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December, 2002

Xerox Lithography Demonstration Presented at Montpelier Arts Center
Martha Oatway xerox toner laser transfer

At the autumn meeting of the Maryland Printmakers Muffy Oatway presented a demonstration of Xerox lithography that she has used successfully on many of her monoprints. The technique, as demonstrated by her, is relatively simple and capable of being mastered by most printmakers with access to a press. It was enthusiastically received by members during the demonstration. As a follow-up to her demonstration your dauntless editor attempted to duplicate the technique, with cooperation of Chris Mona, an associate professor of art at Anne Arundel Community College. Along with Muffy's protocol, outlined here, there are comments and additional suggestions, based on our experience with the technique. 

This technique follows the methods of traditional lithography, in terms of utilizing a carbon-based image-albeit on paper instead of on stone or an aluminum sheet-Gum Arabic to repel the oil-based ink on the paper while attracting it to the carbon-based areas in the image, and repeated application and wiping of a thin layer of ink. The use of Gum Arabic to stabilize non-image areas and the basic premise of grease and water repellence are what link it to litho; but that's where the comparison ends. However, since this protocol requires replacement of the supplies for each print, it does not permit true production of a multiple edition, as is the case with classical lithography. It's almost an example of "disposable lithography."

As shown in the accompanying photographs, the process involves a few simple steps:
Step 1: Assemble the materials and equipment necessary for a transfer. These include any oil-based printing ink-lithography or intaglio types-in your choice of color; #00 plate oil; Gum Arabic; water and sponge; Plexiglas plates in appropriate sizes; a soft brayer; and a photocopy of whatever image is to be transferred. [Caution: The image will be reversed on printing, so if there is any writing or other element of the image that must be in a specific orientation, the image must be photocopied or printed in the reversed orientation!]
Step 2: Prepare paper to be printed on by selecting an appropriate size and wetting it, as for any other monoprint project. Applying the wet image master to the plate.
Applying the wet image master to the plate.
Preparation of ink, adding oil and mixing to loose consistency.
Preparation of ink, adding oil
and mixing to a loose consistency.
Step 3: Prepare a small quantity of ink by working in some of the plate oil to get it fairly "wet"-much as would be done for viscosity printing. The ink should be reasonably runny (see photo). Use only enough for one print at a time (see below).
Step 4: Wet the photocopy image and place it on a Plexiglas or lucite plate about 4" or more larger in each dimension. This will hold the paper in place as ink is applied and when the plate is placed in the press.
Applying the Gum Arabic to the master image.
Applying the Gum Arabic to the master image.
Step 5: Apply Gum Arabic to cover the image, brushing it to a consistent thickness over the image with a dampened sponge. [Editor: We found that a generous amount of Gum Arabic enhanced the removal of extraneous ink and protected the paper during application of the ink.]
Applying the ink.
Applying the ink.
Step 6: Starting on the paper (not at the edge), gently roll a layer of ink over the plate, rotating the plate 90° and applying the ink in the other direction. Wipe the image with the dampened sponge to remove extraneous ink and to re-distribute the ink to the black sections of the image. Repeat this step two or three times, until you can see a sheen from the ink collecting where the darkened areas of the image are on the paper. [Editor: Based on our experience, we found that this critical step is where the paper can be damaged by over-handling. If the paper becomes too wet, it may break down. Better-quality paper is recommended to overcome part of the problem; i.e., use either 20- or 24-pound paper. Working quickly is also important.]
Wiping the plate between ink applications.
Wiping the plate between ink applications
Laying out the paper.
Laying out paper.
Step 7: Lay the print paper on the press bed or a piece of Plexiglas. Carefully peel the inked paper plate off the inking Plexiglas and lay it on the print paper, face down. Run through the press as you would to make a monoprint. Peel off the Xerox and discard. This completes the operation. Dry as you would any other type of print.
Separating the finished print from the master.
Separating the finished print from the master.

Samples of other prints produced by the same process.
Samples of other prints
produced by the same process.
This completes the operation. Dry, store and handle as you would any other type of print.

Cleanup: Following printing of the image, clean the roller, ink and any extraneous ink that has been transferred to work surfaces. Do not attempt to use the ink until it has been replaced and reworked or the roller until it has been cleaned! Fibers from the photocopy paper will affect your results on subsequent work. Muffy recommends using vegetable oil or baby oil as a cleanup agent (for archival work, the baby oil is better).

Additional suggestions: The images may be any high-contrast type, Xerox or other carbon-based photocopy (laser-printed images can also be used). Muffy recommends any good contrasting colors, but notes that red inks may be difficult to work with, since they tend to run. Practice will develop your "eye" for what will work best.

Enjoy the project! And if you find some new applications for this technique, please share them with your fellow members of the Maryland Printmakers in a future issue.

See another of Muffy's monoprints from the Bethesda show in this month's article "Maryland Printmakers Shine in Two Venues."

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