Monday, February 24, 2014

Transfer Trials

I started testing photo transfers on my homemade paper. This is an image of the shadow of Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), a threatened plant species in Michigan, transferred onto paper made from the invasive plant Phragmites.

Here is the first transfer I made. I saturated the front and back of the paper with alcohol gel. As you can see, I used too much. The ink started running and bleeding through to the back of the paper, giving the image a blotchy appearance. NOT good. Also, I dried this piece of paper between two sheets of cotton and the wrinkles in the cotton made creases in the paper. My next experiment will be to dry the paper on Plexiglass so that it dries smoother on one side.

For the second run, I used less gel and applied it only to the top side of the paper. This time the image came out a lot cleaner. However, I spread the gel starting on the left and didn't get as much gel on the right side of the paper. This resulted in gaps in the ink. There are small gaps on the left as well, but this is due to the texture of the paper. Actually, I don't mind this as it gives the image an airy, ephemeral appearance and it works nicely with the theme of the project. Though I do think I can make the paper a bit smoother.

My husband took some pictures for me during the second transfer run. I should add here that I'm a bit embarrassed by the quality of all the images on this blog. I can only concentrate on one thing at a time and right now it's the paper-making process. My cheap point-and-shoot and iPhone will have to suffice.

Back to the process. The first step in the transfer process is printing a reverse image of the plant shadow onto special transparency film. I added a strip of painter's tape to one side of the transparency film so that my Epson 2400 inkjet printer would be able to read and pull it through.

I then applied Purell hand sanitizer to the paper and spread it first with my handy Pampered Chef scraper (which I had never used until now) and then with a brayer until the paper was completely covered. I now know that it's better to apply it to the top end of the paper and spread it downwards to spread it faster and more evenly. Gloves are worn because the gel sanitizer starts to liquify when you touch it and you don't want it to liquify until it makes contact with the transfer film.

The next step is placing the transparency film (ink side down) onto the paper, starting at one edge to avoid trapping air and causing bubbles.

A brayer is then used to apply pressure to the transparency film to release the ink. You roll it for about 1 minute and then gently remove the film. I actually lifted it up a little and put it back down a few times so I could roll it again to get more ink into the gaps, but because of the texture of the paper it just wouldn't absorb in some places.

I first learned the alcohol gel process from Melinda Pope at LCC and was immediately inspired. Later I was referred a book on photo transfers called Digital Alchemy by Bonny Pierce Lhotka. Bonny sells a transparency film which she developed specifically for this and other transfer processes. It's called DASS Transfer Film and it's available at I purchased this film for the project and so far it has worked wonderfully!