Trampoline Day!

Louise Anderson, our “intern”, has been learning the ropes at the Big Fag for over a year now. Her education in running the machine has been sporadic, mainly because the Big Fag’s directors keep doing annoying things like “their own art projects”, or “having babies”, or “getting prestigious jobs in design firms”. Phooey to them!

But finally, the day arrived when Louise was ready to run a whole job herself from start to finish. Apart from quoting and invoicing (and who wants to do that crap anyway), Louise managed the entire lifecycle – design iteration, client liason, prepress, platemaking, printing, postproduction and handover.

In this blog post, Louise gives an insight into the process. This might be a really useful post for those who are thinking of making a print on the Big Fag Press themselves. As Louise notes in her text below, printing flyers is not at all the Big Fag’s bread and butter. But because the Trampoline Day folks are so damn awesome, we decided to make an exception in this case…

Trampoline Printing on the Big Fag Press
By Louise Anderson

So basically I was approached through Lucas and the Big Fag Press by the people who run Trampoline, about designing and printing a flier for the event on the Press. Trampline is a free art-like event where anyone can come along and give a 15 minutes speech about anything they think is “amazing”.

For something roughly the size of an A5 piece of paper, this job would usually be sent to the Rizzeria or Blood and Thunder, but I agreed to take on the job to see a design through from concept to print as a practise for what I’ll do for my major work.

I was given a basic outline and things I needed to include, so I came up with a design in three different shapes.

My “trapezoid” shape,seemed to be the most resolved, so after a lot of back-and-forthing of emails, fonts and logos, and whether to include an exclamation mark, and how to spell “harbour” and many other things, my final design of the front ended up looking like this:

I then created the map on the back which wasn’t easy, perhaps my orienteering skills need a bit of work, but google maps is a very useful tool! I basically ended up tracing over screen prints of google maps and shifting it around to fit my design.

The next step in the Big Fag Press print process is to layout the design on a metal plate. This is done at Imagination Graphics, a place in Marrickville. The designs need to be converted to greyscale, as the ink in the end is what puts the colour on the paper. Ie, 100% black = 100% blue, 50% black (grey), = 50% blue (light blue).

I decided to put in some more time and save money by making one plate only and putting both the back and front of my design on the plate and turning the paper over to print on the back. This meant registration had to be worked out exactly, which I tried to do myself by mirroring the paper placement, designs and crop marks etc, all from one central line. As you can see the template gets very complex.

In the end, I didn’t trust my layout enough, because although the “snap to” functions and guidelines in illustrator are awesome, Imagination Graphics just has mathematical software which can lay something this complex out easily. For simpler jobs, it wouldn’t be difficult to do this myself, it’s usually just a matter of making sure two plates for two different colours match up exactly with relevant registration marks.

This was my plate in the end: (the design looks blue just because where the design is etched out is always blue no matter what colour you want to print with)

I looked through a few different colours (oil based inks), and chose a warm-ish Cyan.

I then chose my paper, which was 690 x 750, 300gsm, coated, and printed several copies onto scrap paper just to test out where the central line would fall on the paper bed on our machine. It was then a matter of printing onto both sides of the paper and shifting the registration lines a couple of millimetres to make sure back and front would match. In the below image is Pat helping me use the sun to see if our registration was working properly.

I then printed all 50 copies, let them dry, and then printed the backs, all the time fighting to keep a balance of water vs. ink on the plate as it was a very humid day and the plate was drying up quickly.

At one point I had to clean the press blanket ad start again because some flecks of paper began getting stuck to the blanket, and obscuring part of my design. This is the blanket below, it work as kind of a huge “stamp” taking ink from the plate to the paper.

And then began a tedious process of trimming the fliers, but they ended up coming out pretty well (at least I think so).

Pat, Diego and I are attending the Trampoline event on Sunday to give talk about the Big Fag Press – it works out nicely actually, because we do think it’s pretty amazing!

postscript – Louise’s report about her experience at Trampoline day is here. Her original version of the post above is here.