I am absolutely not an expert, very much a beginner, but I am learning something new every time I print another batch of papers and I am happy to share my process here.

Equipment and supplies:
roasting pan with rack
ceramic tiles
container to dip papers in
white vinegar (or alum powder (available from Amazon))
string or rubber bands
bits of copper
rusty bits (I don't always use those)
some kind of heavy weight to hold the paper bundles down
paper, anything thick enough to withstand quite a lot of water; I have used 140 lb. watercolor paper which is what is recommended in various places I have come across and I have also successfully used thinner paper - mixed media paper, drawing paper. I do not recommend regular computer paper, it is simply too thin.
leaves, flowers etc., the fresher, the better.
My roasting pan. One of the handles is missing, that's probably why it ended up at the thrift store in it's original package. It was brand new.
6" x 6" ceramic tiles from Home Depot, slightly stained from repeated use.
My bits of copper - left over from metalsmithing projects. I don't use a lot, don't know if more would have an impact on the prints I get.
The weight I use. It's left from a weight machine we took apart. My husband kept it to use for one of his projects. It fits perfectly in my roasting pan. A brick or a largish rock would work just as well.
140 lb. watercolor paper
110 lb. artist marker paper
90 lb. watercolor paper
98 lb. mixed media paper
I have used all the above papers with good results.

And here is what I do:

I cut the papers to size and score along the center line. Pay attention to the grain here, this just makes for an easier fold. To find the grain of any paper, fold over the edge of a table or just gently bend and see which direction bends easier. That's the grainline.
Next, I set up the roasting pan: I add the bits of copper (and the rusty bits) in the bottom, then add the rack.
I dip my papers into white vinegar only long enough for them to be wet.
For this session, I have used alum powder dissolved in a bucket of water (there are rules about how much, I will link to the tutorial that addresses that at the bottom of this post) and let the papers soak. In the previous session, I let them soak for an hour, this time I only did 15 minutes.
My soaking bucket. For the second session using alum, I just reused what was left from the previous session.

Next, I lay the ceramic tiles on the rack in the roasting pan, add a piece of paper and lay some leaves etc. on it. I do not soak my leaves in water, one of the tutes I read recommended that. May have to try and see if the results are different.
Anyway, moving right along: I fold the paper over the leaves and continue layering paper and leaves etc. until I run out of paper.

 I have tried the next part in two different ways: I either laid another tile on top of the paper bundle and held it together with either string or rubber bands or I just tied the papers to the tile on the bottom with no second tile on top. 
Here I laid a sheet of deli paper on top of the bundles (just one tile on the bottom) so there wouldn't be marks from the string I use to tie the bundles together:
I originally used tiles on top and bottom, but wanted to try something different. I had added blue Rit dye to my water and I was hoping the steam would saturate the papers and turn them a little blue. I did try that two ways as well: tile on top and tile on bottom. I do not recommend tile on top, the bottom paper was dark blue. See here:
After that, I add water (and whatever is left of the vinegar if using vinegar) to the roasting pan up to the level of the rack
Next, I add the weight on top (kind of important, the one time I did not do that, there wasn't enough contact between papers and plant material for a decent print).
Then I cover the whole pan with aluminum foil and turn on the burners. Reduce the heat to simmer once the water starts to bubble. I try to steam my papers for 2 - 2.5 hours.

After this, I turn off the heat, try to restrain myself from opening the foil to peak in and let everything cool for a while. Since I am using a really heavy weight, I kind of have it. It's too awkward to lift off with oven mitts. But, once it's cool enough, I remove the weight, set it off to the side and carefully lift the tile and paper bundle off the rack and either take it outside or set it on aluminum foil on the kitchen counter to let cool off further.
Eventually, I untie the string or take off the rubber bands and separate the papers and lay them out in a single layer (if I can find enough space) to dry. 

I am at the waiting stage for this session, so I will either add the pictures of the printed papers here later or write another blog post for them.
One thing I noticed, though, is that, for the first time, almost all the water boiled off. With aluminum foil covering the top, it's difficult to check during the steaming process if there is enough water left or not, but it's something I will have to check on next time. 

Here is a link to the tutorial that explains how much alum to use: tutorial.

I have written several posts about my previous eco printing sessions, each one containing pictures and explanations and, I believe, the very first one contains links to tutorials.

25 October 2017

The alum experiment

The first batches of eco printing were all done with white vinegar, I'd dip the papers into the vinegar until wet but not saturated, layer with plant material and steam away.
One of the tutorials I referred to mentioned alum, Amazon has it, so I used it for this batch. The results are totally different from those using vinegar. See?
Bright colors, deep browns, poison green, nothing subtle about this at all. I am not quite sure how exactly I feel about this.
I did not follow the instructions exactly, maybe that's why all these prints are so incredibly bright. I doubled the amount of alum suggested and soaked for an hour. I may just have to try again with what's left in the water and this time soak for a shorter amount of time. BTW, that's one of the reasons for all these blog posts - I want to have a record of what I did and how I did it. Not that I remember what all the leaves are, but I'm okay with that.
Here are a few more photos:
Berries and leaves from the same tree.
Leaves from an olive tree.
Probably eucalyptus leaves, fresh ones.
Old, dry eucalyptus leaf. Who would think you'd get such deep color from that?
 Not quite sure what most of these are. They came from bushes around the neighborhood.
These days, when I take the dog for a walk, I take two baggies: one for dog droppings and one for leaves, berries and whatever else I can find on the sidewalk. Today's walk yielded a few gingko leaves, I can see another printing session in my near future. Just have to figure out how to work that into my day ................

Yet more eco printing

I wasn't thrilled with the results of the previous session - too much blue dye, not what I was looking or hoping for, so that same afternoon I set up another batch of papers, using what was left of the water in the bottom of the roasting pan and diluting and, this time, having the tile on the bottom, but no second tile on the top of my paper bundles. The results are much more to my liking:
Flowers from my stevia plant, Japanese maple leaves etc.
Berries from a neighborhood tree. I like what the blue dye did here.
Eucalyptus leaves with a bit of blue dye.
Grape leaves, oak leaves and a bit of dye. Again, happy with the results.
Grape, oak and eucalyptus leaves.
Obviously, I am not showing every paper I ended up with. Some are just not that interesting, but I was happier with the results of this session than almost any other one.
Time to take the dog for a walk and collect a bit of printing material. Wish I could remember where I found those cool seed pods.

24 October 2017

More experiments in eco printing

As I said it my previous post, this eco printing is a little addictive.
I did two more experiments yesterday and learned quite a lot - again.
I was inspired by the results one of the women in my FB got with blue dye and decided to try using Rit dye. I had already figured out that using the tiles on both sides of the paper bundle acted as too much of a resist, so I decided to use only one tile. And, just for fun, have one bundle tile up, and the other bundle tile down. Big mistake:
Do what's on the left and absolutely do NOT do what's on the right - unless you want dyed papers instead of printed ones. Left was steamed tile down, right tile up.
 Outside and inside of paper. Not quite what I was after.
This is better.
Close-up of raspberry leaf. Those print nicely and raspberry bushes are like weeds around here. Just have to be careful of those stickers.
The rest of the page.
And this is my - ahem - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme page. Parsley does not print well.
This whole experiment was more a lesson in what not to do. I like some of the effects I got with the Rit dye, but I probably should not have used as much as I did - about 2 TB (I used the pre-mixed liquid). I did another session with dye and that turned out much better. But those pictures will have to wait for another post.