It may sound daft but you can actually print rain drops. Read on to discover how to create a printing plate from rain……

It all started in B&Q

Introducing Plasticote and Rust-oleum

Introducing Plasticote and Rust-oleum

I was mooching around in B&Q on a rainy day in November (as you do) when I discovered textured spray paint in among the car body paints. This is mainly used to produce a fake stone effect, or textured metallic finishes for radiators.

I found a couple that are supposed to imitate suede and also a ‘velvet’ one. Interesting!

I had a hunch they may have potential for making printing plates.The idea came to me that I could use a stencil and spray these on to a plate to create rough areas that would hold ink rather like carborundum does.

Experimenting in the lab

intaglio print from the condensation plate

intaglio print from the condensation plate

When I stumble on a potential new printmaking technique I always give myself a block of time to experiment with no expectations about what may happen.

The print studio turns into more of a science lab and I try to be systematic and document each stage (including failures) as it is easy to forget exactly what you did to achieve specific results.

All the useful test pieces get stuck into scrapbooks with notes, so I can refer back to them when I want to get a particular effect in a print.

I spent a while spraying round leaves, string and other shapes. I also tried 3d objects so the spray paint revealed a shadow where the object blocked the paint. The plates were fairly interesting; more or less what you would expect if you use a stencil and a can of spray paint.

The spray paint is quite smelly – use it out of doors or with all the windows open.

When stuck go outside

Sometimes you reach a stage with experiments where you need a walk outside to get away from it all – so feeling a bit stuck, and slightly disappointed I went into the garden. Moving around outside seems to re-boot your brain. This time it really worked.

Inspiration strikes

printing plate made from condensation

printing plate made from condensation

Coincidentally I had left an acetate sheet outside on the ground to dry and then forgotten about it.  I noticed that condensation had formed underneath it. The droplets of water beaded to form a nice graded pattern.

I’m not sure what made me think of spraying textured paint onto it but that is what I did.

It was tremendous – the paint stuck to the dry areas of acetate and formed a film on the water drops.

Once the paint dried (not long) the wet areas brushed off taking the paint film with them. This left clear areas of acetate where each drop had been, revealing an interesting pattern with its own logic and structure.

Here is a short film showing how to print rain drops

Controlling the water drops

Paint sprayed onto water drops

Paint sprayed onto water drops

The real test comes when you attempt to repeat and control a new discovery.

The condensation was a happy accident. I repeated the process with rain, and then in a more controlled fashion with a watering can, and plant spray bottle.

As you spray more water on to the acetate the drops combine to make bigger ones so you can grade the size of the drops.

Adding marks to the plate

adding marks to the printing plate

The paint is acrylic, it takes a few minutes to dry initially, so don’t wipe the water off immediately. After you have wiped the rain drops off the paint will still be soft.

Before it is totally set you can remove areas and expose the acetate, in this example I scraped it with a piece of card.

There is plenty of scope to experiment with different marks to contrast with the water drop texture.

Printing rain drops

These plates can be a bit tricky to print. You may need to have a few goes before you discover the best method.

Make sure the paint is dry and hard, leave it for an hour or so and check by scraping to check it has set enough to withstand inking up.

A relief print from the raindrops plate

A relief print from the raindrops plate

The easiest way is simply to roll ink on as a relief print. The ink will cover the plain acetate areas, leaving the spray paint quite pale.

Intaglio print

Raindrops print combining intaglio and relief inking

Raindrops print combining intaglio and relief inking

Alternatively ink as intaglio. Mix the ink with oil to make it runny and rub it into the rough spray paint then wipe off with a rag and polish with newspaper.

The prints can look a bit fuzzy if  this is all you do. To give more definition roll over the plate to add another colour in the spaces left by the intaglio ink.

This example was inked up with sienna as an intaglio, then rolled over with blue. These colours created a green where they overlapped, with some distinct areas of sienna and blue showing through.

Viscosity print

Viscosity print with the printing plate

Viscosity print with the printing plate

These spray paint plates can work really well when printed using the viscosity method.

If you rollover your oily intaglio inking with stiff ink in a different colour it will remain separate from the oily ink.

This reveals more of the pattern and adds interest due to an extra layer of colour.

These examples were made with ‘suede’ texture paint which I found the easiest to use. Please let me know if you try other paint textures, and how you find them to print from….

Here are a couple of mono prints I made using this technique:

'Wave', a mono print using the 'raindrops technique'

‘Wave’, a mono print using the ‘raindrops technique’

'Seascape', mono print using the 'raindrops' technique with chine colle

‘Seascape’, mono print using the ‘raindrops’ technique with chine colle