Promo Postcard – The Creation Process

This post is a continuation of my promo postcard idea and creation process.

Once I have decided on an idea, the next step is drawing the imagery and creating the linocut. This linocut is pretty simple, with only lines carved out. I wanted the pages of the book to be solid, and more substantial.


The next step is to print the linocut, resulting in this print:


I like the unevenness of the print, and the white texture on the pages of the book. Once I have the print, I scan it into my computer. I open the file in Photoshop and cut out the image. With this imagery I recycled some old book images I had created a couple years ago. I collaged together a couple kite images, with the strings and bows drawn digitally.

Once I have the kite images, it’s time to compose the final image. I copy and paste different elements, and move them around until I’m satisfied with the composition.


Once I’m satisfied with the composition in black and white, I add color to the image. I use the website ColorLovers to select colors and palettes. In this image I used a color palette by Joy_of_Summer called Compatible.


And this is the final image! I like how the colors pop, it’s very summery.

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Promo Postcard – The Idea Process

For my self-promotional postcard I gave myself the theme of Summer Reading. I usually start with a list of words to get me going. In this case my list is: hot, beach, warm, beach umbrella, bike riding, hiking, vacation, flowers, outdoor picnics, patios, drinks on patios, camping, bright colors.


I started with thumbnails, as I usually do. I started with some ideas playing with ice cream and popsicles.


My next page has some beer pouring imagery (done at art night at work, while drinking beer). I liked how the flowing nature of the books was looking, so my brain next went to flowing clothes on laundry lines.


Then I went to flying book pages, and eventually kites. I chose the book kite idea because I thought it represented the freedom of summer, and playfulness.


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Is art education necessary to get work?

In the professional world of art, is an art degree necessary to get work? Short answer: No. Art directors or hiring companies will only care about the quality of your work, not whether or not you have a degree. Long answer: Yes and No. If you are a highly disciplined and VERY self directed, you can teach yourself drawing and art via books, YouTube and online classes. If you need structure in order to learn and be productive, go to some form of higher art education.

I went back to art school because I knew I wanted to change my career, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like, only it would be in the arts and illustration world. Art school gave me a block of time in which I could explore and experiment, and figure out which medium I gravitated towards. This ended up being printmaking, which I also apply to illustration. I also learned that my work is best suited to editorial illustration. There are many paths of illustration, and art school helped narrow that focus. While in art school I also tried concept art (not my forte), decorative illustration, pattern and fabric printing, and poster design. I also enjoy decorative illustration, and am currently applying that to my Etsy store products.

Art school allowed me to play with printmaking, and see which form of printmaking would best work for illustration. I started with silkscreen, but soon figured out the process took too long, and wouldn’t work with the short deadlines in editorial illustration. I switched to linocut, because that still applied my love of printmaking, and the process is less time consuming and is possible to execute for editorial illustration.

Overall I am glad I went back to art school, and took the plunge of changing my career path. I am much happier in my career now than I was in my 20s.

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Etching – The Process Part Four

The previous etching methods I have written about involve acid. Drypoint is a direct method of scratching into the plate, without the use of acid. You can use any sharp object to scratch into the plate, but there is a metal scribe designed for this purpose.


The metal scribe has a pointed end on each end. When you scratch into the plate using the scribe, it creates a “burr” which is small curls of metal that hold the ink when you print. Drypoint creates a slightly soft or fuzzy line when printed.

There is also a tool called a roulette that creates tonal dot patterns. It has a small rotating wheel on the end that has a texture. When rolled across the plate with a little pressure, it creates a tone.


Drypoint plates don’t last as long as etched plates. With etched plates you can pull many prints and the quality will be the same. With drypoint the “burr” wears down and flattens each time you run it through the press. This results in a faded line. You can only pull 5 or 6 prints before the line starts to fade. So it is not ideal for large editions.

There are many ways of creating a drypoint plate. You can also use sandpaper, to create multiple lines at once. There is also a diamond-tipped tool that has a more fluid feel for drawing. You can also create your own drypoint tools and experiment.

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Etching – The Process Part Three

In this post I am going to explain the printing process. Etchings are printed on hand-cranked presses. A lot of pressure is needed to push the paper into all the little grooves on the plate, so printing by hand is not possible.

Before you do any printing, you need to set up the press first. Prepare a registration paper, so you know where to put your plate. This can be done by simply tracing around the plate on a piece of newsprint. Tape your registration newsprint to the press bed. Place a piece of duralar (thin plastic sheet) overtop your registration paper. The plastic will keep the press bed clean, and keep it easy to clean up. Put the blankets on the press.



Once that is done, you need to set the printing pressure, which is basically how low the roller is to the press bed (lower = more pressure). To do this, place your clean plate onto your registration. Put a clean piece of newsprint overtop. Adjust the press by turning the large screws (I don’t know what they’re called) on either side. Run your plate through the press by turning the circular crank on the side. You should “feel” the plate go through the press, this means your pressure is good. If you can’t feel anything, there is not enough pressure. Your newsprint paper should also be embossed from the plate.

Once you have the press set up, you can start inking your plate. I use Gamblin oil based etching inks, and also some Charbonnel inks. To ink your plate, start by putting a small line of ink on your plastic wedge, and draw down the ink on the plate. Do this in vertical lines until your whole plate is covered with ink. Then in the same manner, you want to scrape the ink off. I usually apply the ink vertically, then scrape it off horizonally, and again in different directions. This way ink gets in all the little grooves you have etched. Once you have scraped as much ink off as you can, use a piece of tarlatan to pull more ink off. I pull the tarlatan in different directions as well, and sometimes use a twisting motion too. Once you get as much ink off as you can with the tarlatan, then use a piece of newsprint or phone book paper to get the rest of the ink off the surface of the plate. You want the surface of the plate to be mostly clean, and the ink will be in the grooves you have etched (below the surface). This photo is part way through the inking process, so there is still a lot of ink on the plate.



Once your plate is inked, place it onto your registration on the press bed. The paper for etching needs to be soaked in water, so your paper should be soaking beforehand. Take the paper out of the water bath and blot it with a towel. Place the damp paper on top of your plate. Place a piece of clean newsprint overtop your printing paper. The newsprint will keep the blankets clean.



Place the blankets overtop of your plate and paper. Now you can turn the crank on the press (the fun part) and print your plate! It’s exciting and challenging to print plates, as how you wipe the plate (referring to wiping the ink off) as well as how you etch it will affect how your print will turn out. Many variables in play with printmaking.


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Etching – The Process Part Two

In this post I will be going through the process of aquatint. Aquatint is an etching process that creates tonal areas on the plate. There are a couple ways of doing aquatint. The aquatint process creates a very fine dot pattern on the plate, this is what creates the tone. One way of doing this is using spray paint. Spraying a very fine, light coat of paint onto the plate will create a fine dot pattern. Another method is using a fine powder called rosin. At Dundarave we use the rosin method. We use a small sock filled with rosin powder, and tap this gently to dust a fine dusting of rosin powder onto the plate. You want about a 50% coverage of rosin powder. Always wear a dust mask when doing this, as the rosin powder is very fine and can get into your lungs.


Once the rosin powder is on the plate, the next step is to melt it. This will adhere the powder to the plate. Place the plate onto a hot plate, and heat it until the rosin powder turns a little translucent. Once it turns translucent, you know it is melted properly. If you melt it too much, the aquatint won’t work.



Once the plate has cooled, you can continue creating the aquatint. I like to mask off areas with hard ground, and create shapes with the aquatint that way. In this photo I have applied hard ground to the areas I want to stay white, exposing the shapes I want to be grey.



This is what the aquatint looks like once it is etched in the acid.



For this plate I did two different etch times, so I covered up the cloud shape and continued to etch the skyline, so it would be darker.



This is what the plate looks like with the hard ground removed, and the aquatint etched.



This is what the print looks like with the aquatint. The grey tonal shapes are what the aquatint looks like.


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Etching – The Process Part One

This month I am doing a series of blog posts on etching processes. There are several different ways of etching, and I’m going to go through four of them. The techniques I’m going to explain are hard ground, soft ground, aquatint, and drypoint. I’m also going to go through the printing process.

I’m starting off with Hard Ground etching. I etch with copper and ferric acid, as that was what I was taught with. The first step in any etching process is to prepare the copper plate. First you bevel the edges of the plate with a metal file. The edges of the copper plate are sharp, so you bevel them so they don’t damage your paper or the printing blankets. Next step in prepping your plate is applying a backing to the back of the plate, so the copper is protected from the acid. I use the plastic lining that you put in kitchen drawers, with the adhesive on one side. The last step in preparing your plate is to degrease it. At Dundarave we use soy sauce to degrease the copper plate. You put a few drops of soy sauce on your plate and rub it around with your finger. Then rinse it off with water. The water should run in sheets, and not bead up. If it beads up, your plate is not degreased properly. Degreasing removes any oil on the plate surface, and prepares the surface for accepting grounds. Below is a picture of the backing being applied to the plate.



Grounds are what you apply to the plate to resist the acid from eating away at the plate. Hard ground is one type of ground that resists the acid. I use the liquid hard ground, it is also available in ball form. Once my plate is degreased and dry, I apply the hard ground with a brush. I brush it on in one direction first, then in the opposite direction second. I do two coats just to be sure I cover the copper. I don’t know if two coats is necessary, but it makes me feel better. As long as you don’t see any shiny copper showing through, the hard ground should be good.



Once the hard ground is dry, you can start drawing into it. I transfer my drawing using white transfer paper. Once the drawing is transferred onto the plate, I trace over my lines with an etching tool (I forgot to take a picture of it). It’s basically a metal scribe with a sharp point on each end. It scratches away the hard ground, leaving the shiny copper exposed. All the lines you scratch into the hard ground will etch and be black in the final print.



Once you have drawn all your lines, it’s time to etch! At Dundarave we prepare the acid booth by putting the ferric acid in one tray, and water in the other tray. The water tray stops the acid from continuing to etch your plate.



Etching is all about time. The longer you etch your plate, the darker your marks will be. For the hard ground for this plate, I etched 10 minutes first. Then I covered up the areas I wanted to be lighter with hard ground, and etched again for another 10 minutes (equals 20 minutes total etch time). When you take your plate out of the ferric acid, you put it in the water tray to rinse off the acid and stop the etching process. Below is a picture of preparing for the second etch, covering up the skyline lines.



Once all your etching is done, you remove the hard ground with varsol. You can check your etch by lightly scraping a dental tool along the lines, and feel if it has etched properly. It’s kind of hard to see in the picture, but this is my plate once all my hard ground lines have etched.



After you have removed all the hard ground from your plate, you can proceed with more etching methods (aquatint, drypoint), or print your plate to see what it looks like. Usually you “proof” your plate several times in the process, to see what it looks like, because you don’t know how your plate will print until you print it. With this plate, I continued with aquatint, and then proofed it to see what I got.


Thanks for reading! I don’t know if that all made sense, as etching is a fairly complicated process, and best understood by actually doing it. But that is a taste of some of the process involved. Next week I will go through aquatint, which is used to apply tonal values.

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