Frank Santoro Process Post #1
For Blast Furnace Funnies, the printing is critical. The way the main edition is printed, and even the ephemerality of the surface (newsprint), is tied directly to the content of the comic, so I need to be very careful about how I choose to render the book in the deluxe edition. The artwork files Frank sent are flawless, so it would be very easy for me to pick up a bunch of packages of Canson Edition Etching Rag (my favorite digital art paper) and start running prints. The problem is that they would look too perfect. The point of this project isn't to fix anything wrong with the newsprint comic, but rather to commit it to a more permanent medium that celebrates the comic's awesomeness in the presentation.
So, here are the first six test prints I did. I'm running these as 4" x 6" mini-prints before I move to the full 11" x 17" size. You can't tell the difference in the pictures (except for the top left print with an "X" through it, since my printer was running out of magenta ink for that one), but rest assured, I have been examining them closely to find the best paper and ink profile for the job. There are so many things to consider here - for instance, the print on the bottom right is probably the closest to what I'm trying to achieve due to the creamy-colored paper that warms up and softens a lot of the colors in the artwork, but that paper has a unique honeycomb texture that looks altogether too uniform and orderly for the artwork. A slight watercolor paper texture is okay, as long as it appears random.
The problem here is that almost all digital art papers are some degree of white, since inkjet coating is always white. If i want to approximate the feeling of newsprint, I'm going to need to get more creative. One thing I have done in the past is incorporate digital ground, which is a thin white coating that prevents the ink from being absorbed into the paper. (If you try to print with pigment ink onto untreated paper, it will blot into the paper and look fuzzy and washed out.) Digital ground dries white, but if you don't apply multiple coats, you still get some of the paper showing through, so I picked up a couple types of paper that are darker than what I actually want, hoping that maybe the paper + the digital ground will be the right shade. I tried a couple tests on cream-colored Rives printmaking paper and gray Rives BFK paper, spreading the ink on with a foam silkscreen brayer, and we'll see how the pages turn out when they're done drying. It's almost impossible to get a uniform coating with digital ground, so some brush strokes will always be visible. That might be okay, though - the goal is to make sure the prints don't look too perfect, and some evidence of the handmade nature of this edition could complement the comic just like the newsprint does in the main edition. We'll see when I run the test prints tomorrow.