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January 2002 - Page 40

Painted On Signs Revisited
by James A. Powell


Photos by the author

know the following technique is really starting to be old hat for many of us, but I seem to keep finding different methods to improve it, such as the following two de scriptions. So, whats the secret to my signs? Onionskin yeah, onionskin. For those of you who do not know, onionskin is a very thin paper that at one time was used quite often during the days of the original carbon copies. To illustrate how thin onionskin is, t hink about a regular piece of computer printer paper. It is usually 20#, while onionskin is usually 8# or 9#. The weight refers to how much a thousand basis sheets weigh for a particular type of paper the lighter the weight, the thinner the paper. This means onionskin is much thinner...less than half the thickness of ordinary paper. My signs actually come from all over, antique sign books, Internet sites and my imagination. Most of the painted on signs on my layout are my own design, or at least signs I have rendered personally from older designs. I use Macromedia Freehand (a professional, vector-based illustration program) to layout my signs. If I get my signs online, or I design them myself, they are already in my computer. However, if I get them from a book, I scan them in and resize them. I do not use George Sellioss method of using the signs directly f rom the book anymore. I feel the book paper is too thick to work with and make look good, plus I dont really like cutting up expensive full-color books. Id rather put them on the coffee table. I print my images using an Epson Sty-

These signs were actually applied to the buildings as they sat on the layout! lus Color 980. It is a fairly new and very high-resolution ink jet. It uses the new 2880 dpi process, which produces near-to-photoquality prints on regular paper. I dont need anywhere near that resolution for my signs, so I use the lowest print quality available. Using the lowest print quality uses less ink and prints much faster. I load one sheet of onionskin in at a time. Obviously, onionskin isnt made for running through ink jet printers, but if you place it on top of paper that is already loaded into the input tray, it feeds into the printer just fine. Even on a low quality print setting, t he onionskin gets fairly saturated with ink during the printing process, therefore it is pretty wet when it comes out of the printer. I let the ink dry for about 20 minutes. After the ink has dried, I cut out my signs with a new, sharp X-Acto knife. If the blade is the slightest bit dull, the paper rips instead of cuts. I like to make the cuts s lightly smaller than the image to avoid a ny white edges. Here are two different routes you can use to approach this technique. If you find your ink smears too

The difference between regular 20# bond and onionskin is amazing! Here you can see that onionskin is nearly transparent.

Since onionskin is so thin, even if you use a low-quality print, the paper will still absorb a lot of ink.

I use a fresh blade and a straight edge to cut out my signs. Even a slightly dull blade will tear the paper instead o f slicing it. I also try to cut in on the sign a little bit to avoid any unnecessary white edges.



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