Challenging print

Published:  November 12, 2011

For a while, we lost ‘touch’ with print. With the popularity and proliferation of high tech online interaction comes an unexpected phenomenon: the nostalgic sentiment for times gone by with a desire to use printed products.

“Paper has developed into a powerful tool for creative expression and functionality all around the world. This humble medium is having a resurgence. In what can be seen as a backlash to the mass market digital design style, paper has slowly climbed the cool ladder, reminding us that all you really need is a simple piece of paper and a little creativity,” – Lisa Loxley A4 Paper Convention Collective.

Acknowledging the importance of print within our own environment and having access to paper leads us into the future. It’s all about paper and how creative paper has become a porthole into the future of design. Paper is still an important product.

In June 2011, Sydney experienced its very first paper festival, aptly named the A4 Paper Festival. It was a huge success and proved that there is an exciting paper movement emerging. I have since been made more aware of this resurgence and am pleased to see the spark back.

Rapid advancements in social media and the way media is delivered to us electronically have had a serious impact on how we now consume information. Increasingly, we are turning to online resources such as blogs and online magazines for our regular fix. The need for real-time live feeds can be somewhat overwhelming. Getting information delivered quickly has now become the norm. Chances are, however, once read it may be easily forgotten. The power of print will always be here to stay.

During my recent US visit I stopped by the Centre for Book and Paper Arts, which is part of the Interdisciplinary Arts Department at Columbia College in Chicago.

In addition to housing both graduate and undergraduate classes for that department, it publishes a critical journal and artists’ books, mounts exhibitions, hosts artist residencies and sponsors public programs. The centre also provides advanced study through workshop programs dedicated to the research, teaching and promotion of the practices that support the book arts and hand papermaking as contemporary art media.

I visited one of its exhibitions – ‘Wood Type, Evolved: Experimental Letterpress and Relief Printing in the 21st Century’ – featuring contemporary artists who are producing artwork using new printing techniques based on traditional letterpress materials. What’s with the newfound love for letterpress? Widespread production of letterpress type dates back from the early 1800s up until the 1970s. The recent resurgence in letterpress printing, combined with the increasing availability of commercially ‘obsolete’ production equipment, has created new opportunities. This has fuelled experimentation in artist studios, presses and print shops around the world. In Australia, demand for letterpress is increasing, thanks to folks like Sydney’s Watermarx Graphics, Melbourne’s Taylor’d Press and The Artisan Press in Byron Bay, among many others.

LetterMpress allows anyone to create auhentic-looking letterpress designs and prints on the iPad

Experience the art and craft of letterpress printing on your iPad
I stumbled on this concept a few months back on where designer John Bonadies was trying to raise $15,000 to get the project off the ground. He ended up raising $39,495 from 1601 people pledging their support. LetterMpress is a virtual letterpress app released on the iPad that allows anyone to create authentic-looking letterpress designs and prints. The design process is similar to the letterpress process by placing and arranging type and cuts on a press bed, locking the type, ink and print. You can create unlimited designs, with multiple colours, using authentic vintage wood type and art cuts.

Print faces significant challenges due to the online revolution, making it more important for print to be tactile and engaging. Print should look good (designer) and feel good (printer) – both are equally important.

Digital raised printing
An alternative option to letterpress is digital raised printing. Developed by Kodak for its NexPress digital production press, it uses dry ink particles to create raised printing effects. Digital raised printing brings the print to life; the raised or three-dimensional effect creates a high-impact tactile and visual experience, setting the printed piece apart from other printed matter.

This technique allows for tactile imagery, text and graphics to have a dimensional feel that mimics the surface of items in the applications.

Printing with dimensional clear dry ink enables:

  • textures – you can create a canvas look and feel for a painting, a virtual linen feeling paper or a frosted effect
  • realistic surfaces – you can make an orange feel like an orange, wood grain feel like wood grain, a lizard feel like a lizard and a porcupine feel prickly
  • raised borders – you can add raised borders to frame photos or special effect borders that give a visual three-dimensional look
  • invitations – by raising parts to variable heights you produce realistic feeling flowers and balloons, and
  • variable data direct marketing – direct marketing
  • engages the recipient with a personalised message; what if you added a dimensional printed effect?

Unlike traditional thermography, digital raised printing can be on a separate layer, giving the designer complete flexibility to set variable heights, which gives more creative freedom to enhance graphics, text or full-colour images.

The dimensional toner can be applied directly to the substrate and doesn’t require special paper stocks. Being fully recyclable, the toner is safe and eco-friendly.

Think outside the square and see how you can combine digital raised printing with your next print job.


Dimensional print can produce an old vinyl look and feel (see below image) and help make this brick work look realisitc

From desktop magazine.

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