Why would you want to print a vinyl record?
Just for fun really, and because you can!
Vinyl records are great ready made printing plates; thin and flat they’ll go through a printing press under pressure.
The variety of smooth and ridged areas on the surface hold ink in different ways, and you often get lettering in the mix as well.
A record is like an etching
Originally records were made by someone speaking or singing into a funnel, the sound made a needle vibrate in wax, leaving a pattern of soundwaves; the impression in the wax was then cast to make a durable record that could be played on a gramophone.
It is interesting to realise that inside the long spiral groove on a record is a physical etching of soundwaves – you could say that a record is an etching of sound.
Find out more about early sound recording technology here.
Visit your local charity shops
Don’t raid your Dad’s old record collection as he may get upset. Many charity shops have very cheap records for sale; buy the most crummy ones, or look for ones with lots of short tracks as the grooves are more interesting.
Buy some albums as well as singles to get different sizes. If you get 78s the grooves are coarser and have a different texture when printed.
Watch the ‘print a vinyl record’ video to get the idea
Here is a video with the basic information you need to print a vinyl record. Read on below for more details.
Ink up as relief
Charge your biggest roller up with ink. You will need to experiment with the amount of ink; it doesn’t take much, if your roller is too inky it will clog the grooves up.
We are going to ink it up as you would a collagraph plate, ie just roll the roller over it once without stopping. Don’t go backwards and forwards like a lino print. To see a demonstration of this please watch the video.
Roller not big enough?
If your roller is narrower than your record tear a strip of newspaper to get an uneven edge and lay this across half the record. Roll a thin layer of ink over half the record. Lift the newspaper off and lay it over the inked side of the record, leaving a bit of ink showing. Then charge your roller up again and roll the blank area. You may get wavy lines where the ink overlaps but I think that is better than a dead straight line from the edge of the roller.
Print your vinyl record
When it is inked all over lay the record, ink side up on the press bed and cover with a sheet of damp paper. The press doesn’t need to be terribly tight, just enough to emboss the record into the paper.
To get your round plate in the right position on the printing paper make yourself a registration sheet.
You may get a surprise when you reveal your print as the text in the middle of the record is sometimes embossed and will show clearly as mirror writing in your print.
Ink the vinyl record as intaglio
It is a little bit more tricky to ink as intaglio, but worth it for the colour combinations you can get. Scrub a thin layer of ink all over the surface with a stiff brush, then wipe most of it off with a rag. Use newspaper under your flat hand to clean the top surface and leave ink in the grooves.
Hold it steady by pressing down on the flat area in the middle as your fingerprints will show if you hold it on the grooved area.
Combine relief and intaglio
Choose contrasting colours, for the two inking up methods. For a zingy effect try a combination from opposite sides of the colour wheel, eg yellow and blue or red/green. Ink up as intaglio first then roll your second colour over the top.
Have a look at this post for more detailed instructions about inking up a printing plate.
What next? Here are a few ideas to get you going
Print vinyl records on to thin paper and use them as chine collee in other prints, the subtle lines and curved shapes work well with a variety of designs (thanks to Liz K Miller for this idea as used in her circular scores project)
You could also add chine collee on top of the record before you print it, perhaps something relating to a song you like?