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Exercise 5.4: Printing

Updated: May 27, 2022

In this exercise I was encouraged to experiment by printing my own images on the the different paper types I had gathered before. I was also allowed to use images I had already made from anywhere else in the course, so I thought it could be interesting to revisit my catalogue of work from my previous Key steps in Illustration unit as an additional resource for remixing and reprinting a set of experimental images on different papers.



Gathering paper stock ready for printing

In InDesign, I set up a digital layout in InDesign to work with these images and to see if any narrative emerged. My first instinct was that these images would only show a personal journey through my work in Key Steps In Illustration, but later on I found the outcome turned out to be different once I printed these images and started to make connections between the pieces.

InDesign rough flat plan and arrangement of pages.
Once these were all arranged, I had 16 pages ready for print on my various paper types.


As this exercise encouraged me to be experimental with the printing process, I didn't overthink what would or couldn't work on a sheet of paper and for most of the images, so I prepared my paper stock to have at hand to feed into the printer instinctively as I chose to hit print on each of my images.

I've scanned the resulting prints and arranged these in rough pairs in a sequence of images below, where I talk about the origin of each piece and how they have a relationship with the paper they are printed on. The order they have been placed in differs widely from my original flat plan and now transitions through emergent themes. Starting with academia, then a storytelling and fantasy collection, to themes of isolation and luxury.

Right at the start of the course, I did illustrated a self-portrait as part of an exercise introducing myself. As this was the start on this leg of my educational journey, I've symbolically printed this image on lined paper, giving it the look as if it has been drawn directly onto the page.

I noticed a leftover loose page from this assignment as I was retrieving paper to bring to the printer, and wanted to see how it would look with the relevant Wikipedia page reprinted onto it. The result is still legible for both sections of text and with a complete rebinding of my altered book, I think it would have been effective to feature more of the information with this overlay effect.

Although not the most accurate objective drawing of a pair of glasses, I wanted to see if i could give this simple image a more interesting context, so a duplicated and rotated it into this composition. Then, I printed it out onto clear acetate to give the glasses the same reflective texture that the real object has. The image above doesn't show it as much for only being a scan, but the transparency adds a lot to the interest I have in the image over what it was originally intended for.

This image was another work in progress shot from an early assignment. I was aiming for a rustic effect of an autumnal selection of fruit in the original brief which I had illustrated using coloured pencil and watercolour on textured paper. I had made a decent image in my original result, but this reprint on parchment paper with only a small image in the corner transforms it into some effective seasonal stationary.

Similar to my self-portrait, this in progress sketch inspired me to reprint it on a page of graph paper to symbolise the product design nature of the image. What I find I like the best though, is the contrast between the neat uniform lines of the grid and my roughly drawn naturalistic sketch of what should be angular shapes.

Taken from one of my blog images showing a progression of composition options using the same 3 elements, I really liked this structure as it reminded me of square polaroid's, especially when I reprinted it on acetate. As with the glasses, this isn't the most visible when rescanned, but in person the sheet looks very much like a set of negatives produced from a roll of film.

I had put a lot of effort into this illustration designed to match an article on online dating during lockdown and although it had been made to accompany an online article, I wanted to use some pink scrapbook paper to give it a feeling of a teenage keepsake instead. I don't feel that the paper colour choice has reacted well with the inks in this case however, as the lack of white space has dulled the image's highlights.

As I had some trouble with backgrounds and colour schemes at the time, I felt that this frog deserved another chance. This reprint takes advantage of the gradient of the parchment paper to make the orb a better light source and the pale background really helps the illustration stand out as something that could comfortably accompany a fairy-tale book.

The original version of this image was done completely digitally, but to emulate watercolour effects. Yellow was the dominant colour in the original, so I wanted to see how that would react to being printed on yellow card. The result isn't too bad, and punches up the green which actually attracts the viewer towards the main subject a lot faster, although at the cost of the blue text bubbles vividness.

I wanted to give this Mediterranean seafood restaurant logo a fair treatment on some elegant material, so printed it on the reverse side of acrylic canvas paper. The texture on this side is smoother than the other, but has still has some vertical canvas grain that works well. Visually though, this doesn't change much from the original at a glance, and I think that a full composition with text would make the most out of this image, rather than the type of paper it was printed on.

This lighthouse is one of my favourite projects, and I've remade it several times in multiple forms, including a reprint as a hand towel. This time I took the line art only version and printed it on a seafoam green/blue sheet of pastel coloured card. I like the look of it, but in this case I think I was just playing favourites as the image doesn't feel enhanced or changed by the material a great deal.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

This time printed on the crosshatched side of acrylic canvas paper, my 20,000 leagues under the sea gets a new depth from texture from the natural waves in the paper. Close up this looks great, although some of the text is distorted and not as readable. From a distance this really changes the gradient effects in a big way too, making them much grainer, almost like an etching.

This last pair really embody a vintage aesthetic from their original design and enhanced by my paper choices. This 1940's scene inspired by a character description from The Daffodil Affair adapted by Michael Innes was drab and moody in intention, but the print on brown paper makes me wish that I had used this material to draw on originally, instead of digitally adding filters to make this effect in my original design.

The 1920's art deco designs of posters was my biggest inspiration for this digital piece

Failed attempts

With the other images I have written about the successes and failures of each image's printed aesthetics, but these two images represent more practical failures, as the papers I used both jammed in the printer. With the lesson learned not to use those again, I still thought I would make a note here on what I had intended for them.

I wanted to see how the letters of this grimy paper looked when printed onto black card, as the ink would be a different shade to the paper. Would the ink get absorbed and disappear into the black or still be semi visible due to its reflectiveness against the matte card? It's a shame this didn't work out, but I'll have to get some thinner black paper to retry this effect at a later date.

The colours on this abstract painted image were really vivid and I wanted to see how any of these would react to the inks printed on foggy semi-transparent paper. Unfortunately, the paper was too thin and slipped on the rollers as my printer failed to get a purchase. I may search for a printer friendly variant of semi-transparent paper to explore this curiosity again.


It was fun to revisit all of this work and be experimental with the printed production of it, especially for the work that was never designed to be printed. Having a retrospective look at the variety within my own work also reminded me how easily a small change in printed materials can shift the perception of an image from what I originally intended.

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