Photopolymer Intaglio Process
These notes are based on a Non-Toxic Printmaking Workshop that was provided by Elizabeth Dove in July of 1998 at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.
Shown to the left is a copper plate with an application of photopolymer film that has been exposed to a image. The original image was on a slide. That slide was scanned using a Polaroid Slide Scanner. The scanned image was imported into Adobe Photoshop and altered. The image was printed on a transparency on a laser printer. Behind the plate is an intaglio print of the photopolymer plate.
All etching information is based on the use of copper plates and ferric chloride etching solution.

I.  Photo-Polymer Film

A.  General product information

1.  Two year shelf life.  ImageOn is the product name of photo-polymer used in demonstration by Elizabeth Dove and a larger width can be special ordered through Daniel Smith Customer Service.

a.  Box can be made into dispenser, refer to book Nontoxic Intaglio Printmaking, Keith Howard, on pages 61 -62.

b.  Removal of either top or bottom protective Mylar sheets from film instantly begins oxidization.  Quickness in subsequent processes needed, such as pressure adhesion of delicately valued photo-positive or exposure to photo or digital imagery.

2.  Can be handled under fluorescent lights for 10 - 15 minutes without diminishing film's capacity.  Do not expose to natural light.

3.  Can be used with half tone photo-positives.  Elizabeth Dove used Fuji HCL Camera Film ($60 - $70 for box of 20 sheets).  Can also use Kodak 2000 Camera Film.

a.  These are high contrast films, but grays will come from halftone sheet that with the negative of the chosen image is exposed to the film in the darkroom.

4.  The Photo-Polymer film can be removed from plate by soaking in caustic soda for approximately 10 minutes.  Once degreased with powder cleanser, a new sheet of film can be adhered to the plate.

a.  The metal plate is reusable until physically damaged.  For example, dropping the plate.

b.  Use of roofing copper allows for clean biting and is comparatively inexpensive to other plate metals.

5.  The film surface will successfully allow for an edition size of 25 - 30 prints.

6.  The film can be thinned, exposed to an image and then the plate can be etched for a larger print edition.  Further alterations can be made using additional layers of film images and/or traditional intaglio techniques such as soft ground, hard ground and aquatint.

B.  Adhesion of Photo-Polymer to Plate:

1.  Clean and undamaged press bed needed for lamination of film to plate.

a.  A stainless steel bed is the best press surface since it can be sanded.

b.  Acrylic sheeting is next best.  It can be cut to desired size, edges rounded, hole drilled at one end for hanging near press bed.

2.  Degrease plate with powder cleanser or hand sand using 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

a.  If sanding in a ventilated area use dry sandpaper, if not use wet.

b.  Use clean rag to hold plate in place during sanding and to dust off when finished.

c.  Where plate is slightly bent, use more pressure with the sander in that are to insure that it is degreased and evenly grained.

d.  If using acrylic sheeting for the film’s substrate, sand it as well.

1)  This material can be developed and used alone or integrated into a collagraph plate.

e.  If recycling the plate be sure to sand the plate after the third or fourth time, otherwise degrease with powdered cleanser.

3.  Cut film to ½” larger on each side of the plate’s dimensions.  Some dimples on the film are all right although wrinkles are bad.

a.  The film is sandwiched between two sheets of plastic and the side that curls in onto itself is the side whose plastic will be removed for the lamination process.

b.  Dog ear the curled side of the film or use a loop of tape to detach the plastic from the film.

c.  Remove the entire sheet of plastic from the curled side and lay this exposed side of the film up in the middle of the press bed.

d.  Retain the removed sheet of plastic.

e.  From approximately 18” from the film surface spray 2 - 3 consistent squirts of laminate solution evenly on the film.

1)  Store the laminate solution in an aerator bottle

2)  1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water

f.  From just above the surface of the film, drop down the sanded and degreased surface of the plate into the center of the film.  Do not adjust!

g.  Place the retained plastic on the back of the plate and then cover with a good sized sheet of newsprint to absorb over spray and excess of laminate solution.

h.  In 4 seconds time, 1 foot of plate should pass through the press.  A firm pressure is needed.

1)  A previously etched plate onto which film is being laminated may need more pressure for complete lamination to occur.

i.  16 - 22 gauge copper needs no bevel, but thicker metals do as does acrylic sheeting.*

j.  Once the plate is run through the press, lift the plate up to see how evenly laminated the film is to the surface.  If there are air bubbles use a finger nail to drive them out to the film’s edge if a second run through the press won’t remove them.

1)  If these steps are not successful, then remove the film by pulling off or put the plate in the caustic soda solution.  Degrease if necessary.

k.  Remove the retained plastic sheeting and use extended Olaf cutting blade to “machete” off the excess film from the plate.  Hold the blade at an angle to be certain that none of the film hangs over the plate’s edge.  It will become brittle and likely to break off during inking.

4.  The prepared plate is protected by the second sheet of plastic.  Be sure to keep the place face down for short term protection from light.

a.  For long term storage be sure to put plate in light safe bag or box.  Store flat in cool and dark place.

C.  Creation of Photo- Positive for Exposure to Photo-Polymer Film:

1.  Halftone Sheet (Dove’s halftone sheet used) or vellum used with non-glare glass.

a.  An adequately sized (will permit creation of positive of desired size) halftone sheet is adhered (textured side to glass) with clear tape to a slightly larger, clean sheet of non-glare glass.

1)  Be sure that all dust is removed before taping halftone sheet to glass.

b.  For storage of halftone sheet/glass, use foam core or cardboard for protection from creasing, marring and breaking.

2.  Darkroom

a.  Chemicals needed and setup

1)  Developer:  1 part developer (QR, D1) solution to 8 parts cool water

a)  Agitate consistently for 2 minutes when developing film

b)  Discard the solution when it looks like coffee; developer can be saved for later use in light proof storage container.

2)  Stop Bath:  1 part indicator stop solution or spent fix to 20 parts water

a)  Submerge film in stop bath for 15 seconds

3)  Fix:  1 part Rapid Fix or Vinegar to 3 parts water

a)  Consistently agitate for 5 minutes

b)  A drop of Hypo-check at the end of developing session alerts that there is too much silver in solution and must be discarded.  It spent solution looks like milk.

c)  Fix can be reused if not milky and so stored in light safe storage container.

4)  Water Rinse

a)  Submerge for at least 5 minutes

b)  If your positive goes to a bluish film when exposed to light, put it back in the fix solution for another 5 minutes and rinse again for 5 minutes.

b.  Color Negative is used since it provides midrange values

1)  Diffused light is provided by a color enlarger and so could be used with blk/wht negative to create midrange of grays.

2)  The print process provides a high contrast image, so the color negative on a black and white enlarger allows for the necessary midrange grays of the image chosen..  This arrangement goes beyond what would otherwise be a high contrast final print photo-image.

c.  Steps For Creation Of A Halftone Positive:

1)  Remove dust from color negative by lightly passing between two non-greasy and dry fingers or with compressed air or lint free brush.

2)  To place the negative in correctly in the negative carrier, you will place it with its shiny side up (on this side you can read film’s manufacture’s name and numbers.

a)  The opposite side is dull be comparison, this is the emulsion side and it will be facing down in the negative carrier.

3)  Rotate the image 180 degrees; sky reads as ground.

4)  Set between nibs of the negative carrier and avoid dragging the negative across the metal surface since there is a tendency to scratch the negative.

5)  Close carrier, negative must be flat.

6)  Check for dust and remove it if necessary.

7)  Stick the color negative between the enlarger's bellows with the round groove side fitting down into the bellows’ platform.

8)  Lever down to tighten.

9)  Set Timer for exposure test

a)  Set on Focus to set up scale (can enlarge or reduce image)and focus the image.

10) Set aperture to 4 in order to see grain of film (extremely fine sandpaper grain) with focus scope.

11) Set aperture to 8, 11 or 16 in order to reduce amount of light on film.  Smaller aperture, larger number, means a longer exposure time.

a)  Be sure to note which aperture setting you choose for creation of test strip.

12) Turn timer to “T” for 2 second intervals for test strip.

13) Set strip of film down with the emulsion, comparatively light side of HCL camera film, side up to the light source.

14) With a dense piece of paper in hand expose film by pushing the timer button for a 2 second exposure time, cover ½” section of film with paper and push timer button for 2nd time for another 2 second exposure, move paper to cover 1st exposure segment and 2nd exposure segment, continue process for as many segments as you deem necessary.

15) After completing cumulative exposure strip of HCL camera film, remove from under glass and develop

d.  Develop the HCL Camera Film using the solutions listed above in the order listed above for the related times listed above, though a test strip need only be in fix and final rinse for 1 minute.

e.  Examination of Test Strip for correct exposure aperture and time

1)  Use a pocket microscope of 30X (Radio Shack model used) in order to see density of grain.

2)  Look for grain where darkest values of image lie that do not exceed a 50% gray/dot pattern.  This area of the test strip will not appear as a good photograph with a range of values from white to black; it’s black area exists as a 50% gray/dot pattern.

a)  shortest timed exposures appear with no contrast and minimal grays while the longest exposures appear with high contrast and diminishing light to mid grays.

3)  Determine the exposure time that appear to create a 50% gray/dot pattern as the darkest value in image area.  Then create a second test strip using 1 second steps that bracket chosen time from first test strip.

a)  For example, if it appears that 8 seconds did the job, then use 7, 8, and 9 second exposure times for the second test strip.

b)  At the enlarger set the timer for 7 seconds, lay down film with emulsion side up to light source, lay halftone sheet/glass atop, and expose entire film test strip to 7 second light exposure.  Then reset timer to 1 second, cover 1/3 of film with dense paper and expose remaining 2/3 of film strip to 1 second light exposure, then cover first 1/3, second 1/3 in order to expose only the remaining 1/3 of strip to final second of light.

4)  Develop the film as before and then examine at the light table with pocket microscope to find exact exposure time for the creation of photo-positive with a 50% gray/dot pattern as the darkest value in image area.

f.  Use determined time and aperture setting on enlarger to create  final, full size positive and develop the film as described above.

1)  Be sure to fix the film for 5 minutes and rinse for at least 5 minutes.  Check positive to see that 50% pattern in fact exists and then dry positive.

2)  If the positive goes to a bluish film when exposed to light, return the positive to the fix bath for another 5 minutes.  Rinse it for 5 minutes and then hang to dry.

g.  If the positive is off, then reexamine 1st and 2nd test strips and try again from which ever step you think you went astray!  Remember to be consistent in all steps!

D.  Creation of Toner, Graphite, Pen Drawing on Vellum or Mylar, Photocopy on Transparency:

1.  Toner (Wash Drawing) Recipe:

a.  Recipe

1) 3 heaping teaspoons of toner.  This is potentially hazardous as a material inhaled.  Mix when wearing a respirator.

2)  80% (baby food jar sized container) isopropyl or ethyl alcohol

3)  20% clear Future acrylic floor finish.

b.  Apply singly as layers of tusche like articulations or mix with graphite and/or pen.  Realize that each may require exposure times.

c.  The toner will definitely require an aquatint screen exposure previous to toner drawing exposure.  Times will vary for exposure due to variations in exposure units.

d.  Duralar or other polyester substrate is needed for drawing upon and it needs at least one mat side on which to lay down toner or graphite.  One mat and one shiny side best.

e.  Water can be used with a brush to dilute the toner wash solution as well as allowing it to spread beyond initial wet application.

2.  Photocopies on Transparencies or oiled paper will require a longer exposure time compared to mid-tones of graphite drawings and toner wash drawings.

3.  Drawing media laid atop polyester substrates or vellum sheets can be used for registering visual information such as color separation.

a.  used to develop image and to create number of corresponding plates.

4.  Acrylic paint, watercolor, watercolor pencil, paint pens will work realizing that each has different opacities.  That is the density of material to the quantity of and duration to light source.  Stadtler Pigment Liners, woodless graphite pencils- soft, Micron Pens are good.

5.  Recognize that values of 80 - 100% in the drawing will go to 100% in final exposure to plate and subsequent printing of the image.  Typical text weight line will remain normal, that is 100% - black (no need to expose plate to aquatint screen prior to line image).

E.  Exposure Units:

1.  In general you want to have good ventilation to dissipate the heat generated by light sources.

a.  be certain that all surfaces in close proximity to the bulbs are not flammable.

b.  if in question, attach a thin metal plate to surface to make non-flammable.

c.  be sure to turn ventilation on when use of exposure unit begins.

2.  A contact frame can be used but the glass must be tempered and flat as well as set up for use with clamps in order to achieve a complete contact between glass and transparency and photo-polymer covered plate.

3.  Mylar can be taped to glass in order to reduce amount of light cast on plate; useful for extremely bright light sources - 1000 watt bulbs.

4.  Be sure that both sides of the vacuum frame or contract frame glass is clean.  All transparencies and positives should also be free of dust and dirt.

5.  Be certain that bulbs placement above the contact glass is no less than the diagonal measurement from one corner of the contact glass to the other

6.  All bulbs used need a reflector.

7.  Photo Flood Bulbs can be used, but there is generally a six hour limit on each bulb before its light shedding capacity diminishes and so affects the exposure time initially calculated for transparencies used.

a.  be sure to keep track of times used to know when to recalculate times or buy new ones.

8.  Halogen Bulbs can be used and there is no complication of reduced light emission after a set amount of time.  It simply burns out.

a.  both photo-flood and halogen bulbs can be used immediately, there is no need for warm up.  Also both are best as 500 Watt bulbs used in pairs or fours.

9.  Mercury and Metal Halide Bulbs provide true and intense light.

a.  both need at least 5 minutes to warm up to their true intensity before using for exposure of photo-polymer plate.

b.  you should protect your eyes from extreme light.

c.  need a shutter box set up since light must remain on between turning on and exposing of plate to various screens and transparencies.

1)  1996, Dove article on how to make an Exposure Unit Box, Printmaking Today.

10.  Vacuum Frame is best means of achieving uniform and complete contact between plate’s surface and film or transparency.

11.  Some exposure units can be electronically connected to vacuum frame in order to gauge the exact amount of light that is hitting its surface and thus the plate.

a.  Olac is such an exposure unit.

F.  Exposure of Photo-Polymer Covered Plate to a Photo-Positive and a Wash Drawing:

1.  Photo-Positive:

a.  The dull side of the positive (emulsion side) will be placed atop of the film covered plate.

b.  Be sure to remove dust from the positive.

c.  Once the positive and plate are aligned, lower and clamp the vacuum frame down atop and switch on the compressor pump.

1).  The pump’s gauge should read between 20 and 24 pounds of pressure.

2).  Check to see that the positive’s surface is completely flush to the glass once the correct pressure is attained.  If you see pockets where the positive is not in contact with the glass, turn off the compressor and open the frame to move the plate and positive to a new area certain that there is no dust before beginning the process again.

d.  When the pump changes pitch then after a 30 second wait, it is time to expose the plate for either testing or final exposure.

1).  If testing use 5 seconds blocks of time beginning with 5 and going to 30 seconds.  Generally, the times used will be between 15 and 30 seconds depending of the range of opacities of the transparency used.

2).  If you use a positive that is generally of light values (below 50% gray), then prior to entering the exposure process do the following:

a)  After initially adhering the film to the plate and trimming the edges, remove the top and final layer of plastic from the film.

b)  Place the positive on top of the film with its emulsion side down.

c)  Place the plate with emulsion side of photo-positive against film, face down on the press bed and run through.

d)  Carefully cover with light proof material and head for exposure unit.

e)  It’s exposure time will be less than a positive with a good range of 50% grays.

e.  After exposing the plate and positive for the required amount of time, it is ready for development.

2.  Wash Drawing & Drawing:

a.  All drawings must have a dot pattern, just as the photo-positive does.

1)  A drawing done on paper can be photographed and a positive made using a halftone sheet for creation of maximum 50% gray.

2)  An aquatint screen is used to create a random dot pattern on the plate prior to the exposure of the drawing to the light sensitive plate.

a)  The screen provides a 60% gray random dot pattern.

b)  The aquatint screen’s dull side is vulnerable to scratching that will detrimentally alter the pattern.

c)  The screen can be used in original size to allow for exposure of both small and large plates.

3)  The exposure time using the aquatint screen is no longer than the time used for the halftone screen for a similarly valued image.

a)  The exposure time using an aquatint screen is ½ to ¾ of the exposure time used with a halftone screen.

4)  The exposure time using the aquatint screen is no longer than the time used for the halftone screen for a similarly valued image.

b.  To expose the drawing to the photo-polymer plate, the photo-polymer surface is first exposed to the aquatint screen - dull side down to the plate.  Using a 1000 watt mercury bulb it was exposed for 16 seconds then covered.

1)  Be sure that all of the materials laid atop of the plate are in complete contact with plate and glass after maximum compressor pressure is reached.

2)  In multiple exposures be sure to safeguard the plate from extraneous light at the exposure unit.

c.  Remove the aquatint screen and place the drawing media side down on the plate

d.  Close the vacuum frame and turn on compressor, when maximum pressure is reached and 15 seconds have passed expose the plate.

1)  For a test plate to determine the best exposure times for drawing materials used do the following:

a)  Set the drawing with its media side down so a ½ inch top margin of the plate is uncovered.  It will be used as one constant of time differences.

b)  Place a light impervious material like mat board, over a ¾” margin of the plate for a reference to the black created by the initial aquatint exposure for black.

c)  The remainder of the plate is exposed for varying times for later determination of the best exposure time for media used.

d)  Expose the entire drawing area, minus the covered section, for 8 seconds, then use a light impervious mat board to cover the 8 second section and then expose remainder for 4 more seconds then cover section and expose remainder for 2 - 4 sections cover, . . ., until you reach covered section and stop and then develop.

e)  When using vellum or tracing paper as drawing substrate be sure to test exposure times with an unmarked width of the vellum or tracing paper alone and continue as described above.

f)  If drawing tends to result in high contrast image on the plate then try again and flash the aquatint exposed plate to a one second flash of light and then drawing.

3.  Photocopy Transparency Image:

a.  Typical 12 point text and line can be directly exposed to the photo-polymer plate, but images with broader expanses of value will require that the plate be first exposed to the aquatint screen.

1)  Be sure that the aquatint screen is placed on the plate with its dull side atop of the film.

b.  Typical 12 point text and line can be directly exposed to the photo-polymer plate, but images with broader expanses of value will require that the plate be first exposed to the aquatint screen.

c.  Once the plate is exposed to the aquatint screen, remove the screen and safe guard the plate as you remove the final sheet of plastic from the film and then lightly dust the exposed film with talc.  Also dust the toner side of the photocopy transparency.

1)  Be sure it is a thin film of talc.

d.  Place the plate in the vacuum frame and put the photocopy toner side down on top.

e.  Close the frame and turn on compressor, wait for pressure to maximize, wait at least 30 seconds, check for complete contact of materials and then expose.

1)  If contact is questionable in the frame, then wait at least 5 minutes with compressor running before exposure.

f.  For further information about photocopy transparencies and photo-polymer film techniques, check out section 29 of Nontoxic Intaglio Printmaking, by Keith Howard.  Explore your own methods with film’s plastic layer on and off, etc.

G.  Developing the Exposed Plate:

1.  Photo-Polymer Developing Solution:

a.  Using graduated cylinder measure ½ a quart of warm water of room temperature water.

b.  Measure 1 heaping teaspoon (10 grams) Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash) and add to warm water.

1)  Arm & Hammer “Super Washing Soda” can be used for sodium carbonate.

c.  Stir until all of the soda ash is dissolved

d.  Add another ½ quart of cool water to create a 1 quart developing solution that measures 68 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

1)  This developing solution can be used all day.

2)  Dispose of spent solution down sink with running water.

2.  A sponge is needed for development process and a cheap polyester one works well.

3.  Remove the final protective plastic sheet from the film if it has not already been removed.

a.  If the sheet has been removed for exposure purposes, be sure to develop it immediately.

b.  If a photo-positive has been laminated to the film, submerge it and the plate into the developer and rub gently.  Carefully pull up a corner of the positive, to allow the developer to work between the film and the positive.  Slowly pull positive off.

4.  With the sponge gently and consistently and with a regular pattern sponge across the film’s surface for no longer than 2 minutes.

a.  Exposed areas of the image are hardened and remain blue.

b.  Unexposed areas of the image left the film vulnerable to the solution and so are removed as the plate is rubbed gently and evenly across its surface.

1)  A slight sheen of copper will appear as unexposed film is removed; dark areas of the image will have a copper cast as it now has a texture of film and exposed plate.

5.  Rinse completely with cool water.

6.  Blot dry with clean newsprint.

7.  Air dry with hairdryer on cool setting.

H.  The Finished Plate:

1.  Grooves created by the film and the actual surface of the metal plate will be most prevalent in the darker areas of the image.

a.  The light penetrates in the non-blocked areas (negative space) of the image.  The light hardens the film to the plate and creates top surface of the plate.

b.  Film areas protected from the light source by density of toner, the photo-positive’s silver or drawing materials, is removed by the sodium carbonate of the developing solution.  Areas where the most film is removed creates the most recesses (texture) and so dark values in the printed image.

2.  After the plate is rinsed, blotted and dried, the remaining film is hardened under a direct light source from double the exposure time to ½ an hour in direct sunlight.

a.  Do not let the plate exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

b.  The longer it is exposed to the light sources the more the blue of the film bleaches allowing for a better understanding of where the ink lies on the plate during inking.

I.  Inking the Plate:

1.  Prior to inking carefully take a small piece of wood wrapped with fine grit sandpaper around the edges of the plate if it has not been previously beveled.

2.  Mix ink to preferred consistency.

a.  Can alter stiffness with magnesium carbonate or Miracle Gel or Setswell.

b.  Can use spray cooking oil to protect ink from drying instead of non-skinning agent.

3.  Card ink on in normal fashion, taking care to notice that no loose bits of the film at the edges of the plate work free and are carried across the plate during inking.  Bits of dried film are likely to scratch the surface of the plate.

4.  Tarlatan with inky one first, then medium inky tarlatan to clean piece; all well bundled.

a.  Can use a 2 x 4 x 8” block of wood that is initially wrapped with a durable paper towel and secured with tape.

1)  The paper wrapped block is wrapped with a telephone page for the final series of wipes.

2)  Used telephone page is thrown out and replace with new one if needed.

3)  It is used for a consistent and non-intrusive means of final wiping of the plate.

5.  A piece of paper soaked for no more than 10 minutes was used.  If using heavier paper that requires longer soaking be sure to thoroughly blot the paper prior to printing.

a.  If the surface of the plate should become tacky, clean it well with vegetable oil, buff clean and dry and re-expose to ultraviolet light for up to half an hour.

6.  Print the plate.

7.  If the print is of a test plate, determine which of the exposure times is best for the image used.

a.  For a photo-positive of light values, a 10 - 12 second exposure time was used.

1) The photo image used had insignificant areas of a 50% gray; it was adhered to the film's surface prior to exposure to a 1000 watt halide bulb and a sheet of Duralar (double mat sided) was adhered to the vacuum frame glass.

J.  Layered Photo-Polymer film for high contrast (black is too dense to be carried by the half tone of the photo-positive alone) photo-image or relief printing of plate:

1.  Adhere photo-polymer film to the plate and expose it to the aquatint screen for determined time of light source used.

a.  Be sure to keep the second, top, sheet of plastic on the film.

b.  Aquatint screen dot pattern exposure provides a backup black to photo-positive’s.

1)  The aquatint screen pattern used with the half tone of the positive creates richer blacks and grays.

2.  Cover plate for transport to press for subsequent laminations of film to the plate.

3.  Cut sheet of film to fit plate with a ½” margin for each side of plate

a.  Do not use laminate solution on film/plate.

4.  On clean dry press bed, lay down the new sheet of film minus the plastic sheet of its dull

5.  Lay the film out so its uncovered side lies face up.

6.  Place the uncovered film/plate face down on the uncovered sheet of film.

7.  Lay remaining plastic cover sheet over the plate and excess film.  Newsprint atop all.  Felts.

8.  Run through the press.

9.  Cut off excess film from edges of plate at an angle.

10.  At this point there is the possibility of laminating a moderately valued positive to the new layer of film by laying it emulsion side down on the plate, laying the plate face down on the press bed and running it through the press.

11.  Whether laminating the positive or laying it atop of the plate in the vacuum frame, cover for transport to the vacuum frame and be sure that all parts are dust free prior to exposure.

12.  Expose for required amount of time.

13.  Develop the plate after exposure.

a.  If the positive was laminated to the plate, be sure to put it all in the developing solution and carefully pull the positive off in the solution.

b.  Entirely breakdown the top layer of film in order to get to the information of the aquatint screen (value range).

1)  Know where the dark areas of the image lie and as the developing takes place, be sure to focus on wiping those areas for breakdown in order to get the copper to show and so the look and sound of the texture that will hold blacks and grays.

2)  Unexposed photo-polymer film rinses away to expose the plate’s or bottom film’s information below.

14.  An etched aquatint plate can be used for second layer of information via photo-polymer film.  Use the same steps as 1 -13 or 3 - 13.

15.  Aquatint pattern beneath top photo-polymer film information, extends the film/plate’s printing life.

16.  Can use steps 1 - 13 above using a wash drawing for the top layer of information instead of a photo-positive.

K.  Etching the Photo-Polymer Surface:

1.  In order to etch the film image to the plate the film must be thinned prior to exposing the image to the film/plate.

a.  In this way varied values of the image can be reproduced fully.

2.  Adhere the photo-polymer film to the plate.  Store in light safe bag or box.

3.  Mix the developing solution of soda ash and water.  See recipe listed under “G.  Developing the Exposed Plate”.  Be sure to mix completely.

4.  Remove the top plastic sheet from the unexposed film on the plate.

5.  Place the plate face up in the developing solution tray and cover the tray with a light impervious material such as dense mat board or thin Masonite.

a.  Leave the plate undisturbed for an amount of time ranging from 30 seconds to 12 minutes.

1)  Time depends on the temperature of the water and the quality of the water.

2)  Distilled water at 68 degrees Fahrenheit thins the film to the desired shear blue appearance in 8 minutes.

3)  If the solution is too warm or the solution is too strong it will strip the film from the plate too quickly.  If the developer is cold the stripping time will be longer.

6.  Place the plate face up in the developing solution tray and cover the tray with a light impervious material such as dense mat board or thin Masonite.

a.  During the demonstration, an 8 minute thinning time was used and it was suggested that the developing solution be mixed fresh for each plate thinned.

7.  When the determined thinning time is reached, carefully remove the plate from the developing solution and plate it in a tray of room temperature water.

a.  Agitate the tray of water for about a minute until the milky blue of the thinned/dissolved film is gone from the plate surface.

b.  The blue of the film is very sheer in appearance and is barely visible compared to it original color.

8.  Rinse the plate with cool tap water.

9.  Immediately blot the plate with light pressure using clean, smooth newsprint.

a.  If newspaper fibers stick to the film surface, return the plate to the tray of water and gently rub its surface to remove it.  Then rinse and blot again.

10. Use a hair dryer on low setting to completely dry the plate.

11. Put the plate in a light safe box or bag and prepare for exposure of plate to image(s).

2. Can use plate as a test plate to determine best exposure time for image and thinned film.

a.  Generally, a good guide is to begin with exposure times used to create good non-etch images from related media (photo-positive, drawing on Mylar, etc.).

1)  For consistency in exposure time Mylar needs to be off on non-etch plate in order to relate to exposure time for thinned film plate, since it has no Mylar.

a)  If Mylar on for non-etch it probably needed a longer exposure time than the same image and material exposed to a thinned film plate.

b)  If Mylar off for the non-etch exposure time it will be the same exposure time for the thinned film plate.

13. Having determined the exposure time or sets of time to use for the thinned film plate follow the instructions in "F"under the heading Exposure of Photo-Polymer Covered".

a.  A photocopy needs to be dusted with talc as does the photo-polymer film on the plate if it will be laid toner side down on the plate for clarity of image.  Otherwise, the toner side must stay up and away from contact with the photo-polymer since they will permanently bond to one another.

b.  A photo-positive can be laminated to the plate as explained in "F" under heading of   Exposure of Photo-Polymer Covered Plate".

1)  Let the compressor pump run engaged with its reading a 20 -25 pounds for at least 4 - 5 minutes before exposing the plate.

4. After exposure, remove the photocopy carefully, drawing or photo-positive (pull it off during development).

a.  Develop the plate carefully being sure not to over develop and loose the majority of the film from the plate.

b.  A good amount of copper will be seen on the plate.

15. Rinse, blot and dry the plate.

16. Do not light harden before etching the plate.

a.  If you light harden the plate you can't redevelop the plate in order to pull out darker values if the plate was in fact underdeveloped.

b.  This can be seen if areas of the image are not etching.

1)  If this is the case rinse the plate thoroughly and return to the developing tray to develop further those areas of the plate image that remain closed.

2)  After further development, rinse, blot, dry and etch.

c.  There is no need to light harden the plate since etched recesses will hold the ink.

17. If you are not going to etch the developed plate immediately, then store it in a light safe box or bag.

18. Back the plate with contact paper cut to the same size as the plate - it can stay on during proof printing.

a.  Can also coat the plate with "Future Acrylic Floor Base" and then coat with contact paper.  A mixture of 10% ammonia and 90% water will strip the Future from the plate.

b.  Layer the back of the plate with acrylic packing tape; this must be removed before proofing the plate.

19. Packing tape is used to make a hanger for the plate.  It is from the length of tape that the plate is suspended in the vertical tray.

a.  Use about a 14" length of tape and be sure to fold it back on itself so it doesn't stick to anything else in the tank.

b.  Use a permanent marker to write your name on the tape for identification.


20. Etch the plate for a minimum of 30 minutes in Ferric Chloride.

a.  A test plate for determining etching times can be made by painting out strips with acrylic screen filler that is dried completely with a hair dryer before submerging in etchant.

b.  Using a metal-less clothes pin, pinch the top of the folded tape length over and to the vertical tank top edge.

21. When finished with a timed etching session, remove the plate and thoroughly rinse both sides of the plate and tape with water.

22. If any material is to be applied and/or attached to the plate, it must be deoxidized.

a.  Mix ½ cup of salt to one gallon of white vinegar.

b.  Submerge the plate in a tray with enough of the vinegar solution to cover it completely.

c.  This is not necessary for printing or stripping the plate.

23. Use an alkali solution such as caustic soda to remove screen filler from plate.

L. A Photo-Polymer Variation, Stretched and Folded Film

1.  Plate preparation:

a.  Sand with 600 grit sandpaper.

b.  Adhere film as described under "I" of  Photo-polymer Film section.

2.  Adhesion of Photo-Polymer to Plate:

a.  If using a previously etched plate, then increase the amount of alcohol to 50% in the laminating solution and increase slightly the pressure of the press.

b.  Allow the plate to rest 24 hours before continuing.

c.  Leave the top Mylar sheet on.

d.  Expose the plate to the aquatint screen for a black background.  See the information under "2." of  Wash Drawing & Drawing."

e.  Store the plate in a light proof bag or box.

3.  Exposing Film Pieces:

a.  Use a mat board as the surface on which to expose the film pieces photo-positives, photocopies, digital output (image substrate).

1)  These can be film scraps from previous film cutting sessions.

b.  The film has both top and bottom sheets of Mylar on.

c.  The dull side of the film is facing the mat board, just as if it were set up on the plate.

d.  The emulsion side of the image substrate is down on the film.

1)  Film that is to be exposed to a photocopy must be first exposed to the aquatint screen.

f.  Expose the pieces of film separately or together (an average time will have to be calculated for a variety of images).



4.  Adhering the Film Pieces:

a.  Newsprint down on the press bed

b.  Remove the top sheet of Mylar from the plate

c.  Remove Mylar from both sides of the pieces of film be certain to remember which side is the dull side since that side will be placed down on the plate.

d.  Place the film pieces dull side down on the newsprint

e.  Spray the plate with the laminating solution and begin arranging the film pieces on the plate

f.  Be sure to place the image that will dominate the composition on the top of the arrangement of film pieces

1)  The film pieces can be ripped and wrinkled - perhaps stretched.

2)  The film pieces can be pulled back up off of the plate surface and repositioned to a point.

h.  Cover the plate and its pieces of film with a sheet of Mylar or plastic wrap.

i.   Run the plate and film through the press.

j.   Film pieces can be added to the plate after running one arrangement through the press.

k.  Trim the edges of the plate with a sharp blade.

4.  Developing the Plate:

a.  Be sure to rub thick areas of layered and folded film a little bit more than areas with one layer.

b.  Minimally rub the aquatint screen exposed film base.

c.  Rinse.

d.  Dry with hairdryer.

e.  Light harden the plate.  Remember that the dried film is brittle.

f.  Print.

5.  A material like Duralar, a medium weight Acrylic sheeting, can be used as a substrate for the film instead of a metal plate.  The film is adhered to the medium weight Mylar, exposed, and developed.  Once the exposure processes are completed and the image hardened, the Mylar/film piece can be adhered to a collagraph plate.