How to: Edge Painting

We love the look of edge painting, adding a pop of color to each printed piece without being too ‘in-your-face bold.’ We were initially approached to add edge painting to a potential project a few weeks ago and immediately started researching different techniques. We soon found out that edge painting can be achieved in many different ways and is somewhat of a guarded secret amongst those who have mastered the skill.

We’re not into secrets here at Studio TEN15…and we are by no means masters (yet), so we’re sharing our process and our mishaps.

Process:
1. CUT all of the paper to size, making sure that each cut is EXACTLY the same dimension (we use guides on our paper cutter since we don’t yet own a fancy cutter with a digital readout)
2. CLAMP the paper stack together, making sure that the paper is lined up as close as you can. We used our quick-grip 6″ clamps because we already owned these from our model making days in architecture school. If you use heavier duty clamps, or ones without rubber feet, make sure to add a few pieces of wood blocking at either end of your stack to protect the paper.
3. PAINT the edge you just clamped. We tested a brayer and sponge painting. We liked the look of sponge painting better since we were able to control the pressure a little more. We ended up painting many many many light layers on each edge.
4. WAIT for the edges to dry (an hour or so depending on how much paint your use). Unclamp, and repeat for the other three edges.

What we learned:
1. Clamp it tight! You don’t want paint to seep in between your paper, so clamping correctly is critical. If you are worried about damaging  your paper, use wood blocking to help distribute the force of the clamps over a bigger area.
2. We had to thin our paint ever so slightly for sponge painting. However…not too thin because then it starts to seep  through the paper fibers too much and bleeds onto the front or back of the paper. This could be a cool effect if it were intentional–note to self, experiment with this later.
3. Mix a lighter color for edge painting. You’ll remember in our color post that less is more. This is especially true in edge painting. We mixed colors according to our pantone formula guide and then knocked them back 3 or 4 shades by adding transparent white. Why? Because the formula guide shows colors that are 1 thin layer printed on our press. But with edge painting, we’re layering up many many many thin layers of color, so making a lighter color to paint with results in the desired color afterwards–get it? Good.
4. Be patient. Our first few attempts failed because we didn’t wait long enough for the edges to dry before unclamping. When we went to paint another edge, some of the faces were mared with thin blue streaks…ooops. Lesson learned, wait until the paint is dry to the touch…and then wait a little longer for good measure.
5. Paint before or after printing? We’re still undecided on this one. It seems like, if the job allows, edge painting before the final print is the best solution; if you catastrophically messed up, you would only need to cut new paper, rather than cut new paper and print.

We love learning and experimenting here at the studio, so let us know if you have any suggestions on edge painting or how you imagine using it in a new way!

5 thoughts on “How to: Edge Painting

    • studioten15 says:

      Hi Aileen! For these cards, I used thinned out letterpress ink (Van Son Rubber or Oil based ink) so that I could accurately match what was printed on the front. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve also read that air brush painting also works well. Be sure to update me with your results if you try!

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