Current research at the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at the University of the West of England, Bristol, is
exploring the potential of creating coloured pictorial imagery from a continuous tone relief surface. To create the printing
matrices the research team have been using CNC milled images where the height of the relief image is dictated by
creating a tone curve and then milling this curve into a series of relief blocks from which the image is cast in a silicone
ink. A translucent image is cast from each of the colour matrices and each colour is assembled - one on top of another -
resulting is a colour continuous tone print, where colour tone is created by physical depth of colour. This process is a
contemporary method of continuous tone colour printing based upon the Nineteenth Century black and white printing
process of Woodburytype as developed by Walter Bentley Woodbury in 1865. Woodburytype is the only true continuous
tone printing process invented, and although its delicate and subtle surfaces surpassed all other printing methods at the
time. The process died out in the late nineteenth century as more expedient and cost effective methods of printing
prevailed. New research at CFPR builds upon previous research that combines 19th Century Photomechanical techniques
with digital technology to reappraise the potential of these processes.
The presentation will demonstrate how through alternative methods of digital print production the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is developing methodologies for digital printing that attempt to move beyond standard reproductive print methods. Profiling is used for input and output hardware, along with bespoke profiling for fine art printmaking papers. Examples of artist's work, and examples from the Perpetual Portfolio are included - an artist in residence scheme for selected artists wanting to work at the Centre and to make a large-format digital print. Colour is an important issue: colour fidelity, colour density on paper, colour that can be achieved through multiple-pass printing. Research is also underway to test colour shortfalls in the current inkjet ink range, and to extend colour through the use of traditional printing inks.
Collotype and Woodburytype are late 19th early 20th century continuous tone methods of reproducing photography in print, which do not have an underlying dot structure. The aesthetic and tactile qualities produced by these methods at their best, have never been surpassed. Woodburytype is the only photomechanical print process using a printing matrix and ink, that is capable of rendering true continuous tone; it also has the characteristic of rendering a photographic image by mapping a three-dimensional surface topography. Collotype’s absence of an underlying dot structure enables an image to be printed in as many colours as desired without creating any form of interference structure. Research at the Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE Bristol aims to recreate these processes for artists and photographers and assess their potential to create a digitally generated image printed in full colour and continuous tone that will not fade or deteriorate. Through this research the Centre seeks to provide a context in which the development of current four-colour CMYK printing may be viewed as an expedient rather than a logical route for the development of colour printing within the framework of digitally generated hard copy paper output.
This paper presents an alternative view of colour, from the artist's perspective. It highlights problems that are current in inkjet and wideformat printing. And how other print processes, such as (silk)screenprint, can offer answers to developing inkjet technology; such as colour saturation, surface quality, translucency and opacity. The paper introduces the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR), gives a context to the work that is undertaken at the Centre, and examples the International Digital Miniature Print as dissemination of research. The paper provides a historical context to colour and colour printing, and introduces the notion that white and varying translucencies of white could offer an alternative or to enhance current CMYK+ colour sets.