This explains which combination of printing matt, blankets and runners that we recommend to use for printing different plates on our etching printing presses. The printing blankets are almost as important as the press you purchase and using different printing blankets on any press will give you huge variations in prints.
All of our printing blankets can be cut to any size for you and used with any presses. We also sell them individually or as sets of 2 or 3 blankets, so you can mix and match according to your printing requirements.
While this guide explains the way we use our own presses, all printmakers will want to develop their own ways of working as all plates are made in different ways, and they are going to be inked up using different inks as well as paper and techniques of wiping or rolling. If you need any help just call or drop us an email.
The 100% woven wool blankets will last you a lot longer than the unwoven compresses felt, which reflects in the price. The The 100% woven wool blankets will last you a life time if looked after. Please note the woven wool blankets needs wearing in to get the best out of them.
Below is a description of each blanket.
In order to achieve best performance, both felt and wool blankets should be run in, by putting them individually through the press in order to compress them prior to use.
Historically in printmaking, the number of etching press blankets used in conjunction with presses has changed over the years as printing presses have developed.
Sometimes 3 or more blankets have been used dependant on the type of plate being printed), more commonly now it is thought that 2 is the magic number.
There are many terms that are used when describing the printing blankets and their uses, which hints that this is a most fluid arrangement and different printmakers have used their printing blankets in different ways and have then passed that information down to the next generation.
One of the most common names used is ‘Swanskin’ and describes the material that was used historically ie: an actual Swan skin according to some sources with the feathers still attached and was often used for book printing on Columbia presses and the like. To that end we will generically term the woven variant as ‘Swanskin’ and utilise three common terms that are used to describe the purpose of the printing blankets.
This is the blanket that goes next to the paper, it has the tightest weave so that there is no weave transferred the paper, so you get a smooth print. This blanket also catches the size (glue) from the paper, so this is the blanket that can get wet during large print runs, so make sure this is removed at the end of printing and hung to dry ready for the next session of printing. Over time the size can cause this blanket to stiffen and therefore should be replaced or carefully cleaned with specific wool detergent and dried fully before reuse. When you purchase this blanket new, like all pressed or woven wool blankets, they will need running in before you get the best out of them. Put your press on a high pressure and run the blanket through many times.
This middle Blanket does exactly as the name describes, cushioning your plate, but still allows a lot of pressure to be put onto your paper and plate. It helps plates last longer, protecting the aquatint (tone) and burr (line). It has a wide weave so if you print with it on its own you will get the weave come through to the print. If you are using two blankets this and the thinner blanket make a brilliant pair.
This is the blanket that traditionally would go next to the roller. It is a hard-wearing blanket due to its thickness and weave and the most expensive. This blanket is great to use for printing thick collagraph plates but is not essential as you can use thicknesses of newsprint to compensate for thicker plates if you need to.
The unwoven blankets can be used in the same way as the woven blankets, but as a cheaper alternative to the premium ‘Swanskin’ blankets are unlikely to perform to the same standard, and in some cases, we recommend you to only use two of these blankets rather than the set of three. For example, using the two thinner unwoven blankets to print an etching will give you 80% better results than if you used a set of 3 unwoven blankets.
Like all our blankets are available individually or as a set of 2 or 3.
Our unwoven Fronting/Size Catcher blanket is 2mm thick pressed wool felt.
Our unwoven Cushion blanket is 3mm thick pressed wool felt.
Our unwoven Pusher blanket is 6mm thick pressed wool felt.
Below are our recommendations of what blanket or blankets to use and what combination to use when you are printing the different plates.
Blankets are in order of preference.
Plate – 1mm, 2mm, 3mm, or 4mm float Glass will print very well with…
to the same thickness of the glass your printing and then either the one printing matt on its own or one woven or one pressed felt blanket.
Woven wool blankets will print better than the unwoven. You might want to use an extra metal plate to put the glass onto, but its best depending on what printing you are doing to experiment to get the results you want.
Plate – 1m thick dry-point styrene or thinner plastic plates will print very well with…
There are lots of short movies showing prints coming off the press on our website. The print on the right is by Printmaker Anna McKenna who owns a Gunning press No1
Plate – 1mm thick etchings including zinc, copper, aluminium and steel, photo etching’s and photopolymers will print well with…
Plate – 2mm thick etchings including zinc, copper, aluminium and steel, photo etching’s and photopolymers will print well with…
Photo Etchings above by Lesley Traloar
Plate – Mountboard collagraph’s will print well with…
The printing matt on its own / single 100% woven wool blanket / single 80% unwoven wool felt blanket / set of x 2 100% Woven wool blankets / set of x 2 unwoven wool blankets / a set of three 100% woven wool blankets
Collagraph’s by Steve Johnston
Plate – Mountboard and plaster collagraph’s will print well with…
Plate – 3mm thick plastic dry-points will print well with…
You might want to use large thickness of newspaper or newsprint to help compensate for the large 3mm thick step you are creating if you are using only one blanket. Or you can print using a set of two or three blankets unwoven or woven depending on the depth of line created in the plate.
Plate – 3mm thick easy cut lino or 3.2mm thick hessian backed lino or 4mm thick Japanese plywood or any relief plate that is no thicker than 4mm will print well with…
We use 4mm thick runners and chock the plate up from underneath to make it the right height See the runners page for more information on this. For this type of printing you don’t need a matt or blanket, but if you like using blankets or want to protect any wear on your top roller, you can use any combination of Matt or blankets but see what works best for your plate.
Plate – 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 20mm, 22mm, 24mm linos or woodblocks will print well with…
We use the appropriate thickness of runners and chock the plate up from underneath to make it the same, if not slightly higher than the runners. For this type of printing you don’t need a matt or blanket, but if you like using blankets or want to protect any wear on your top roller, you can use any combination of Matt or blankets but see what works best for your plate.
Plate – 25mm letterpress blocks in or out of chases or linos or woodblocks will print well with…
We use the appropriate thickness of runners and chock the plate up from underneath to make it the same if not slightly higher than the runners. For this type of printing you don’t need a matt or blanket, but if you like using blankets or want to protect any wear on your top roller, you can use any combination of Matt or blankets but see what works best for your plate.
Plate – Any thickness of plate lino or woodblock reductions. Here is a short description but why not just watch our movie showing how to set your plate up and press up? At the bottom of the page movie 17 and 18.
We use the following method. Glue your plate down to a board or styrene to make sure it does not move. Use registration pins to hold the paper in place, and plastic tabs to reposition your paper in place. Measure the thickness of your board or styrene you have stuck your plate to and then the lino or woodblock. Choose the appropriate runners for this thickness (ideally the exact thickness). If you do a test print and it’s not printing correctly add one or two pieces of paper on top or underneath of the paper your printing on to help the sandwich be the same height as your runners.