First of all it's hard for me to document any process because I'm such a visual learner. I myself would never read or follow any written directions. So please forgive me if I'm not explaining it well.Here goes...
Things I used in this process:
polyester plates (Pronto or Smart plates, available at Graphic Chemical, Media Street or Takach.)
3 cellulose sponges
light table (a window will do)
tympan (sheet of plexi will do)
newsprint backing sheets
archival paper (cover weight is best)
A litho or etching press
Bic Atlantis Pen
2 putty knives
Ink slab (a piece of glass with a taped edge is fine)
Large brayer or composite roller
Single edge razor blade for cleanup
Old phone book
1. I scanned in my graphite drawing and made a "line" image using Photoshop. With this black and white printout I made a laser copy on to the polyester/pronto plate. The toner fused to the p-plate and the heat set it well. I always allow at least 2" margins around my image area. This prevents the roller or brayer from rolling up the plate during the inking process.
2. I made a template grid so that I could print 2 prints at the same time.
3. Because the p-plates are easy to see through I am able to mark the "T-Bar" registration on the back of the p-plate.
4. I create each color on a separate plate making sure that every time the "T-Bar" is lined up exactly.
5. In addition to the laser toner, I am able to draw directly on the front of the plate with other tools. For large flats I use brand name Sharpie pens (as shown on the blue and tan color plates).
6. For finer detail I use the Bic Atlantis pen. Other pens might work but I find that the Atlantis works the best for me.
7. I print the lightest colors first ...tan, then blue, then red and finally black.
8. This litho process can be done on an intaglio press because it is flat to the press bed. You will need to use a tympan to place over the inked plate, paper and backing sheet as it goes through the press. A heavy mylar or plexiglass sheet would work if you do not have a tympan.
9. When I mix my ink I try not to make it too loose. It is ideal to use litho ink when possible. Relief and intaglio inks are not as refined as litho ink and could result in scratching away some of the detail on your plate. I add some magnesium carbonate to stiffen the ink and to keep down "scum" during the inking process. I also add a tiny bit of Setswell.
10. I mount the p-plate on to the press bed with water. We use a slate slab on our press bed to raise it up for plate printing. Sometime I recycle an old metal plate and place it on top of the slate slab. The metal surface is easier for cleaning.
11. I use 3 sponges. These must be cellulose sponges, 1 dirty sponge, 1 dry/wet sponge and 1 wet/wet sponge.
12. I use 3 buckets. One for dirty water (for rinsing and squeezing out "scum" from the sponges) and 2 buckets fro the gum/water solution (each bucket should have 1 oz. of gum arabic and 1 qt of water)
13. I also keep a "toothpaste soup" ready. (1 tbsp gel toothpaste and 1 cup of water, shake well). This "soup" will help to clean your plate if it begins to gain ink in the non-image areas.
14. I am ready to print... I have rolled out my ink on the slab (not too much), I have dipped my sponges in the gum/water solution and have mounted my p-plate to the press slab with water. I now sponge over my plate before rolling over the image with ink. If the plate is too dry it will take ink in the non-image area.
I roll out my ink with a large brayer or roller, sponging between each time. It may take 3 sets of three rolls each to ink up the plate enough.
15. I pull a proof by placing a piece of newsprint over the inked plate. My newsprint is larger than the "paper/image area". I place a backing sheet (2nd sheet of newsprint) over the proofing newsprint. I place the tympan over it all. Now I set my pressure and run it through the press. I do this 2 or three times before I get a good proof and before I use good paper.
16. I continue this process until I complete my edition. Try to follow the same set of ink passes to ensure consistency.
17. Ideally you should wait at least 24 hours before attempting the next color.
18. If I want to save my plate, I run the p-plate through the press with newsprint (without inking) until ink no longer prints. Then I saturate the p-plate with the gum/water solution and let it dry.
19. I clean the ink slab with the single edge razor to get as much excess as possible. I place canola oil (baby oil or soy response) on the slab and roll out the brayer. I wipe down the brayer with a paper towel to remove all of the ink. You may have to repeat this process twice. Be sure to remove all of the oil on your brayer. I make a final rinse only on the ink slab with a 50/50 vinegar/water spritz.
All of this writing seems endless. Sorry if I failed to proof it well and forgive me if I've left out things. Hopefully, if you're interested in doing this, you will find enough information to get you started.