gabriel teague photography

Learning Lithography

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Since arriving at The Glasgow School of Art, I have been learning lots of new skills and techniques. One of my new favorites is lithography. I first tried my hand at screen printing, which is really awesome, however, because I am a photographer and appreciate lots of detail in my prints, it made even more sense to learn lithography.

What is lithography? Lithography is a method for printing using a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. Lithography can be used to print text, photographs, and/or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

When working with photographs, the process is called photolithography. This process is quite different than standard lithography because you expose the photograph on light-sensitive aluminum plates in a dark room (a lot like exposing a negative onto light-sensitive paper in the dark room) and then use the aluminum plate to transfer the image onto paper. It is a very time-consuming process and it takes a lot of patience and skill.

Here are some photos I took of the process:

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First, print out your "negative" image on transparent sheets using an inkjet printer.

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Next, you expose the "negative" image onto light-sensitive aluminum sheets.

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Then once you have all your plates exposed, you set the plate on the press machine, lined up perfectly to the paper you wish to print your image on. Once the plate and the paper line up just right, you are ready to roll the ink onto the plate.

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Once the plate is evenly coated with right amount of ink, you dry the plate and then roll the press over the plate which will transfer the ink onto the press roller.

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Finally, the ink is transferred onto the paper using the press. You repeat this process for each copy you wish to make. In this example, I made a limited edition of eight prints.

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If you want to make a color print, you have to create an aluminum plate for each of the four process colors (CMYK) and transfer each ink color separately onto each sheet of paper. So basically, you have to do the process four times for each print. VERY time consuming! In this example, I made a limited edition of eight prints.

Even though it's a very time consuming process, I find it very fun and relaxing. The results are absolutely beautiful!!! Each print has its own unique, handmade quality. I hope to continue making more prints in the next few months and after I graduate from the Glasgow School of Art. I plan to sell these prints very soon, so look for my next post in the near future if you are interested.

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