Calendering the Paper

Our last post about the top 2023’s Best 5 Printmaking Tips as concerned paper calendering prompted alot of questions on our website! So, I thought I should elaborate a little on the practice and value of calendering paper here at Intaglio Editions Fine Art Prints!

The verb ‘calender’ comes from the root word ‘cylinder’, which is what is used to make paper flat. In our case, we use the steel-faced drum of an intaglio printing press! All paper is calendered to a certain degree of flatness from the paper mill.

Calendaring paper with Jon Lybrook of Intaglio Editions.

Calendaring paper with Jon Lybrook of Intaglio Editions.

However heavy-weight art papers often have added texture to their surface. Hahnemule Copperplate 300 g/sm is one such paper. Such texture can add noise in the continuous tones of photogravure prints, so we stretch and press the paper even flatter to address this.

At Intaglio Editions, we soak paper for at least an hour. We then blot the paper between towels, and use a drafting brush to remove any particles or hairs that may have gotten transferred to the paper.  The paper is then laid printable side down on the press bed against a smooth plexiglass, and covered with two similar sheets of heavy-weight paper.  Paper is run through the press at least 2 times at hand-tight pressure.  We then remove the paper and cover sheets, wipe down the bed, and register the plate. The plate is typically printed at slightly less than hand-tight pressure on the press bed.

Some finer papers, such as quality Japanese gampi, will not be made any smoother through calendering. These papers should be ‘ready to go’ straight from the vendor with no calendering needed.

When printing photogravure quality plates, also be sure to use 2-4 backing sheets to help ensure the pattern from your blankets doesn’t interfere with your continuous tones.  Also remember to use pressed wool blankets – never woven – as these can leave a more noticeable pattern in continuous tone areas of the print).

Check out this excellent demo video on calendering paper on an intaglio press by Jeffrey Dell.

5 BEST Intaglio Printmaking Tips of 2023 from Intaglio Editions

As we close down another year, it’s a good time to pause and examined what we’ve learned. Over the years we have come up with some effective ways to increase print quality and efficiency when printing steel-backed, polymer photogravure plates. Here are the Top 5 tips we use all the time when printing your Intaglio Editions polymer plate:

Jon Lybrook at Nils Borch Jensen Studios in 2018 in front of a large Keith Haring print.

Jon Lybrook at Nils Borch Jensen Studios in 2018 in front of a large Keith Haring print.

  1. Use heating pads available from drug stores to warm your plate before applying ink. The same pads can be placed under the glass ink slab. Heating the ink makes it looser and allows it to flow into the pits of the plate better, providing better density and richness. This is especially vital in winter months.
  2. Some projects go on longer than the ink can stay fresh. Weigh your ink when mixing combinations of modifiers and inks to ensure a consistent mixture every time.
  3. Always calender your paper before printing photogravure! This pre-stretches the paper, and allows for more consistent results. It is also necessary when printing multiple plates on the same sheet to prevent overlap.
  4. To secure registration of your plate, lick a clean finger.  Now put three dots of spit from your finger to the middle of the back of the plate. Moisture behind the plate helps prevent the plate from pivoting or sliding during the printing.
  5. Clean your plates using a gentle solvent, like SoySolv2 after use, but avoid over-cleaning or scrubbing polymer photogravure plates.  Cleaning plates too often or roughly will lead to an early loss of fidelity.

Questions?  Contact us for a free consultation!

Jon Lybrook - Printmaker and Publisher, Intaglio Editions LLC

Jon Lybrook – Printmaker and Publisher, Intaglio Editions LLC