Digitizing Yourself: Golden Digital Mediums Project

November 1, 2009

When our department decided we should do a self-portrait as a project where we could learn about art supplies we hadn’t tried, I jumped at the chance to use some of the new Golden Digital Mediums as part of the challenge. I had a set of Golden Digital Mediums that I bought when we first started selling them, and I was happy to have an excuse to drop other projects and play with the new stuff.

Preparing Your Printing Surface

I chose to use pieces of washed and pressed white cotton broadcloth, a relatively thin cloth, for my project. I cut them to match the dimensions of my printing paper (in this case 8.5” x 11”).

There are other materials that would work just as well, as long as they will go through your printer: canvas, metal foils, wallpaper, leather, thin wood veneer, plastic films, plexiglass and such. If your chosen surface is thick, check your printer’s manual to see how to print on heavier or thicker materials. Fragile or floppy materials need to be supported by attaching them to printer paper, so I taped the edge of each piece of my broadcloth to the lead edge of a piece of paper support.

Note: because my inkjet printer had a straight uncomplicated printing path, I didn’t tape all four sides. You may need to do this if running your prints through a printer with a more complex paper path. Just tape all four edges, keeping the cloth as flat as possible, to the support.

Applying a Coating

Next you need to apply the digital ground. Applying this kind of coating to a piece of fabric is easier if you fasten it down to your work surface by taping or tacking the edges. If you don’t want to tape or tack, then cut your piece larger than your desired size, coat to the edges, and then trim to size. Any buckling or curling can be tamed by leaving the dried piece flattened under a weighted board over night.

I spread a thin layer of Golden Digital Ground White (Matte) over the pieces of broadcloth and let them dry. I used a Color Shaper because that is what I happened to have on hand. Other things you could use would be wide brushes like you would use for gesso, rollers, foam brushes (watch out for bubbles) or pieces of card like a squeegee.

Your type of printing surface will affect your choice of ground. Use a clear ground for layering, for when you want to see the background material through the image, and for nonporous surfaces. Use a white or matte ground for absorbent surfaces when you do not need to see the background material through the image.

The Digital Ground I used for the project was opaque, matte and white. I was a bit concerned when the cloth absorbed the Ground so quickly that there seemed to be areas which did not show the white of the Ground, although they felt stiffened by the coating. When I printed on the cloth however, this apparent unevenness was not reflected in the image. Mind you, my image did not have any large areas of pale, even colour, which might show this kind of streakiness off more. So best to experiment a bit with this.

I probably could have avoided or minimized this unevenness in the coating by using something as a barrier coat before actually applying the Digital Ground. If this is a concern for you, use an acrylic medium on any absorbent surface before applying the Digital Ground. This also means you can achieve an even coating with fewer layers of Ground.

Creative Use of Your Print

Printing went smoothly for my project, and the photo self-portrait that I did in the Photo Booth of my Mac Book printed well on the cloth surface. I had manipulated the image to change the colour (I toned it down a lot) and sharpness (I actually decreased it quite a bit). If you are using a digital image and you have software to edit it, take some time to enjoy this part of the process too.

When I had finished printing, I chose two pieces that I wanted to work further with. I cut one up into strips vertically, and the other into strips horizontally. I then “reconstituted” the image by weaving the strips together. The distortion and texture effects this caused gave me a look that I liked: an interweaving of layers with a slightly off-kilter look. This was a self-portrait, after all. It wasn’t intended for my passport!

I then used this woven piece, along with an image done on a commercially made image transfer sheet, by mounting it on a painted cradled panel, using acrylic medium as the adhesive.

You can also use acrylic medium to attach your printed image to paintings on canvas, or to collages. You can layer multiple images, apply them to opaque or transparent surfaces, or incorporate them into any object you like.

Self-Preservation: the final coats

I coated my printed image with the Golden Digital Top Coat (a couple of layers) to protect the inkjet image from fading. I didn’t notice any very marked change in the colours other than a slight deepening of shades, and by applying carefully on the first pass, there was no bleeding of the ink.

You can also use a barrier coat at this stage. I recommend that you spray your inkjet image with Golden Archival Spray Gloss. Then apply the protective coating of your choice.
(See what’s available: https://store.opusframing.com/sagro/storefront/store.php?mode=browsecategory&category=1823)

If you use either the clear Golden Digital Ground or the Golden Digital Ground for Non-Porous Surfaces, the actual ground itself can be re-activated by water, so coating with the Archival Spray before applying any water-based layers is a must.

Do a test print to try out the Digital Top Coat you’ve chosen on your print, to see whether you can apply it directly over your print or need to use the Archival Spray first. In fact, test prints and samples are a really good idea when using any material or technique that you are unfamiliar with or are using in an experimental way.

The finished self-portrait now hangs in my workplace, looming over the non-virtual me as I type.

For more information on these new products, visit: http://www.goldenpaints.com/mixmoremedia/index.php

For a visual, check out Ruth on YouTube!
We hope you enjoy!