Where do the colors go?

One of the things that makes me scratch my head for a long time is, how do I do the color separations for a complex print? I’ve taken various approaches, including just starting to carve color blocks and keep adding them until I’m happy at one extreme, and planning them all out from the start and just going with it at the other extreme. The print I am working on now is the most complex so far, and I am being careful. I’m striving to make the best use of the wood, since if I don’t avoid it, I could end up using dozens of blocks. I also expect there will be many revisions to my plans along the way. Here’s how I have approached it so far.

First of all, I made a mockup in a drawing program that attempts to approximate the print. I used the same scan that I used for the keyblock transfer and floated it transparently on top, then made layered vector objects underneath that so I could easily change the fill or transparency, add gradations, change the boundaries etc.

With this, I could make some hypotheses about what colors I would need and how they would combine. I can’t really explain how I did that though! Just experience mixing colors I guess. (To those who are trying this at home: Don’t be paralyzed! Guess-and-test will get you there. Emphasis on the test! 🙂 )

I made a list of the colors I thought would go on each area of the print, combining to make the colors I wanted to be there. Then I did the color testing I mentioned in the last post, overlaying regions of color with a brush to test out those hypotheses.

I made a table listing all the regions of the print as rows, with the pigment to be applied as columns. These are still just guess! Then I made a ton of printouts, and colored these with colored pencil to indicate the regions I thought would be color blocks. These sorts of steps help make sure that all of the regions of the print are considered, and that I don’t end up with a big white spot because I forgot to put color there.

I used these “coloring book pages” to figure out which color regions could be combined on the same piece of wood. Those two on the left can be clearly combined if I flip one of them 180 degrees, and if the wood is long enough and wide enough that the registration cuts don’t interfere.

From when I initially made that table, I changed plans about the outlines of the trees in the distance. Not only the farthest trees, but the two at mid-distance, need to have lighter outlines than the main key lines of the image. On the right-hand image above, the pencil sketch on the right shows that I can put both the light gray of the roadway and rocks, and the key lines of the mid-distance and distance trees on the same block, if I use different sets of registration marks. On the “coloring book page”, the lines that are over-lined in green will go on the block where the light green blobs are on the right half of the shot; the gray of the road and rocks will go at the bottom. The white circles on the very right show the placement of the registration cuts – two corner cuts near the bottom, and straight cuts on the upper right.

I also decided I needed more subtle control over the fill and shading of the trees in the distance. That’s why I isolated each individual background tree twice on this last block. By placing the top two registration marks circled in orange, I can print the small tree where the upper yellow circle is; with the lower two orange-circled registration marks, the larger tree will print where the large yellow circle is. Flip that block around, and I can do the same thing again to print some shading for these trees where the green highlights are. The trick is to position the registration cuts so they won’t interfere with regions that will print.

In all, I think I can get away with 8 more blocks for the basic structure of this print; then I’ll need about three more for the special shadows that reveal the sunbeams.

Next up: How many transfer sheets do I need?

Balcones Canyonlands – first run finished!

I apologize for not posting much in the way of in-progress notes about this print. There are some things I’d like to talk about, and I might get to them eventually. But in the mean time, I’m done! Here are some shots of the prints drying.

This print run included 30 prints – 4 on Shin Torinoko as practice prints, 20 on Kitaro’s (https://www.washi-kitaro.com/) Kizuki, and 6 on the Shin Hosho I ordered from Matsumura-san. There’s some variation in thickness in each of these washi batches. One of the sheets from Kitaro was noticeably thicker than the others; this didn’t seem to affect the printing very much, though. The Shin Hosho sheet I used was thinner than any of the sheets I used for the Naoshima Coast print, and I really liked printing on it! It was easy to get a smooth, intense impression. You might remember I struggled with smooth impressions on the Naoshima print. I think if all the sheets had been like this one, printing would have been a piece of cake!

Here’s an example of the finished print, held so the embossing can be seen. This is one of the Shin Hosho sheets, but the Kizuki prints also turned out quite nicely; the paper color is a little creamier on those.

I’m pretty happy with how these turned out.

More Balcones testing

I’m into a second small round of test printing on the Balcones Canyonlands print. This round is mostly focused on reproducibility, but I am also trying out a few variations.

The first print on a block can be quite light, and then the color deepens over the next few impressions. I think I got the rock color a bit too dark on the bottom left one, in the image on the right.

Not the best photos, but this gives you an idea how the colors combine.

I’m a bit unsatisfied about how dark the shadows are on the clouds in the final image, and am considering moving them to another block. Or really editing this one, or maybe just carving away the cloud part from the shadow block entirely.

One of the variations is the darker rock detail in the final image. The lower prints use a redder color for those areas than the upper prints do.

Another experiment was the pinkish cloud color. I went from a light egg-yolk-yellow on the first, adding a bit mor red as I went, to an almost pink with just a hint of orange on the fourth. I think the version I like the best is the second one, which is the image on the left above.

The final experiment is these leaves. I think I like them, and I think I like the darker ones

You can maybe see a bit of a registration issue with the shadows, which peek over the edge of the ledge in front of the stalks. The next thing I will do is test a correction; I’ve shaved down some thin pieces of scale lumber even thinner, and have tacked them in place on the registration marks to move the paper up a bit.

I went back to the place that inspired this image today. It’s the middle of July, after a couple of weeks of really hot days, many over 100 degrees F. There wasn’t a lot of water before, but now there’s only a trickle over the rocks, and the pool below is almost completely dry. I’m looking forward to some rain!

直島海岸 ー 終わった!

First, a tease –

Check out that nice embossing! But I’m getting way ahead of myself 😉

The 直島海岸 (Naoshima coast) print was finished awhile back. Here are some in-process images.

This paper was pretty difficult to work with because it is thick and rather rough. I have a lot of it; I will have to figure out how to make it work. On the plus side, it is really tough and stands up well to multiple impressions with vigorous baren work. And it is 100% kozo, and came to me sized. I should not be complaining! Next time I will try starting with a lot more water on the paper.

Fun with registration

Looking back at my test prints, I see there are some registration problems with the green block. In the left image, there is green that sticks up too far, onto the top of a rock that should be mostly white. And on the right, there are some areas of green that extend past the border.

To address this, I used some micro-lumber (HO scale 2×4, I believe) I had laying around from a previous life as an architecture student. I tacked it in lightly with water-soluble glue, in case it didn’t work out.

Wellll, this did not work out so well. I don’t have a picture, but in the test after that, it was clear that not only was this change in the kento not enough to fix the problems, it introduced problems elsewhere — a margin of unprinted area just beneath many of the lines that delineate green areas like the trees.

So, the registration needed to be fixed with a knife. This was more successful!

Progress on the rockpile

Here’s the array of pigments I’ll be using. All but the perylene violet on the right were used on the test prints. I decided to add some to burnt sienna, which made it more red (dish at the bottom in the second shot), for a bokashi on the red block that can be seen in the most recent impression, which is shown below.

I’ve finished 8 impressions so far. Two for the key block, one for the lightest shading, two for blue, two for the reddish and orangish hues in the dishes above, and one for shading under the trees on the far shore.

The paper I am using is “Shin Hosho” from Woodlike Matsumura. 100% mulberry. It has a darker, off-white tone than the “Shin Torinoko” I am using for testing. I found I needed to use a darker hue for the first, cream-color shading block. I hope I didn’t’ go too dark too soon! The washi is on the bottom here:

Below are example prints after the 7th and after the 8th impression. I am finding it very difficult to get a nice smooth color on this paper. The color blocks are laying down a sort of granular texture despite plenty of paste and a firm baren.

New shade blocks

When I started working on the rockpile project, I wasn’t sure where the color would go, what blocks I would need, and so on. I drew and carved the key block, then thought about where the lightest colors would go and carved some color blocks for those, using transfer sheets printed from the key block to locate their edges. I started test-printing in earnest earlier this month, when I had blocks for light grayish, light bluish, green and reddish. First I tested some of the colors I though would be good to use, to see how they overlap and combine to make other hues. I kept notes and spots of color to document the saturation of the pigment I used to print.

After the initial testing, the results of which I showed in the last post, I decided to add some darker shading in some areas. Here are my transfer sheets:

Notice there is a thinner paper of the gampi type laminated on a thicker backing sheet. The lines were printed from the key block, then I marked and colored in the areas of the new blocks that are to remain. The blue is for water and sky shading; the yellow is to darken some areas of the rock, and the pink is for some even darker shadows on the rocks.

These transfer sheets get pasted UPSIDE DOWN on the new blocks using the same registration marks I’ll later use for printing, the thicker backing paper gets peeled off, and often part of the gampi gets peeled off along with it, leaving the face of the gampi with the lines and colors against the wood and visible through what’s left of the gampi. If it is still too thick, I can moisten it a little on one edge, and peel off another layer.

This block is one I’ve already test-printed from, but shows what the transferred gampi looks like after it’s pasted down and the excess is peeled off. It’s super-easy to see what to carve!

Here are my newest blocks after some test printing, and the two surviving test prints with their new shading.

I think it is starting to come together! I think I need a little more color on the trees on top of the hill, and more definition of the cliff face. I’ll see what I can do with my current blocks (there are 7!), but I might need to do more carving.