Inkjet Printing on Book Pelts & Cloth

If it prints, I'm interested in it. If it transfers, that's cool, too. If I can make a book with it, awesome. I attended a free two-hour demo at the Blick store on transfer and printing techniques that use inkjet printers. The demo was given by Nina Deckert (pronounced Nine-a), an artist and rep for Golden Acrylics (no relation), and I was inspired to try out those particular processes because they use printing, transferring, and I can use them in bookmaking.

The newest techniques to me were the making of gel skins and the applying of a digital medium to unusual materials for inkjet printing. The gel skins are transparent and can be applied (with acrylic medium) on top of paintings, book covers, or wrapped around three-dimensional objects so that the painting, book cloth, colors, textures, or substrate material shows through. Make one with just acrylic paints or colors, or brush on a clear gloss digital ground, tape it to a piece of paper, and run it through the inkjet printer. A great, detailed article about the gel skins is on the Golden website in their Just Paint newsletter archives: #20 "Technology Therapy: Overcoming the Fear" by Patti Brady.

This is not scary. This is just about painting one plain coat. And taping something to a piece of paper. And using your inkjet printer in a normal way. (And inkjet only, please.)

The digital medium allows you to print on just about any flexible, thin surface. Nina showed various uses for the Digital Grounds, which come in Gloss, Matte (white), and for Non-Porous Surfaces like foil papers, Mylar, and for the gel skins. Gloss is good if you want to see the color or material through the image, such as for line drawings. White is best on dark backgrounds or if you want an image in the midst of a heavy pattern. The ground nicely adds a slight stiffness to the gel skin or cloth. Nina said you can also use the non-porous ground on porous surfaces, and since I got a free sample of the non-porous I decided to try it out with two of my waiting "book pelts."

Use a disposable palette page, aluminum foil, silicon release paper, polypropylene sheet protectors/dividers, or polyethylene as a work surface (not acrylic plexiglass). Brush the ground onto the cloth, hang it up to dry (mine took 4 hours on a foggy morning).

Tape it to a piece of standard printer paper with low-tack artist's tape.

Make sure there aren't any loose areas on the cloth that will bunch up. Use a little double-sided tape if necessary.

Run it through and let it dry.

Spray it with one or two light coats of the archival spray varnish and let dry (in the afternoon sun it took only a few minutes although the directions say 24 hours). The digital grounds are water soluble so once they are painted on the surface, run through the inkjet printer and dried, they must be sprayed or they will not be permanent. As per Nina's recommendation, I used the Archival Spray Varnish, which also protects against UV light, to fix the images. It has a strong initial smell, so use it outside. The odor goes away in an hour or so.

In this case, I backed the cloth afterwards. I spread wheat paste on Velin Arches and smoothed the cloth on top of the paste, which worked very well. The sun was strong and warm that afternoon so it didn't take long to dry and I could cover the boards in just a few minutes. Instructions for mixing wheat paste and backing cloth are on pages 21-22 of Making Handmade Books.

Cover a board*. For a book or portfolio, use a second piece of backed cloth for the back board.

Here on the left, only the boards are covered, awaiting the book block. Background is acrylic ink painted Tyvek.

Right: Bound book with light tan Nideggen paper inside. Turns out to be very sturdy.

(Click on each to see larger image.)

Printing on a lighter cloth or using the matte white digital ground would probably give even better results. Definitely worth more experimentation. And the thought of printing on foil origami paper is intriguing, too. If you print on Mylar you can do a transfer technique onto a large piece of dampened printmaking paper. More to come…

Just for your interest: the Golden paint company has various workshops given by their working artist representatives: some free, some not. You may be able to find a schedule here.

*Bookmakers: I partially covered each board separately as you might for a quarter cloth bound book. I glued three strands of embroidery thread for bookmarks to the book block spine before casing in. Various instructions in my how-to books:
  • "variation" up until "a" for Covering Separate Boards in Expressive Handmade Books, pages 127-128
  • Hardcover Portfolio up until Step 11 in Creating Handmade Books, pages 130-131
  • Hard Cover: Multiple Signature in CHB, pages 118-119 or Making Handmade Books, pages 224-225; or Case Binding: Flat Spine in MHB, pages 213-214
  • Case Binding in EHB, pages 130-133
  • Attaching the Book Block in MHB, page 215


ersimarina said…
This is so exciting! I wish I could watch a live demonstration but I'll follow all your links and see what I can do on my own. Thanks as ever.