Top 5 Printmaking Tips,Tricks,Techniques – February ’11

by Nick Friend on March 1, 2011 · 37 comments

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top 5 printmaking tips, tricks, techniques

Last month we started a new series on the top 5 printmaking tips, tricks, and techniques.  This month, we turn our focus towards varnishing — the frequently asked questions and trouble shooting scenarios to ensure a perfect coating for your prints. (Hint:  There’s a discount promo on this blog post, valid for only 5 days…:)

1. Mix Varnish More Thoroughly Than You Might Have Thought

mix print varnish

We all know that you need to stir your container of varnish before you coat. But how long does this process actually take? Our general rule is 2-3 minutes. In looking at our Timeless Satin or Timeless Matte varnish, this is very important for several reasons. Since Timeless is a different formulation from our traditional Glamour 2, it requires a little extra attention in the mixing process. This is because Satin and Matte have matting agents that need to be mixed properly. Over time, the varnish formula can separate when sitting on a shelf. The matting agents typically drift to the bottom, so when mixing be sure to reach the all the way down to the very bottom. You don’t necessarily need to “scrape” the bottom of the container, but pay close attention to it. Be sure to lift your mixing spoon from time to time to bring up any matting agents that haven’t fully mixed. If you want to use something more economical than a spoon, you can use a wire whisk or even an electric mixing device (a blender might be a bit overboard and could create undesirable air bubbles). After a few minutes you will see an even consistency, indicating that it is time to coat. In some cases, if you have left your Timeless sitting for a while you may notice dried “chunks” or “flakes” near the top of the container. No need to worry, read on to the next tip.

2. Flakes or Chunks in Your Varnish?  Here’s How to Remove Them without Having to Throw Away the Container.

strainer for print varnish or giclee varnish

If you have any flakes or chunks of varnish in your container, the easiest way to remove them is through a strainer. Just fill your measuring cup with the amount needed, and pour through a strainer into another cup (or container). The strainer will catch everything solid and you can just throw it out. Don’t have a strainer? No problem. A great inside tip is to use a coffee filter. Just grab a large cup or container and tape a coffee filter to the rim. Then, slowly pour your varnish into the filter. A coffee filter takes time for liquid to pass through it, so pour a little at a time. This is a good trick because it will pick up anything that isn’t pure liquid, and the end result is a perfect mix of varnish. These tips also work well if you have old gallons that have not been used in a long time. Remember, if you see any chunks of varnish on your print they will dry that way. So if you’ve ever encountered this problem grab a strainer and you’re good to go.

3. You offer 2 different Varnishes, Timeless and Glamour 2….Which is best for me?

timeless and glamour 2 print varnish

This is a great question and gets brought up time and time again. Glamour 2 is our original varnish that comes in Gloss and Matte. It’s been successfully used in the industry for over 20 years. It does require dilution to work properly. This is due to the leveling agents present in the varnish. Each Glamour 2 finish can be mixed together to achieve a Satin, Luster, Semigloss, Semimatte, or a custom finish of your own. Since you are adding water to your varnish mix, this means your prints will take some time to dry.

Timeless is our answer to users that don’t want to dilute or wait a long time to dry. Timeless is also available in a Satin finish, thus eliminating the need to mix Gloss and Matte together. Since Timeless does not need to be diluted, it dries much quicker and essentially needs to be applied in a similar manner. Since Timeless does not have leveling agents, you need to apply it with pressure to fully penetrate the inkjet canvas. When applied properly, Timeless prints can be varnished in less than a minute and can dry in as little as 30 minutes.

Still not sure which one to use? Consider a few important factors: Local temperature, humidity, size of prints, and space. In other words, if you coat in a hot area with low humidity, Timeless will dry very quickly and may make an even coat on larger prints more difficult to achieve with a roller. Ideally, you should be varnishing in a temperature controlled environment (60-75 degrees, 30-60% humidity). On the flip side, if you don’t have a lot of space Glamour 2 may make space even more limited due to drying. In this case, Timeless would be the better choice as you can move and stack prints that are already dry. If you can find drying racks similar to what screen printers use, you can maximize your drying space if needed. Hanging prints on a clothes line is another creative option for saving space while waiting for your prints to dry. Since Timeless produces an incredibly high gloss, has excellent UV protection, is easy to use, and is certified archival for 100 years (when used with our Lyve Canvas and Chromata White Canvas), it seems to be the smart choice for professionals everywhere.

4. How long do I need to wait before varnishing a print? What about stretching?

how long to wait before varnishing canvas prints

Almost every aqueous printer on the market seems to have prints dry as soon as the print is complete. But are they really dry? In looking at inkjet canvas, you have certainly noticed a texture and weave, but did you notice the peaks and valleys? Canvas absorbs a little more ink then a standard photo paper (where ink dries on top of the inkjet receptive varnish, thus requiring less ink). Many people have heard the term “outgas” used when referring to canvas dry time. This is referring to water evaporating from the ink during the drying process. This is why it is also important not to stack prints until they are completely dry. Our general rule is to wait 24 hours before varnishing a print, to allow outgassing to complete. In some cases, printing in the afternoon and varnishing the following morning is fine, but giving yourself more time in between is always best.

Now that your canvas is varnished, how long do you wait before stretching? Well, with our Timeless varnish you could be stretching in about 1 hour. You are looking for 2 important factors before stretching: 1. The varnish is completely dry to the touch and has covered all areas of the canvas (especially the corners/outside edges). 2. Ensuring enough varnish has been applied so that the canvas does not crack. A quick and easy way to determine you have enough varnish is to do a fold test. Start by varnishing a sample/scrap piece of printed canvas. When the varnish has dried, fold one corner of the canvas in half, keeping the print side out. If you have sufficiently varnished the print, the canvas will not crack. If you are not sure, take a look at ourLyve product video and you can see a close up of a fold test. Once you have accomplished this, you are ready to stretch.

5. Ink is coming up on my roller. What do I do?

If you have experienced excessive ink coming off the print and onto your roller, there are a few simple ways to fix this. First, be sure that you have used the correct print settings/profile for your printer and canvas. Sometimes, if the wrong media type is used you will print with too much ink. Our profiles can be downloaded on our website and you can also see a detailed video for the correct print settings. Remember, all the different media types you can choose in your print driver have different set ink loads (maximum amount of ink that is fired onto media), so some media types will output too much ink, particularly on canvas. If there is excess ink this will only dry on the surface and when varnishing with a foam roller, the excess ink will be agitated and come out on the roller (and your print). Watercolor paper settings on various printers produce the most even results in terms of ink load, gamut and saturation.

If you have ensured the proper print settings were used, make sure you allowed enough time for the print to dry (as explained in the tip above). In a pinch, you can use a hair dryer (or heated fan) to skim over the print and this will dry it much faster. Still see ink on your foam roller? Ensure that you are rolling in straight lines. This may sound strange, but consider this: When driving a car, if you suddenly change directions you can leave tire marks on the road. Compare this to a foam roller on a canvas print. Ink can come up when the roller has changed directions since it’s essentially an abrasive move, which causes more friction. With Timeless, this is especially important since it requires pressure to apply. While this sounds contrary to what we’ve just discussed, applying pressure in straight lines will not damage the print at all. Remember, when the foam roller changes direction the edges of the roller become firm with more pressure and can cause this to happen.

After working with hundreds of customers across the country, these tried-and-true methods have helped many printmakers achieve the highest quality canvas prints. Have anything to add or something I missed? Have any questions, comments, issues, support needs, or just plain need help? Please leave them in the comments and I will be happy to help.
—Paul


About Breathing Color
Breathing Color® is a leading designer and supplier of award-winning inkjet canvas, inkjet fine art paper, photo paper and print varnish. Breathing Color is focused on the fine art and photographic markets with products for Epson®, Canon®, HP® and Roland® Printers that lead the industry in color and longevity. Breathing Color’s customers benefit from the highest quality at competitive prices by buying direct.

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  • curtisTX

    These are great tips. Can you answer a couple more questions? I have a problem with foaming as I roll the liquid around on my print – lots of tiny air bubbles that leave a haze on my print. Is there a way to prevent all these air bubbles? Should I be rolling slower or faster? Should I rinse my foam roller with water before using it? Can I reuse a foam roller if I rinse it really well when I finish?

    • Randy Orgeron

      Curtis, Are you using Glamour 2? I make sure to stir gently when mixing so as not to stir up air bubbles. Also, I dampen my roller prior to application. I roll at various speeds w/out this issue. I reuse my rollers (over & over again) w/ no detrimental effects. Of course, I rinse them completely.

      • curtisTX

        Using Timeless semi-gloss. I stirred it well and then let it sit for a long time to get bubbles out. It pours onto the canvas without bubbles, but as soon as I roll over the puddle to spread it around I get foam. I’m trying it again this afternoon with a slightly damp roller to see if that helps.

        • Randy Orgeron

          The other thing that I do is roll the gloss around until it starts to sound like velcro…Wondering if maybe you “worked” it more, you might eliminate this bubbling issue…perhaps working them out of the finish? To start, I usually go in all directions & then roll horizontally & vertically. Also, I let the weight of the roller be the extent of the pressure that I apply…I don’t “push” down on the roller. I hate that this is happening, knowing how much effort it takes to get a print to the point of rolling on the gloss. Really hope that you can resolve this.

          • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

            Hi Randy,

            While the techniques you have described work well with Glamour II, they will not work the same with Timeless. Since the formula for the 2 varnishes are different, they require a different approach to applying. The best way to see these differences is to compare the application videos on our site.

        • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

          Curtis,If you notice bubbles in the container after mixing, this is normal as should be no concern. As long as you apply a firm amount of consistent pressure when initially applying the varnish, you will not experience any air bubbles. Having a damp roller will not affect the print, but may increase the dry time of Timeless a small amount.I would recommend taking a look at the Timeless application video. Please follow the steps in the video carefully and you should get a perfect print on your next attempt.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hello Curtis,

      If you are using Timeless air bubbles in the early stage of varnishing is normal. Since Timeless needs to be worked into the canvas with pressure (due to the absence of leveling agents), this can cause trapped air in the canvas to try and escape. These can easily be removed by applying light pressure over the areas with air bubbles. They will pop and a few additional passes with the foam roller will smooth out those areas. Be sure to look over the entire print before you are done varnishing it as you want to insure there are no bubbles, roller marks, etc.

      Rolling quickly with Timeless is ok, but keep in mind the faster you apply to more likely you can introduce air bubbles again. If you are using a new roller (or a clean one) then you don’t need to rinse it prior to coating. To maximize the life of the rollers, wash them once you have completed varnishing. With warm water the varnish will run right out and the foam roller can be re-used many times. I have had rollers last for 15-20 medium sized prints to give you an idea.

  • Randy Orgeron

    Great Tips! My experience is that the Glamour 2 is VERY forgiving; so, there is no need to be afraid or timid when applying. The leveling agent is the key to the even coating of canvas prints. I am able to get an exceptional coating the first time out, even if I go back over sections of the print where the canvas nape is causes the adherence of the coating to be resistant. Some of my clients even use Glamour 2 over their original, acrylic artworks w/ results far superior to traditional, brush on varnishes; in that the drying time is incomparably faster & the gloss is smooth. My only issue w/ Glamour 2 is that it has a tendency to slightly diminish whites to a grayish-yellow tone. However, none of my clients have ever commented on this effect…so, I’ve decided not make it a negative if they don’t.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Sounds like you have it dialed in Randy. Great work!

  • http://www.canvas4life.com George

    Where Oh where, does it say “mix thouroughly” on any of your packaging or videos???? Thank goodness for this late statement. It only cost my company thousands of dollars in throw-aways and frustration!!!!

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hi George,

      If you read our Timeless Instructions PDF, or watch our <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsSweQ8cbYA&feature=player_embedded

      target=”blank”>Timeless Instructions Video before using the product you would have been all set. The importance of mixing thoroughly is discussed in both.

      • Mlake74

        Whoops! Sorry for my preceding comment (prior to my advice to George). Today was my first day using Timeless and I guess I went through the instructions a little too fast in all my excitement over using it.

        My first time printing to canvas was a big disappointment. The texture of the Epson canvas I used just didn’t do it for me. When I placed my order for Timeless and Glamour 2 I decided to give BC’s Lyve canvas a try. I’M GLAD I DID! Yesterday, I printed a 17×22 and was blown away by how great it looked. Waiting for the canvas to dry so that I could apply Timeless to it reminded me of being a kid at Christmas time. Hence my excitement and overlooking something clearly explained in the instructions.

        Again, my apologies to BC. They made it very clear to stir the product.

        BTW:
        BC’s ICC profile for their Lyve canvas, and instructions for it’s use, are great. My first time installing and using a new profile went very smooth.

        Keep up the good work, BC.

        • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

          It is very understandable when receiving new products that you want to jump right in and use them! We do our best to make the printing and varnishing process as easy and straight forward as possible, because we want everyone to achieve optimal results from the very beginning. Feel free to let us know if there is anything further we can do to make the process easier for everyone. Thank you for the comment!

    • Mlake74

      “We all know that you need to stir your container of varnish before you coat.”

      This type of info shouldn’t be assumed on the part of BC. Although I didn’t have this as common knowledge I went the stirring route because it seemed like the right thing to do.

      George:
      I strongly recommend doing small tests when using products or techniques that you haven’t tried before.

      • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

        My wording is poor there. I meant that in reference to the instructional documents and videos on our site, which I assume the reader has viewed/read. But a good suggestion though! Clearly, the importance of mixing should never be taken for granted. Perhaps we should highlight it more in our documentation? Im going to look into that…

  • Deanwork2003

    Why is it that you guys told me you could use the Timeless varnish on inkjet rag prints?
    I tried the Satin version and it bubbled up and spotted just like the other acrylic varnishes do. It wasn’t even close to being a usable method. Not only that, the satin varnish looked dull and dead and killed the tonality and dmax of the matt rag paper totally. The matte varnish would of course be a lot worse. What’s up with that? You need a gloss/semi-gloss varnish that works on paper. Why is this so difficult?

    john

    • Paul Morales

      Hello John,What paper were you varnishing? I’m not sure if you were using Elegance Velvet or Optica One, but in those cases the bubbling is caused by too much coating and not enough passes with the roller. Since rag paper isn’t as absorbent as canvas, it requires less varnish to be effective. Having a saturated foam roller definitely helps use only the necessary amount of varnish.I went ahead and tested this on our Optica One smooth fine art paper, using Timeless Satin. The trick is to roll horizontally, vertically, AND diagonally. The purpose of this is to smooth out the varnish in every direction, and with a small amount of pressure you should be able to remove all bubbles and spots that you see. Please be on the lookout for a future post involving varnishing Fine Art Rag Papers. In regards to the dmax, which device did you use to take the reading? Using our Gretag Macbeth Densitometer, I compared Optica One uncoated to Optica One coated with Timeless Satin. The readings were: Optica One uncoated 1.67; Optica One coated 2.02. So the Timeless Satin increased the dmax +.35 in the blacks. Under certain angles of light, I can agree that it appears as though the coated print seems to have lost its density. However, when viewed under proper lighting conditions (5000 Kelvin) the Timeless Satin indeed increases the overall dmax of the prints, especially in the blacks. It may be difficult to see in a photo, but if you have a lightbooth you can view this in house. And since Timeless Matte dries clear, you should not see a decrease in dmax on your prints. Both prints were done on the Canon iPF6300. I have attached a photo of these test prints. And I do appreciate any comments/suggestions as to how I can improve our documentation and video content!

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  • Julian

    Okay, I’ve been reading all the comments and techniques in this article and picked up some tips for my future varnishing techniques. But i do have a few questions regarding varnishing.

    i) Usually after print, i’ll wait for at least a day for the canvas to dry (i’m using Lyve Canvas on a Canon i8300, with color profiling all done to the T).

    ii) When i start varnishing using Timeless, i still see some ink coming up from the canvas. I’m using a fine roller sponge to do this. The ink in that comes out is always matte black. Does this often happen?

    iii) After varnishing (usually about 2 coats), i’ll leave it to dry for some 2-3 hours before i start stretching the canvas. This is where all will go out the window. I print with black borders, and to get very black borders, i utilize Canon’s Matte Black ink. Now when i stretch the canvas, the varnish starts to peel off the canvas. Sometimes still retaining some black ink on the canvas, and sometimes taking all the ink out of it. A fold test on this same black area results in cracks of the varnish, and with a gentle rub, it will peel off.

    Now, what am i doing wrong here? Humidity is not an issue here because our office is very dry (about 45RH). And applying extensive drying times does not really work as well. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Julian

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hi Julian,

      Thank you for reading our blog and hopefully some of the techniques that you have read about have already started helping you. For starters, I’d like to make sure that you have had a chance to watch the videos we’ve created for building an am1 file in the Media Configuration Tool, and for applying the Timeless varnish. I’ve attached each video below. The Relative Humidity is right around where it should be, and the amount of coating you are applying (as well as the wait time between printing-coating and coating-stretching) seems fine. The reiterate the main point of applying Timeless: It needs to be applied with pressure to work properly. The main reason for this is the absence of leveling agents (which are found in our Glamour II). Timeless dries quickly, and due to the absence of leveling agents it needs to be “worked” into the canvas. This not only creates a great finish, but prevents cracking on the edges of a print when they are stretched. Imagine the canvas texture as peaks and valleys. Timeless works itself into the valleys when applied with pressure so now part of the canvas is light on coating. I have been able to stretch prints in house with just 1 coat of Timeless, so 2 coats should be more than sufficient.

      In regards to the Canon, Matte Black is ideal for Lyve Canvas, but unlike Chromata White (or other matte canvases on the market) Lyve requires less ink to be effective. This is due to the state of the art inkjet receptive coating we’ve developed for it. I’ve used “Fine Art Watercolor” as the base media type when creating a media file for the Canon and that has worked extremely well. I normally use Medium High as the maximum ink usage, but keep in mind that I am in Southern California where the temperature and humidity is never an issue. Depending on the customers’ location, I have heard the using Low to Medium Low has worked just as well where ink drying/max usage is an issue. This could be what is affective the varnishing process (how you described the ink coming onto the roller). Canon’s Lucia EX ink is the updated version of ink for the 6300 and 8300 so I’ve noticed much denser blacks (especially Matte Black). Fortunately this is easy to adjust/compensate for.

      If you are having any trouble with the process described in the videos below and you need additional help, please feel free to give me a call directly. My direct line is (866) 722-6567 x123

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eVlYDOTq5o&feature=player_embedded
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsSweQ8cbYA&feature=player_embedded

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hi Julian,

      Thank you for reading our blog and hopefully some of the techniques that you have read about have already started helping you. For starters, I’d like to make sure that you have had a chance to watch the videos we’ve created for building an am1 file in the Media Configuration Tool, and for applying the Timeless varnish. I’ve attached each video below. The Relative Humidity is right around where it should be, and the amount of coating you are applying (as well as the wait time between printing-coating and coating-stretching) seems fine. The reiterate the main point of applying Timeless: It needs to be applied with pressure to work properly. The main reason for this is the absence of leveling agents (which are found in our Glamour II). Timeless dries quickly, and due to the absence of leveling agents it needs to be “worked” into the canvas. This not only creates a great finish, but prevents cracking on the edges of a print when they are stretched. Imagine the canvas texture as peaks and valleys. Timeless works itself into the valleys when applied with pressure so now part of the canvas is light on coating. I have been able to stretch prints in house with just 1 coat of Timeless, so 2 coats should be more than sufficient.

      In regards to the Canon, Matte Black is ideal for Lyve Canvas, but unlike Chromata White (or other matte canvases on the market) Lyve requires less ink to be effective. This is due to the state of the art inkjet receptive coating we’ve developed for it. I’ve used “Fine Art Watercolor” as the base media type when creating a media file for the Canon and that has worked extremely well. I normally use Medium High as the maximum ink usage, but keep in mind that I am in Southern California where the temperature and humidity is never an issue. Depending on the customers’ location, I have heard the using Low to Medium Low has worked just as well where ink drying/max usage is an issue. This could be what is affective the varnishing process (how you described the ink coming onto the roller). Canon’s Lucia EX ink is the updated version of ink for the 6300 and 8300 so I’ve noticed much denser blacks (especially Matte Black). Fortunately this is easy to adjust/compensate for.

      If you are having any trouble with the process described in the videos below and you need additional help, please feel free to give me a call directly. My direct line is (866) 722-6567 x123

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eVlYDOTq5o&feature=player_embedded
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsSweQ8cbYA&feature=player_embedded

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  • Elestudio

    Hi, 
    You mention that imeless is certified for 100 years+. What about Glamour II?

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hello Elestudio,

      Glamour 2 is also certified archival for 100+ years when used in conjunction with our Lyve Canvas. Timeless has strong UV protection and also is available in Satin, so either one is a great choice. Timeless will dry in much less time so that is something to consider.

  • Tam

    Hi,

    I don’t have “Fine Art Watercolor” as a media type for creating a media file for the Canon IPF8300! Can you help?

    Tam

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hello Tam,

      Fine Art Watercolor is a standard option that’s included in the Canon Driver. When you create a new Media file, you name it the product you are using, and one of the first steps is to select the standard media type. Take a look at our video Creating Media Files in the Canon iPF8300 Media Configuration Tool.

      If you still don’t have it as an option, it may be hidden from the driver. If this is the case, open the Media Configuration Tool and select “Add Genuine Paper”. A screen will pull up that shows all the standard media types for the Canon. On the bottom right portion of the window, you’ll see a “Show/Hide” button. Scroll down to Fine Art Watercolor and make sure it’s showing. If it’s grayed out, click on the Show/Hide button until it is bold.

      • Tam

        Hi Paul,

        It’s not in there! I’m in the UK! So maybe a different set-up?

        • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

          I think you are correct. I’ve spoken to a UK customer previously and he had the same issue. I believe you should have “Artistic Matte Canvas” as a setting? If so, I recommend creating a custom media file in the MCT using this media type. When you get to the last window that has the option for Maximum Ink Capacity, choose one of the lower settings (Canon Standard Paper-Medium Low).

          I’m assuming you are setting up canvas? If so, Artistic Matte Canvas with a low max ink setting works as an alternative to Fine Art Watercolor. Hope this helps!

  • Tam

    Thanks for all your help Paul, yes I’m setting up for canvas. I will set it up the way you advise!

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      You’re welcome Tam! Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. I’m happy to help.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      You’re welcome Tam! Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. I’m happy to help.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      You’re welcome Tam! Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. I’m happy to help.

  • Tam

    Thanks for all your help Paul, yes I’m setting up for canvas. I will set it up the way you advise!

  • Tam

    Thanks for all your help Paul, yes I’m setting up for canvas. I will set it up the way you advise!

  • Kcluko

    Can Timeless be used on the original watercolor?  I was at an art show and was led to believe that the artist used Timeless on his original.  I have not “printed” any of my originals and am not quite sure how to go about that process if it is necessary to use a print instead of an original.  Do you have tutorials on printing/reproducing a watercolor?  I would rather just use my originals which are done on Arches 300 lb cold press; thank you for your help!

  • Frank Winters

    I just used Timeless to coat a B&W print on Epson Luster paper and a lot of pigment came off on the roller ruining the print. I’ve coated color prints with no problem — but this one is ruined. And of course Murphy’s Law applied — this print is going into a juried show on Monday. I will need to reprint and dry mount — but will skip Timeless! BTW — the print was a least a week old so it was dry. I may not have saturated the roller completely but I had just done a color print previously with decent results. If I am going to have unpredictable results I can’t use this product.

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