Halftone Problems

Well, it appears that I have chosen to showcase my relative inexperience with a contribution to the Vandercook bundle. Currently, I am having problems printing my second ever halftone. First of all, I think that I may need new rollers as these are a little glazed. I’ve used Putz pomade and a scotch brite pad on them. Might have to do that again. I’m using a thinish paper, Canson Ingres, with a laid texture. My ink is part unknown can and part Daniel Smith oil based relief ink. I am having trouble getting a solid black to appear. In the effort to get a solid, I have over-inked to where some areas of the halftone are gooping up. I’ve also got quite a bit of impression. Less impression does not deliver a passable solid at all. There are mystery particles in a kind of dirty halo effect around the heads, which I can’t seem to make disappear with the rag and typewash. I even used a toothbrush to make sure no lint was left on the cut. But still they are. I stopped printing, just unable to continue with this terrible result. I tried putting another two cuts to either side of the paper, just to give the cylinder more area to bear the weight, in case the concentration on the about 3 square inch cut was too much. I am using a drawsheet with a scrap of paper taped to it where the cut is, to give it a little softness. I think I am going to experiment with thicker dampened paper after this. Please take a look at the image, and see what possible solutions come to mind. Any help is appreciated.


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Fritz Klinke
13 years ago

Wow, how far down the once well-travelled path of halftone printing we have come. Traditionally, halftones are printed on coated or super calendared stock, and remember, many of the Vandercooks were used by photoengravers to proof halftones, and 120 and 133 line screens were regularly used in commercial work. Halftone ink was once available from ink makers–it is a softer, not stiffer ink. The same result can be had by adding very small amounts of tack reducer, or even a drop or two of kerosene worked into the ink. Then there is this elusive thing called makeready, and the basic texts describe the process in detail, but on a Vandercook, a prime attribute was that makeready was not often needed.

I still print halftones and I prefer 120 line ones, but I print on coated stock, as the letterpress gods intended such things to be, and use a Miehle Vertical. But I get fine results on our SP-15 from metal or photopolymer. Trying to do halftones on laid finish paper is, well, not Kosher.


Mike Day
13 years ago

I am curious. Smooth paper is easier to print a halftone on but did you try less ink and printing damp. We have printed 100 line of our platen, the smoother the paper, the better it prints. Laid finish is a challenge even with type.

Good luck and keep investigating per Paul’s advise.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
13 years ago

Roni is correct, 85 lines is a good line screen. I do on occasion use 100 on a very smooth or calendered sheet.

But I also agree with Barbara: build a hard packing and try a stiffer ink or add magnesium carbonate to the one you have. Certain papers, especially those made for printmaking, shed fibers on press, so frequent cleaning may be necessary.

And I like the current effect too, a bit ghostly, it reminds me of a chiroscuro watermark were it a lighter color.

Do continue to experiment, or to use Stanley Morison’s word: investigate.

Barbara Hauser
13 years ago

Hi Caveworks,

I’ve only printed one halftone, but as I recall the plate needed to be cleaned and re-inked very frequently, and the cleaning needed to be followed by a generous blast of compressed air to get every speck of dust off. Also I think I used stiff ink, smooth paper, hard packing, and hardly any impression.

Actually, I kinda like it the way it is. When I first saw the image — before I read about the problems — I thought, “Wow, that’s really cool!”


Roni Gross
13 years ago

I am curious what line screen you generated the halftone at. I usually make mine 85 line screens because it is coarse enough to keep them from clogging up with ink – which is what I suspect is happening with your

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