In volume two of our “Rapid Fire” series (missed part 1? Click here), we open up the listener questions grab bag and knock down a stack of questions on Breathing Color media, printer issues, shipping recommendations, and print varnish techniques.
Listen in to hear the answers to printmaking FAQs
Note: These timecodes show how much time in the episode is remaining in the episode, which is how our audio player (above) displays time.
–13:00: Why you can’t roll coat Crystalline canvas
–11:02: The thickness of Vibrance Photo Matte
–10:26: The issue behind the periodical cleaning cycles when powering up the Epson 7890
–09:45: Painting with acrylics over a digital print on canvas after it’s been varnished
–09:01: If corner protectors are necessary for shipping prints
–08:35: Where to find carrying cases for gallery wrap prints
–06:52: Not being able to print sharp images on watercolor paper with the Epson P800
–03:59: An alternative way to varnish prints for only $5-6 dollars
–03:13: The shelf life of print varnishes and if it’s okay to varnish past the expiration date
- This episode featured questions from Ben, Rob from Robscheid.com, David from Waldropfineartphotography.com, Sophie, John, Charlie, Ian, Richard, and Mike. Thanks for submitting your questions!
- Breathing Color products that were mentioned: Crystalline Canvas, Lyve Matte Canvas, Vibrance Photo Matte, and Timeless Print Varnish.
- Packing supply companies: Artpack Services, Airfloat Systems, Uline, Masterpak USA.
- Preval Sprayer (as mentioned, we have not tested this at BC, so be sure to use at your own risk).
- To check out the first volume of Rapid Fire Questions With Justin, click here.
- Want your question to be included in volume three of this series? Submit it here.
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
Prefer to read over listen? Want to save this conversation for reference later? We transcribe all of our shows for these reasons! Download this episode’s transcription below:
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Announcer 1: You are listening to the AskBC Podcast. Your printmaking questions answered by the experts.
Justin: Hey, everybody. This is the AskBC Podcast and I’m your host, Justin. This is the second volume of our Rapid Fire Question Series. We get a ton of questions from you guys, and basically pick out the ones we feel would be the most helpful for a majority of our listeners to hear the answers too, but there are a ton of questions that don’t get picked because the answers to those questions are just too short to fill in an episode with our typical format.
In these rapid fire episodes we throw all these quick questions into a grab bag and answer a bunch of them in a row. There’s no specific theme to this episode, so I’m sure I’ll be jumping around all over the place in order to answer whatever topics show up today. We’ll probably be talking about Breathing Color products, printing, varnish, stuff like that. I’ve got a stack of questions here, so let’s get started with this one from a listener named Ben.
Ben asks, “Why can’t I roll coat Crystalline?” Good question, Ben. Just giving everybody a little bit of context as to what Ben is referring to, Crystalline is a Breathing Color canvas product, and it’s actually designed not to need a top coat. Not to need varnish. Varnishing it actually is kind of strange, I think. If you’re going to varnish your canvas I definitely recommend using one of our alternative products such as Lyve. You get some benefits using a matte canvas instead of just buying something like Crystalline, and then varnishing it. You’re paying a little bit more for Crystalline, for one, so to purchase varnish and then to spend the time to apply it to Crystalline, it’s one of those decisions that you can make as business owner, I guess, but pretty uncommon, I would say.
To answer your question, you can’t roll coat Crystalline because its ink-jet coating essentially is not designed to be water-resistant enough to handle one of these rollers that’s saturated with the liquid product, liquid top coat. When you go to roll it, more than likely, you’re going to see some ink being uptaken on the roller itself and that might transfer back down to the print as you continue to roll it. You’ll see some smearing, some smudging, stuff like that. It all depends on the image.
If it’s an image that’s fairly light, doesn’t have a lot of ink being laid down on it then you may not see this effect. Feel free to try it if you’d like. Run some tests of your own. Alternatively, you can spray coat it if varnishing Crystalline is something you want to do. You can purchase an HVLP, high volume low pressure, spray gun. Load it with Timeless, or whatever print varnish you’re electing to use, and then spray it on Crystalline, and let it go through its drying process.
It is worth noting that if you’re going to be spray coating Crystalline, just as if you were to be spray coating a matte canvas, you will have to allow it to go through the outgassing process, which we typically recommend is a 24 hour drying period after printing, before coating. Again, if it were me, I would go with our Lyve canvas if you’re going to be varnishing anyway. It’s more archival. It has some more longevity than Crystalline will, but again, that decision’s totally up to you. Moving onto the next question.
Rob from Robscheid.com asks, “What is the thickness of Vibrance Photo Matte 44 inch?” Vibrance Photo Matte is an 8 mill, 230 GSM matte photo paper. Now, it’s a pretty nice paper. You can think of it as a low cost fine art paper. Smooth fine art paper. We say photo paper, but it can be confusing. Terminology with the word photo paper is a little confusing. It doesn’t have an RC resin coated base, so it doesn’t have that plasticy type of feel. Like I said, it’s basically really thin, smooth fine art paper, so a nice low cost, budget paper there.
The next question comes from David from Waldropfineartphotography.com. David asks, “My 7890 will periodically launch into a cleaning cycling when I first power up the machine even though I have auto head cleaning option off in the printer setup menu. What could be happening?” David, good question. I think there’s two options on these Epson printers. One is auto cleaning, and the other one is called an automatic nozzle check and you adjust both of them to say on, off. I think there’s an on periodical option as well. First thing I do with new Epson printers is to turn this off typically because we like to manually do this. Run a print through it every day, and we just keep up with it on our own as to not waste ink unnecessarily. It’d try to look for that auto nozzle check option and turn that off as well.
Sophie asks, “Can we paint with acrylic paint over a digital print on canvas after it has been varnished?” Yeah, Sophie. I think I’ve addressed this question potentially on a previous episode, but even myself, I can’t remember. It’s been a few episodes in at this point. You can definitely use acrylics to paint over a canvas print that has been varnished. This is a pretty common technique that people refer to as embellishing, and it can really turn a print into a unique piece of art. I really enjoy this method. I would say don’t use oils. We found some negative side effects of using oils. Some discoloration even if the print has been top coated with a varnish. Definitely stick to acrylics, and not really too much else to know here. Print it, let it dry, coat it with a varnish, and paint away.
John asks, “Are corner protectors necessary for shipping prints?” Good question, John. I would definitely lean towards yes on this one. It does depend. Are you shipping something that’s framed? Are you shipping a gallery wrapped canvas? Are you shipping a loose print that’s rolled up? Are you shipping a loose print that needs to be flat? It kind of varies, but there’s also multiple different kinds of boxes. This ties into a question that I was going to answer later on down in this episode, so I think I’ll just tie them in here.
Charlie was asking where he could find carrying cases for gallery wrapped prints. Now, there are a number of different places online that you can find that’s used for shipping prints. It depends on personal preference where you’re shipping them. Again, what it is exactly that you’re shipping. I would definitely lean towards using corner protectors. Especially if you’re sending it in a frame. Sometimes you’ll find these boxes that are basically filled with foam, and you can tear out a template for the size of the print that you’re sending, and then set the print in there, and then replace the foam. That way basically your print ends up surrounded by foam, of course, with a cardboard outer box outside the foam. In that case you may not need corner protectors.
It’s a pretty loaded question. It depends on your boxing. It depends on what you’re shipping. You might consult somebody that ships art regularly, and see what their thoughts are if you’re confused on how to pack a print. You might test ship a few if you’re trying to really trim costs on packing supplies. Pack it one way, send it to a friend across the states, or something like that, and give them a call and ask them how it arrived. Just an idea. It depends. If you’re looking for some of these packing supplies, I did a quick Google search and just some that I typically refer people to. I’ll include a few links in the show notes of this episode, so be sure you check that out.
There’s one called Artpack that looks to work pretty well. There’s Airfloat Systems. Of course Uline is a really common one, and they have a ton of different options. From extravagant, over the top things that’ll definitely work, but may be a bit pricey all the way down to just a box that’s the right size, and you can wrap the print with foam or bubble wrap it, and put corners on it, and slide it in that box. A lot of options. There’s another place called Masterpak USA. Again, I’ll include some links in the show notes, so if you’re looking for something like this definitely be sure to check that out.
Moving on to the next question, Ian asks, “I am new to the printing game and recently bought an Epson P800. I’ve learned a little bit about RGB setting and ICC profiles from videos on YouTube, but when I’m printing on watercolor paper I find my prints are not sharp. The images are sort of cloudy, and the black and some colors are not sharp. Any ideas on what I may be missing?” Good question, Ian. I’m going to do some speculation here just because without reviewing all of your print settings it’s really hard to say what may be causing this. It could be a few different things.
First, I’ll say that watercolor paper, depending on its texture, is just not really designed to get the sharpest print. If you’re looking for the utmost sharpness I would definitely opt for something that’s going to be smooth. When I go to print something that’s really crisp I opt for a smooth, matte photo paper, or whatever finish photo paper really, but something that’s smooth. Glossy photo paper, luster photo paper, or smooth art paper. It just kind of depends on the flavor that you’re looking for, but the smoother the media the sharper your print resolution can be.
Other than that, there’s a few print settings within the driver that can control this smoothness. It’s really almost every setting that you’re making in the driver. You want it to be ideal. I’m not sure if this is an Epson paper that you’re selecting, which kind of limits the options. It basically tells you what to select in the driver. If it’s a third-party media it can be a little bit more confusing, and you should consult the supplier of that third-party media for their recommended settings. But things like platinum gap…If you’re changing the platinum gap or the head height when you’re printing, if you’re raising it mainly, that’s going to bring the print head further away from the media. The paper in this case. That can decrease your resolution or your sharpness. If you’re using the wrong media type setting that can lay down too much ink, and that can create something that looks like it’s blurry. Basically the ink is bleeding into areas that it shouldn’t be bleeding into. Again, that can blur the edges that should be sharp otherwise.
There’s a print quality setting, or sometimes it’s just called quality. I’m not sure about the P800, but the quality setting is going to make a big difference as well. This ties into the media type setting. Certain media type settings allow you to do certain quality settings only, so you’ll want to review the quality setting, and potentially change that to be the highest that you can possibly select. Again, I don’t think that…I would imagine you’re probably leaving it at the default setting, and the default setting shouldn’t couldn’t create a blurry effect. I would imagine that something else was going wrong, like it’s a wrong media type setting, or this paper just won’t be able to meet the expectations that you’re looking for in terms of sharpness. That’s something else to look at is the quality setting.
Those are really the main things. Like I said, I would consult some printing instruction just to make sure that you’re following those properly. If you have some follow up questions to this one, again, this is a little bit confusing with only a few details, definitely post in the show notes section down in the comments area with some additional details on what you’re using, and I’ll be glad to respond there and try to help out more.
I’ve got something else here. This isn’t a question, but it’s a note from a listener named Richard. He wrote to me with message, “Hey, AskBC. I found an alternative method for applying your Timeless varnish using a Preval sprayer that you can pick up from automotive paint stores, Home Depot, and Amazon.” He says he uses it for 13 by 19 canvas prints and it works fantastic.
We haven’t tested this sprayer here at Breathing Color, so be sure to use it at your own risk. I wanted to share this idea with any of you looking for a possibly cheap solution to spray smaller size prints. It looks like this sells for just 5 or 6 bucks, so I’ll include that Amazon link in the show notes of this episode. We also have some recommendations that we talked about in the past for HVLP, high volume low pressure, spray guns, and those range closer in the 100 dollar range, so 5 to 6 dollars is a pretty cool alternative, I think. Again, we haven’t tested that here, but we may do so in the future.
Next question. Mike asks, “What is the shelf life of your print varnishes, and how poor are the results after that expiration period?” Print varnish has a shelf life of about one year, and it can vary regarding how poor the results may be after the expiration period. I don’t recommend using it past the expiration. Let’s just get that out in front at the beginning, but I’ve seen a few different things. Most commonly, you can start to see the varnish coagulate and this can vary. If it’s just sitting on a shelf for a year you’ll probably see it start to coagulate and separate, and you won’t be able to re-incorporate everything back together by stirring, or shaking, or anything. If you are using it regularly, and stirring everything regularly you probably won’t see that start to happen, but you may.
In a pinch we’ve told people that they can still use it. I can’t say I’ve seen any negative effect with somebody using it past the expiration date on a print. Of course, it’s not something I’ve done and monitored for years down the line, so again, I recommend just purchasing new varnish if it comes to that. In a pinch, if it’s something for your personal use, or whatever, I’ve recommended running it through a strainer, like a cheesecloth, before applying it. Stir it up, run it through a cheesecloth, and then apply it to the print.
Outside of this coagulation I haven’t seen a whole lot. It’s hard to give a conclusive on this because, again, we don’t really do much testing right past the expiration period, and we don’t have a lot of people that use it after the expiration period. You can run it through a number of different side effects, I imagine, of using something after it’s expired. But if you test it and find something strange definitely let me know, and I’d be glad to share it with people.
All right, I think that’ll do for one episode. I hope some of what I covered there was applicable to you guys, and I figure at the very least we helped out those 10 or so people today. Right? We’ll be back next time with a themed episode for Ask BC, and we’ll have plenty of more expert interviews in the pipeline.
If you’re on the BC blog mailing list you received our monthly digest for June 2016, and there was a poll in that digest asking you for the name of a guest you’d like to see featured on the show. I wanted to thank everybody that threw in the name of their favorite printmaking expert, and we’re working now to get as many of those people as possible booked on the show to bring new kinds of conversations to you guys. If you want to help us out on that you can reach out to these experts yourself. Send them a quick message and say that you’d really like to see them join the show. That’d be awesome.
You can get on that mailing list, by the way, by going to BreathingColor.com/blog, and clicking the “About” page using the link in the header. As always our inbox here at the podcast studio is open for your printmaking questions. This is the foundation of everything we do here, so if you have a problem, or you’re curious about something to do with producing or printing art, we invite you to fill out the question form at Ask-BC.com. If we select your question we’ll do our best to get you an in depth answer, and we’ll also read your business or website name on air and send some clicks your way.
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