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Experimental Mixtures with Digital Mixed Media

By: Amy McKinnon

When new and innovative products allow artists to break out of restrictive boundaries, what occurs is an opening of subsequent doors. Once our standard testing of a new product is complete, we proceed to experiment with the knowledge that visions are not abandoned because of product limitations and that artists will force the product beyond its intended use. By nature, artists rarely play by the rules, let alone read instructions, resulting in exciting discoveries, happy mistakes or lessons learned.

Golden Artist Colors’ new Digital Grounds have graduated from nascent stages and have started to establish themselves within the many realms of those who use digital imagery and ink-jet printing. Allowing the artist to print on their choice of flat substrates using an ink-jet printer has freed many from the conventions of what they could print on. The ability to alter the grounds increases the possibilities and varieties of each print. We have done a fair amount of mixing of other products into the Digital Grounds to test limitations, compatibilities and potential and have arrived at some interesting results that range from the expected to pleasantly surprising to the unexpectedly exciting.

There are three versions of the Digital Grounds: White (Matte), Clear (Gloss) and Non-Porous. They are used by applying the Digital Ground to a flat substrate, once dry the flat substrate can be fed through an ink-jet printer and the grounds will act as a receptor to the printer inks. The use of the Digital Grounds allows for clear prints on almost any flat surface that can be fed through a printer. Each of the three Digital Grounds functions in a different way. The White (Matte) is a porous coating that is made up of tiny solid particles that absorb the printer inks into the space between the solids, coating the particles in the process. The structure of Digital Ground White (Matte) causes the inks to dry almost instantly. Digital Ground Clear (Gloss) is a transparent medium for porous surfaces that allows the substrate to show through. The Clear (Gloss) is a water sensitive polymer that swells around the printer inks when printed upon. While it takes longer than the White (Matte) to dry, the encapsulation of the inks gives it greater protection, deep rich colors and excellent transparency. Like the Clear (Gloss), Digital Ground for Non-Porous Surfaces is transparent and swells when printed upon. The difference between the two is that Digital Ground for Non-Porous Surfaces is formulated to adhere to non-porous substrates such as foils or plastics while the Clear (Gloss) is made for porous surfaces.

Adding paints, mediums, gels, pastes and grounds to the Digital Grounds in varying amounts yielded some interesting results allowing the artist greater control of the outcome of the printed image. The Digital Grounds are formulated to accept printer inks and altering the composition of the grounds too severely can negate their properties.

In our testing we started by adding only 1% of each particular component to the Grounds. Ever increasing the ratio, we went as high as 25% with some mixtures proving that this was the tipping point since the image began to lose some of the clarity and benefits the Digital Grounds offer.

Mixing Digital Grounds
Mixing Digital Grounds

Prior to mixing our huge range of products with the Digital Grounds we needed to witness how the Digital Grounds performed with one another. The mixture that combined the Clear (Gloss) with the Non-Porous yielded no interesting results since it only offered a difference in mechanical adhesion to the given substrate. Since the mechanism of ink reception of the White (Matte) differs from that of the Clear (Gloss) and Non-Porous varieties, the outcome of their marriage was anticipated to be a departure from the norm. The ratios of the mixtures of White (Matte) to either of the swellable grounds largely affected the product. The ratios that were of a greater proportion of White (Matte) [3:1, White (Matte): Clear (Gloss)/Non-Porous] resulted in very little change of the imagery. As the ratios started to even out [2:1, White (Matte): Clear (Gloss)/Non-Porous] slight changes began to emerge, differentiating the Clear (Gloss) from the Non-Porous. With both, some slight loss of detail was exhibited but the defining factor was an overall warmer hue to White (Matte): Non-Porous mixture. The reds in the imagery became almost fluorescent. When the White (Matte) was mixed with either the Clear (Gloss) or the Non-Porous in equal proportions, the image resulted in a complete segmented generalization of shapes and colors. This effect is commonly known as posterization, in which areas of continuous gradation are translated into several bands of solid color resulting in an abrupt transition from one area to the next. The difference between them was again a warmer, redder hue to the White (Matte): Non-Porous mixture. The posterization effect only existed in equal proportions. The White (Matte): Clear (Gloss) mixtures in both 1:2 and 1:3 ratios balanced out to a clear and decipherable image. When White (Matte) was mixed with Non-Porous in a 1:2 mixture the dark areas began to exhibit a bit of a splotchy character and as we increased the ratio to 1:3 White (Matte): Non-Porous we found that the darker areas began to display a loss of clarity and effect similar to pixelation. Upon closer investigation, the image revealed little cracks throughout the darker areas of the printed space.

Mixing With Paints
 Mixing with Paints

The effects achieved by mixing paints with the Digital Ground White (Matte) were a tinting of the ground coupled with a speckled bird’s egg effect. The particular pigment size and line of paint directly determined the size and frequency of the speckles. The various lines of paints that we chose to mix with the Digital Grounds were Heavy Body, Fluid, Matte Fluid and Airbrush colors. Each offered slight variations of one another. The Airbrush colors had the smallest pigment particles resulting in a very uniform surface. The Matte Fluid colors exhibited slightly larger particles than that of the Airbrush Colors, achieving a uniformly speckled surface. As we moved through the lines to the Fluid Colors there were slightly larger particles that were further apart and the Heavy Body exhibited larger, less frequent but more varied speckles. The lighter the color, the less chance there was of seeing the pigment particles and the speckling effect. Mixing the White (Matte) Ground with 1% paint resulted in a clear and discernable image, but as the percentage was increased up to 5% the image began to exhibit less contrast due to the lightest areas of the image adopting the darker background. The use of the Clear Grounds with the paints continued to yield the speckles, but the color tended to obscure the printed image.

Mixing with Metallic Paints

Much like the pigmented paints behaved with the Digital Grounds, the metallic, Iridescent and Interference paints tended to exhibit themselves as flecks but without the overall tinting. Unlike the pigmented paints, increasing the amount of metallic, Iridescent or Interference paints to Digital Grounds yielded more clarity in its reflective sheen than seen straight on. When the paints were added in 5% or greater amounts and printed over a black surface, what resulted was a ghost image since the inks only registered on the flecks of paint. The Interference paints behaved similarly to the metallic, but with the trademark flip altering the image at different angles.

Mixing With Grounds
Mixing with Grounds

The four selected grounds we used for mixing with the Digital Grounds were Gesso, Absorbent Ground, Acrylic Ground for Pastels and Light Molding Paste. Gesso mixed with White (Matte) yielded an image that had a good amount of clarity and remained true to its original color. We increased the Gesso from 1% to 5% which resulted in a loss of clarity, intensity, crisp edges and saturation of color. The Absorbent Ground had a similar effect, except it exhibited a grainier texture than the Gesso. Much like the Absorbent Ground, the Acrylic Ground for Pastels altered the image only through a change in texture. The texture still retained enough tooth for drawing purposes without affecting the overall imagery. It functioned best with the Clear Digital Grounds at 25%. The Light Molding Paste when mixed with the Digital Grounds has the texture of suede. The grains appear differently from various angles. Viewing the image straight on is evidence that the ink hit the top most part of the texture but as you view the image on an angle, the sides of the grain are still white.

Mixing with Mediums

Mixing the Digital Grounds with various mediums resulted in great clarity and good color, which suggests that in conjunction, the two mediums may serve two separate purposes. We chose to mix the Digital Grounds with Matte Medium, Super Loaded Matte Medium, GAC 100 and GAC 900. The GAC 100 and 900 showed very little change but opened the possibilities to different substrates.

Experimenting with alterations of the Digital Grounds has achieved only a small indication of the potential possibilities in printing. While we may now have a general idea of the ratios to use in order to maintain the utility of the Digital Grounds, there are still endless options for further mixtures and applications. Some of the largest factors not covered in this article have to do with the color, texture and absorbency of the substrate, the image to be printed and the printer and inks used. As always, we encourage artists to experiment and to push the materials in order to achieve either the desired effect or the unexpected discovery.

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