Photocopy Transfer for Lithography and Relief Processes

The original article published in Imprint Summer 1995 Volume 30 Number 4.

‘I first used the wintergreen oil in Albuquerque during a four-week workshop at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. I purchased a small quantity at a local ‘drugstore’ and brought it home carefully wrapped in my hand luggage.’

Cover for Imprint Summer 1995 Volume 30 Number 4 featuring David Brand‘s Blue Bird, 1995, etching, 29 x 22.5 cm, printed by Martin King and Rob Dott at the Australian Print Workshop.

This article was written by artist Kaye Green, former lecturer in Printmaking, Monash University College, Gippsland (now Federation University), and published in the summer 1995 issue of Imprint, Volume 30 Number 4.

After using thinners or acetone for many years for transferring photocopies onto lithographic plates and stones, I was pleased to learn that Methyl Salicylate (wintergreen oil*) gives a better result and is much safer to use. Recently I needed to transfer a great deal of detailed information onto lino and as I pondered over the time consuming task ahead of tracing the information, I decided to try using the lithographic photocopy transfer technique with my lino blocks. The transfer worked perfectly and I have also successfully tried the process on wood. The process is similar for both litho and relief print transfer.

Transferring onto lithographic plates or stone
Prepare a reasonably fresh photocopy (24 hours) of the material to be transferred. Place the matrix onto the bed of the press and set up normal printing pressure. Pour the wintergreen oil onto a clean soft rag and spread evenly onto the stone or plate using enough to leave an even film of the oil on the surface of the stone. Position the photocopy face down and cover with a sheet of acetate and newsprint. Position the tympan and run the press through three times in the same direction, fan dry and either process or add further drawing.

Transferring onto lino or wood
Prepare a reasonably fresh photocopy (24 hours) of the material to be transferred. Place the matrix onto the bed of the press and set up a normal printing pressure. Pour the wintergreen oil onto a clean soft rag and spread evenly onto the lino or wood using enough to leave a smooth even film on the surface of the lino or wood. Position the photocopy face down and cover with a sheet of acetate, newsprint, a sheet of cardboard and one blanket. Run the press through once and check the transfer. If necessary, run the press through again for a stronger impression.

The transfer can be washed off with turpentine (lino or wood) or wintergreen oil (stone or plate) within ten or fifteen minutes but if it is left for any longer it is very difficult to remove.

I first used the wintergreen oil in Albuquerque during a four-week workshop at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. I purchased a small quantity at a local ‘drugstore’ and brought it home carefully wrapped in my hand luggage. When I arrived home I realised I would need more. I started worrying that I might have to have emergency supplies sent to me from the USA if I had trouble finding it in Australia. I need not have worried. My precious bottle of wintergreen oil purchased in Centre Avenue, Albuquerque, had been manufactured by Boronia Oils, Batemans Bay, New South Wales!

*Wintergreen oil may be obtained at pharmacies or health food shops.

Kaye Green now lives and works as a full time artist in Hobart.