Recycle Print

After I made my own recycled paper I had to do something with it… Well, the plan was to print on it! So I did. I used my (recently built) printing press to print a recycle symbol on the paper… which seemed fitting, since it is recycled paper.

I really love how this turned out. One of the things about printmaking is, you need paper. I remember when I started experimenting with printing and was told “Two words: Rives BFK” and yeah, you know what? That shit’s expensive!

I get that to make high quality prints you need high quality materials, but I’m also cheap, and I love doing what I can with low-cost materials. I’m using water based inks because they are cheap and easy to use (and clean up in my slop sink) and I do get some paper that isn’t total crap sometimes, but I’m also going to use cheap material sometimes because art should be accessible. But…

The more I think about it, the more I want to just make my own paper using the stuff we already recycle at our house. We shred plenty of paper, and toss a lot in the recycle bin, so why not put it to use? I think making my own (recycled) paper and then printing on it makes perfect sense.



Since I got the press up and running I figured I should put it to good use. I made a plate and made a few prints. One of the things I used to do when I did screenprinting was to do a print, add more ink of a different color, print again, and keep it going. In the end you have (usually) brown ink you can’t really put back into a can since you’ve mixed it all up, so I’d usually have a “brown” can of ink.

Anyway, this is a similar process, where you add more ink with each print. Luckily with this type of printing there seems to be less waste.

Since I recently posted about The Process I’m going to take some time with this post to talk about that…

Of course if you like these prints for their visual qualities, cool. That’s great! You can like them for that, but with everything, there is a story… a narrative… and there’s a process.

Often for me, creation is a exploration. I am extremely lucky that a good amount of the art I make does not need to be commercial art. I don’t have to rely on selling it to survive. I often make things, create things, or attempt to bring something into existence because I am curious. I ask “What if…?” and every now and then I have the means to find out. So let’s go for a journey!

I had attended a meeting for QWERTYFEST MKE, which will be an event focused on typewriters, writing, books, and all that stuff. (If you want a diversion, check out this post about my QWERTY Keyboard.) After the meeting I was thinking about typewriters and how back in the 1990s before we had easy access to computers we would go to Kinko’s and use the IBM Selectric typewriters to create type. This was our primitive method of typesetting: Use a typewriter to type, then blow it up on a copier until you had it large. We used this method to make flyers, and zines, and sticker and t-shirt art, or whatever. It was cheap and easy and fast.

Above is the artwork I used for the printing plate. I got this by starting with the one functional typewriter in my house. An old Royal that sits on our mantle. The ribbon is a bit dried up, but I was able to bang out q w e r t y.

I took the paper I typed on and scanned it into my computer using a Brother MFC-L3770CDW Printer/Copier/Scanner. Sadly it’s a digital thing, and you can see scan lines. I did try to blow it up quite a bit. I may have even printed it and scanned it again. Either way I was not pleased with the outcome, so I did not use it. Maybe I can play with the scanner settings a bit? (Fun Fact: I used to do a ton of scanning at my first internship and then job.)

After the poor performance of the Brother (which is actually a really nice printer and okay scanner) I grabbed the USB Digital Microscope on my desk and actually used that to capture the small type. The microscope can (supposedly) magnify 1000 times. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but that’s what it says on the tin. I did end up using this one. I brought the image into Affinity Photo and messed with the levels and made it monochrome as you can see in the stark black & white image further up the page.

After I made the plates and the prints I remembered I got a nice scanner for Dana’s desk. It’s a Canon CanoScan LiDE400 that can do 4800 dpi resolution. Much higher than the 600 dpi my Brother does. You can even see the grain of the paper!

The other method I probably could have used to magnify the type would be to photograph it with my Nikon DSLR. I didn’t think about that until later.

So as I said, it’s a journey. I now have a number of methods to try next time, and have some idea how they will turn out. I can also do the copy and enlarge thing multiple times. The “copy” feature of the Brother allows for 200% enlargement which is… okay I guess. The idea is that with each copy things degrade a bit, and you get type you cannot get by using a digitally created font. You can see that attempt in the image above. Maybe I should have started with that method… (Note: The Brother can do 400% enlargement. It’s in a submenu.)

Lots more to explore here, and I look forward to it!


3D Printed Print Baren

In the world of printmaking (of which I am far from an expert) there are many ways to print, including a printing press. I no longer have easy access to a press, so I’ve been using alternate methods of getting ink on paper. One method is to use a baren. The baren is a thing you hold in your hand to rub the paper against the printing plate, thus causing the ink to be transferred.

I bought a cheap Speedball baren years ago, and I never liked it, so I started looking at other barens. Now, printmakers tend to appreciate fine things and aesthetics, and there are a lot of different barens out there. Some are made of glass, some are bamboo, some have rope or ball bearings or pads, etc. So I finally asked the wisest of printmakers I know, and Jessica told me she just uses a wooden spoon.

Well, I decided to just make my own baren. So I quickly modeled something really ugly, and I 3D printed it. After I printed it I thought of a better way to model it, and I still haven’t made a new one. This one works, so I’ll just keep using it for now. It’s functional. It’s good enough.

I did sand the bottom of it… quite a bit! Working my way up to high grit sandpaper until the bottom was smooth. Really smooth. It’s smooth. Yeah. Smooooooth. I also sprayed it with Liquid Wrench and rubbed that in real good. It glides across the paper really nice. I’ve done a few prints with it and I’m pretty happy. 3D Printing. It’s handy!


House Illustration & Print

Right before Christmas Dana mentioned that she still needed one more gift for her sister, and told me she tried to get a house illustration done because she had seen some through a local company. (I think it was Bay View Printing Co. but I am not sure.) She asked if I could figure something out, so I volunteered.

She got me a nice photo of her sister’s house, which I then used as the basis for a line drawing. After a few rounds of revisions with the client (ha ha) she was satisfied. I originally wanted to try an intaglio print for this, so I attempted to etch an acrylic plate with the laser cutter and did some test prints. (Oh, an amazing printmaker friend of mine who lives about a mile away offered to loan me her small press.) I tried my intaglio, which I’ve not done before, and just wasn’t satisfied with the results, so I resorted to a quick ‘n dirty laser cut wood plate, which I’ve made plenty of before…

This was just one of the first test prints, and I had planned to make a better plate and print more, but ran out of time, and Dana thought this one looked good. (Sidenote: I’ve been having these issues where I feel like my work could be better, which I guess is the opposite of just settling, but it’s been sort of annoying to my process lately.)

Anyway, in the end I did an illustration, and I made some prints, and I did try a few new techniques, and I guess it’s all good.


Little Printing Press


I came across this DIY Printmaking Press from the Open Press Project and since I’ve always been a fan of printmaking I thought I should 3D print a printing press on my 3D printer so I could print paper on a 3D printed printing press.


The (3D) printing went well, and all the pieces turned out good. I did add support to the rollers, to ensure they’d print well without sags. The one piece that is weird is the roller pin, which seems too small. It falls out a lot and doesn’t fit tight in the roller or the roller wrench. I may design a new one that fits snug.


I also did not have any 5mm bolts of the right length, so I used 6-32″ bolts. I’ll have to glue in the nuts so they don’t fall out, but that’s pretty minor. I’d also consider using hex head bolts and 3D printing little knobs to put on the heads so you can adjust the pressure without needing a screwdriver.


I did not have any press blankets, so I used some foam rubber sheets I had on hand. It seems to work okay. I may ask my printmaking friends for some scrap blankets.


For my first printing plate I grabbed a vector image of Makey and laser etched it using 3mm Baltic Birch. (Sidenote: LightBurn is awesome.) I did not seal the wood as I was anxious to make some prints!


This is a small press, and my plate was 57.5mm x 65mm. This might be a good press for making business cards or maybe printing stickers. The nice thing is that since it is so small, it’s portable, and you can make a lot of tiny prints for pretty cheap.



This was a fun little project and I’m guessing the cost of making this printing press was maybe a few dollars worth of filament and hardware. The press blanket is probably the more difficult thing to get cheap, though perhaps an alternative like some thick felt (or layered up thin felt) could be used.

Happy Printing!