Home, sweet home? (11x16), Forest Dawn (18x24), Sundiscs (5x11)

New Layers of Meaning


Kristine Bouyoucos describes how she combines layers of traditionally printed imagery with semi-transparent strata of digital printings to create rich, mysterious, tonal imagery.

These past few years have seen an explosion of new developments in printmaking. Major innovations in inks, coatings, and healthier practices have been made. In search of ways to combine traditional and digital print, I discovered a wealth of material and recommend Digital Art Studio by Schminke, Krause and Lhotka.1

     With such extensive instructional manuals, you need to find an area you like and forge your own path. Mine led me to study ways to transport handmade, Japanese papers through the computer printer without jamming. My mixed media prints include an etching or monotype, as the bottom layer, printed on an etching press. This is fused with a digitally printed sheet of thin, Japanese paper. This combination allows each separate print to 'speak' with one united voice. The effect is of muted, rich colours conveying an air of mystery. The interplay between shape, colour and overlaid shading is striking.

     It takes experience to pick prints that will work well with each other. I find that the simpler the hand-pulled print, the better the synergy. Also, I usually print the digital sheets at a resolution of 72-80 dpi, resulting ina less saturated image, permitting the graphic under-layer better visibility. For these graphic layers, I use Rives BFK. It is a sturdy sheet that gives good support to sheer Japanese paper, which can be printed with or without a coating.2 I prefer coated sheets as they render a livelier colour.

Making and melding

Working with larger sheets (20 x 25 inches upwards) the first layer of coating can be tricky to apply because of the weight of paper. (I only coat the thin Japanese paper as this is the receiver for the digital component of my prints.) Difficulties can also arise should the climate be hot and sticky. To coat your sheet, lay it on a flat piece of plastic (3/8 thickness) slightly larger than the paper. Use a broad sponge brush; start in the middle and work down your way to one end; turn and work down to the other. The second coating is no trouble! Let it dry overnight. The plastic sheet can be washed and reused. The paper delicacy of the second layer can cause printing problems. I use an Epson 7600 with archival inks; the print heads are very sensitive and will stumble and leave black blotches should there be any fibres sticking up from the edges. This is solved by applying masking tape to the two edges over which the print heads pass. Simply roll out the length of tape needed for your size of sheet, lay the paper down on the strip, covering less than half the width of tape, then gently fold in the tape along the the paper edge and smooth out. For best results, fold tape over in small increments. Sturdier, clean edge papers don't need this step.

     For my digital work, I use both nature photography and bits of my own artworks scanned directly or via slides. Adobe Photoshop is my preferred program. The final delicate operation is

the fusing of the two strata. After trying brush applications of PVA and other acrylic media, I have settled on a method using 3M double-sided adhesive rolls (also archival) assuring an even spread of the glue. (The adhesive is totally transparent.) To achieve accurate positioning of the Japanese paper, peel a small section of the protective backing sheet away, then lay down the two bottom corners first, making sure there are no wrinkles. Use the squeegee away any unevennesses, then work all over the page to assure complete adherence or put the print through the press a final time.

     Keep in mind the many ways to enhance your piece before the fusing. Drawing or painting on the back of the Japanese paper, or cutting a paper pattern or shapes to intrude into the sub-layer are possibilities, just as painting on top of the print in its final state can add an extra dimension. This approach to printmaking can be full of surprises in which utterly unrelated images find new meanings together.

Kristine Bouyoucos grew up in Norway and moved to the USA as an adult. She has an art degree from Empire State College, Rochester, NY, and studies printmaking at Rochester Institute of Technology. She has exhibited widely in New York State, Seattle and Washington, USA; Melbourne, Australia; and Lima, Peru.



1 See Printmaking Today, Vol 14 No. 4, p.30

2 Several different 'inkAid' coatings can be ordered at www.inkAid.com; 'inkAid' is an emulsion applied to paper and other surfaces as a coating to help receive and retain ink from a digital printer. Colourless when dry, it provides a slight sheen and makes the paper more translucent


Images, left to right

Home, sweet home? 2004. Mixed media monoprint with linocut, stamps & digital print, 279 x 406 mm

Forest Dawn 2005. Monoprint & digital print 457 x 610 mm.

Sundiscs 2004. Solar plate etching & digital print 127 x 229 mm


Printmaking Today, Vol 15 No 4, Winter 2006