I am an artist in Edinburgh, UK and a member of Edinburgh Printmakers. My practice includes filmmaking, photography and printmaking.
For the past 18 months I have been exploring the potential of photopolymer in relation to my film work and photography. I have followed your videos and blogs assiduously and found them very helpful. Generally I have been reasonably successful in producing a series of A3 photopolymer prints but just lately I have been plagued by scratches which as you might expect are often in critical areas and are very dispiriting.
These are dark scratches in the prints but correspond to visible scratches on the plate when examined carefully. I have gone carefully through all the stages in making the plate to try and eliminate the potential for scratches. I do use a communal workshop so it can be difficult to eliminate all variables or keep a dust free environment.
I use a Boxcar brush for washout which I have had for about 14 months and use for one plate making session weekly since I bought it. I also use an antistatic brush (Kinetronics StaticWisk hand held anti-static brushes are used for cleaning lenses, films, scanners, cameras, plastics, acrylics, jewellery, glass, monitors, instruments and technical equipment on the plate before exposure to the aquatint screen and again before exposure to the image acetate to ensure that the surface of the polymer does not have dust particles that might cause dust flares.
Checking the plate after each stage of the procedure, I have noticed scratches immediately after washout and drying. I use newsprint, paper towels and a hairdryer to dry the plate. I have thought that maybe I have been using too much pressure on the Boxcar brush and today I really tried to exert just the pressure of the weight of the brush with very little extra from my hand. I use elliptical movements across the long and short lengths of the plate and then if I have time diagonally as well. I soak the plate initially for 1 minute, washout with the brush for one and half minutes and then rinse for one minute. Even today being so careful with the brush, there were again scratches visible just after washout and drying. It’s getting to be a bit disheartening.
My photopolymer plates are Toyobo KM95GR which I get from Allflexo in the Netherlands.
Do you have any suggestions as to what I might be doing wrong?
All the best,
Thanks for your email. Scratches should not be too difficult to track down. Not exerting any pressure on the brush is the way to go. I also use gentle, small, circular strokes when washing out the plate.
The plates are most susceptible to scratching during washout, of course. Unlike your approach, I do the washout for two minutes and do not soak the plate in a tray, rather I keep it on an angle, pour water over the plate a little at a time as I ‘scrub’ the plate lightly and methodically. I then give it a final rinse, blot with newsprint, then dry for 5 minutes with a hairdryer, put in my plate drier for 10 minutes, post expose for 5 minutes, then do a final round of hardening in the plate drier for 25 minutes. I’d suggest not soaking the plate and increase the washout time. Bear in mind, this may change how much exposure you need to give the plates and may cause you to have to recalibrate the times.
Feel free to send images demonstrating the scratches. The pattern in the scratches should give you an indication of when they are happening. Good luck tracking down the cause and finding a solution. Also, is it okay with you if I post your question and response on my blog? It may help another person with a similar problem one day.