26 March 2007

I’ve done a lot of research into the process of transferring photocopies. I don’t know why but for some reason the process of transferring a photocopy seems to appeal to artists (myself included) It’s seems that this process of transformation adds a necessary artistic element.
It seems like there’s always a lot of people searching the net on ways to do these transfers and I’ve done quite a bit of research in this area myself. For one thing it’s not really clear cut on how you should do it there are a number of different ways and also variations on those methods. But I thought I’d do a short run down on the main methods I know of

1-chemical transfer. Bear in mind that anything that melts the plastic toner off a photocopied page is toxic and should be used with care and safety precautions. Most people advise to use turps but this had never worked for me. Also people suggest oil of wintergreen but I don’t know where to buy the stuff here in Australia. Funnily enough the thing that I have found works for me is workable fixative, the stuff in a can (some other variations work too like gloss varnish in a can) but I find permanent fixative doesn’t work as well. Once you’ve sprayed the fixative onto either the back or front (take your pick) you can then either rub the back of the paper with a spoon or pencil to transfer the image; or send it through a print making press.
A big factor in your success with this method is the type of photocopy you use. Some people say use a fresh photocopy but I think it has more to do with the particular machine and the toner it uses. You have to find a machine that works. It’s all about experimentation, type of fixative, amount of fixative, type of rubbing/pressure method/ type of photocopy, luck on the day. It’s a bit hit and miss and most of the time your image will be fainter than the original. This method is good for transferring images to hard surfaces like paper, wood or lino.

2-polymer/acrylic medium transfer. This option is obviously not as toxic like the chemical process. It basically requires you to paint a number of layers o the front of a photocopy (colour or B&W) anywhere between 3-10 coats depending. Once the medium is dry you now have to remove the paper from the acrylic medium (which has the image trapped in it) you can do this by putting it in a bath of water or by sticking the picture face down with the same medium, waiting for it to dry then wetting and rubbing the paper way from the medium. Obviously this technique does not work if transferring onto another paper surface as the water will cause problems and is best suited for hard waterproof project like canvas wood etc.

3-Lazertran. This would have to e the easiest and most effective method for transferring images to all surfaces and would recommend it to anyone seriously considering using transfer techniques in their work. The only draw backs are that it can only be purchased at specialty stores and costs around $4 a sheet.
You basically photocopy onto the lazertran paper then put the paper in a bath of water and then slide it onto your surface much like a decal. The paper comes in a few different varieties depending on the project you can even buy lazertran that is suited to ink jet printers.

As you can see it’s not really straight forward and I think each method has it pros and cons. I think you have to really sum up why you want to transfer and if it will be worth it in the end.
I think the main reason people are drawn to transfer is that current digital printing means are not 100% satisfactory for the artist. I think this is mainly due to 2 main misconceptions:

1-the surface of a digital print is not always as enticing as the surface of other printmaking options. Whilst this does have some truth to it, it’s possible to get the surface to your liking but it takes skill and experience.

2-Also I think there is that 1 simple manual step missing from digital printing that people miss, if only you had to crank a wheel on the side of the printer artists I think would enjoy the process more; I’m serious.
I also think the problem with digital is that is hasn’t been romanticised enough yet. I think all print making process went through periods where they had to prove why they were better than paintings or sculptures etc and why they weren’t just mere copies or multiples. Digital now faces this same trial of guilty until proven innocent that all other print mediums have been though. I think one day any neigh Sayers will just be glad people are using paper regardless if the print is lino, etching , screenprint, photocopy, drypoint, or ink jet.

I started of talking about transferring images and then somehow winded up talking about digital art, but I think the two things are intertwined enormously. I think this huge interest in transferring images is linked to artists dissatisfaction of digital print methods which are just starting to come to their own standing. I think in 5 years time there’ll be so many people wanting to do digital printmaking and producing fantastic work that any negative comments will be completely unheard and dismissed.


Anonymous said...

hi Anthony,
thanks for the tips, im interested in knowing if have you tried coloured ink jet computer printouts with the fixative method - does this work/

Also ive seen the lazertran stuff on canvas and it leaves a plasic film along with the image is this true with paper?

awcomix said...

The fixitive works as it actually dissolves the toner (which is like a plastic)and the effect may vary from brand to brand etc.
I have read some things about certain inks being able to transfer with water, which would make sense if they weren't pigment based.
The line that the lazertran leaves can be over come with a coat of medium or varnish I would imagine. There is a variety called lazertran silk for fabric which is apparently less noticible.
Another method I'm just discovering for transfer is heat.

awcomix said...

PS-inkjet prints are ink based not toner based, so the fixitive wouldn't work