Golden–the company that brought you matte and gloss medium–has a wonderful substance called Digital Grounds. GroundsThese three liquids allow you to use your ink-jet printer to print an image on almost any flat surface you can put through your printer. Why would you want to do that? Because you can print any photo image, Word document, manipulated image on aluminum foil, lace, rice paper and water color paper.
There are three Digital Grounds, each for a different purpose.
Digital Ground for Non-Porous Surfaces prepares slick surfaces like plastic, foil, coated papers that normally have ink bead up on their surfaces to absorb color in an even way. You can print clear images on foil or plastic.
Digital Ground Clear Gloss is used with porous surfaces–watercolor paper, lace, rice paper–substrates that absorbed too much ink from the printer, blurring the image, wasting ink, and leaking colors from one part of the surface too another because it is too absorbant.
Digital Ground White Matte is an opaque white coating that digital equivalent of gesso–it covers any existing color or print and allows for a new, crisp inkjet image on existing printed materials–cloth, printed papers, foils, plastic.
My goal: Using the thin, delicate, easily torn foil lining from chocolate bars in my raw-art journal. Printed, colored foil is wonderful for collage, edging, using as a color block on a page of writing, or using behind a cut out. In the experiment, I didn’t want to print a recognizable image on it, I wanted a blend of colors on foil.
Method: Chocolate-bar foil is easily torn. Chill the bar and remove the foil without getting chocolate on it. Using the round end of a spoon, smooth the foil to flatten it.
1. Sandwich the foil in parchment and iron it to remove wrinkles. You don’t want a metal smooth finish, you want tiny wrinkles, but the sheet must be flat.
2. Cut a piece of doulbe-sided fusible webbing slightly larger than the foil, place it on the parchment. Lay the foil on top, cover with another piece of parchment, and iron. I set the iron on “Rayon” and pressed it for a second or two. Do not use a super hot iron or press the iron into the material.
3. Allow the foil to cool, then carefully peel it from the parchment. Fusible webbing won’t stick to parchment. You now have the foil backed with fusible webbing to apply to your journal page, cloth, or a carrier sheet for the printer. I ironed mine on an index card for ease of manipulation. This is much easier than glue. There is another tutorial on using fusible webbing in journaling coming next week.
4. Squeeze a small amount of Golden Digital Ground for Porous Surfaces on the foil. Use the same amount as if you were covering the foil with acrylic paint in a thin layer. Using a flat brush, paint in one direction–up and down. Let dry. Repeat painting in the other direction–right to left. Let dry. Your surface is ready to print.
5. Using removable tape (Scotch™ matte tape or making tape for artists is fine) tape the card to a carrier sheet of paper. Because I was experimenting, I trimmed the foil-on-card, used Scotch tape that was not covered in medium. The carrier sheet was a sheet of regular paper. I taped the entire leading edge (the part that goes through the printer first) down, but just taped a small piece of the following edge. That way the part that goes through the grippers first is flat, and the rest is taped just so it doesn’t move.
6. I chose an image of a brightly inked piece of paper–it wasn’t the image I wanted, it was the color. The image printed on about one third of the foil–you can see the darker part in the image below. I did this deliberately, because I wanted to try multiple passes. The paper absorbed the ink, the tape didn’t. The paper on the first part took on too much color and created an unpleasant brownish print. The foil was great. It had a square of color printed on it.
7. I carefully loosened the tape, put it on a piece of photo paper, and sent it through the printer again, increasing the size of the image. The foil took the color beautifully, darkening it in the spot it has taken the color before. The tape resisted absorbing the color, you can see it pooled and dried in the image. You can see the tape application is different than the carrier paper or foil.
8. I removed the foil and can now use it in my journal. It didn’t tear or smear.
Golden has a video on using Digital Ground.
You will have more fun experimenting if you have an accomplice. Fearless mixed-media quilting artist Rosaland Hannibal encourages me relentlessly. She generously shared her Digital Ground, and taught me how to use my ancient Singer 401 sewing machine, so I can sew the color-printed foil into the journal. Everyone should have a Rosaland in their life.
Rosaland also found and shared videos by KathyAnn, who uses Digital Ground to print on aluminum cans.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist whose curiosity leads to the most interesting discoveries. About art, about people, about life.