You weren't going to eat that butter, were you?
September 15, 2011 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Got a bit of free time this weekend? Have a hankering to make some art? Here's just what the doctor ordered - a (wordless) YouTube video on how to make a real lithograph on your kitchen table, using aluminum foil, butter, and Coke. French artist Émilion has also prepared a short manual on the process in English (pdf).
posted by woodblock100 (29 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
this is so cool. thanks.
posted by facetious at 7:58 PM on September 15, 2011

Seriously clever! Thanks for sharing this.
posted by polymath at 8:39 PM on September 15, 2011

This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you.

Um... is that butter? The pdf says 'grease chalk'. I was hoping for butter...
posted by motty at 8:41 PM on September 15, 2011

That's so amazingly cool. Thank you!
posted by rtha at 8:50 PM on September 15, 2011

god i hate people who can do stuff
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:52 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

obi, it's easy to make a litho with just stuff in your kitchen, as long as you have a $1500 litho press in your kitchen.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:54 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Or a spoon, and a strong thumb!
posted by rtha at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2011

obi, it's easy to make a litho with just stuff in your kitchen, as long as you have a $1500 litho press in your kitchen.

Or a paper towel and a spoon.
posted by kenko at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or a spoon, charlie. And some kitchen roll. And one of those plastic paper thingies with ring binder holes.
posted by motty at 8:57 PM on September 15, 2011

posted by motty at 8:58 PM on September 15, 2011

You know, I think a spoon also suffices.
posted by kenko at 9:13 PM on September 15, 2011

Burnishing with a spoon is definitely not easy. Note the little fade out - fade in during his burnishing video. Elapsed time, about 30 minutes, if you want it to look half decent. Yes, I have done this. No, you do not want to do this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:15 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

That is awesome. Thank you for sharing. I've heard vaguely that you could make at-home lithographs with grease pencils, which would be nice for the detail - I'm pretty sure they are the same material as the grease chalk in this, um, recipe.

Also, the translation in the manual is adorable: "be careful your drawing will can be attaked."
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:22 PM on September 15, 2011

I've been doing it wrong! I was using a mirror, a razorblade, and Coke! D-oh!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:30 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

He actually was using butter. But you can buy a litho crayon for 99 cents at any art store, that's cheaper than butter. If you want to paint on the plate, you can buy liquid tusche.

But there are lots of better ways than this flimsy aluminum foil thing. A real 12x18 aluminum litho plate costs about $3. You can get 12x18 poly plates for under $2, and they don't require chemicals for developing. You can even make poly plates in your laser printer.

But you still really need a press to get good, repeatable results. You know, I actually do have a little litho press, but I never use it because I don't like cleaning up the messy inks with toxic solvents like Lithotene. Notice the video didn't show the cleanup, getting the ink off the glass plate and the roller.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:04 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and BTW, so as to not be a total wet blanket on printing (and actually the term "wet blanket" comes from printing) if you want to fiddle with simple at-home printing, I'd recommend trying Monoprinting. You can work on any flat plate, like a piece of plexiglass or formica, and draw directly on the plate with an Oil Stick, or use regular water based inks. This reduces messy cleanup. In monoprinting, you can burnish with a spoon. One of the classic monoprinting techniques is to ink a plate, then draw on the back side of the paper with a burnisher. Only the places where you burnish will pull up the ink. The problem is, you can't see what you're drawing. So most people just draw on the plate, and then kinda guess where the drawing is and use the burnisher to give it rough texture.

In monoprinting, you can only get a few prints, maybe 2 or 3, before you have to re-ink the plate, which means you're basically redoing the drawing. But for fiddling around and making a few prints, it's great.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:16 PM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

mmmmmmm grease chalk
posted by the noob at 10:34 PM on September 15, 2011

Very cool. However, according to the notes on the Youtube video, he's using soap (savon de Marseille) not butter. It's a type of vegetable glycerin soap.
posted by anotherkate at 11:11 PM on September 15, 2011

posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:47 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

will this work on t-shirts too?
posted by any major dude at 5:30 AM on September 16, 2011

Can someone explain exactly what's going on in this process? I know some rudimentary things about printmaking but apparently not enough to understand this. From what I can gather, the design is painted on with grease, which I assume then... acts as a resist for the cola, which etches the exposed aluminum to some degree? But then wouldn't that mean that the negative space would be the rough part that would hold onto the ink? Maybe my problem is that I'm thinking about this as intaglio instead of lithography? But I didn't think lithography involved etching a plate at all, and I can't think of what the cola could be doing except etching the aluminum.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2011

Yes, the phosphoric acid in the soda is etching the aluminum. You then remove the resist, roll ink onto the proud spots, and transfer that ink to your paper. (This is why using thicker rigid sheets are noted, above, as making this easier. The thinner the sheet the easier it is to get ink into the low etched spots by mistake.)
posted by introp at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2011

his roommate: where did all the aluminum foil van Gogh??! I can't Bellini this! each sheet costs Monet you know? it's not like i can go out and buy Moore coca-cola. another Botticelli of coca-cola... oh my Bosch. you're watching that again.... hmm... Braque's in the Giotto league. anyway I don't want this to turn into an imBruegelio or anything. just be more Brunelleschi, i mean, careful, next time, O Klee? Canaletto you do me a solid bro. Canova you do that? Just be more Caravaggio. So I don't have to Cezanne it again. Let's Chagall hands on it. You know I'm gonna Gauguin to IDali next month for a couple of Degas, and I don't want all the supplies to disapPeir. You're like a juvenile Delacroix. I don't kiss and Donatello. Don't be such a Duchamp. I'm a thinker, you're a Durer. Let's Foster good feelings. You don't have to be a Fra Angelico all the time. For Fragonard's sake, do I have to Guardi my possessions? I'm not shouting! What do you mean, walls of Gericault?? Did you open the can of Goya too - the Parmigianino with Toulouse sausages? Pay your El Greco car insurance! Are you sick, take a Hals. I'm not Ingres. Pass the Corbusier. Are we still Mondrian for tennis tomorrow? Just Rembrandt for next time, yes Seurat. The Steen on the carpet? Love and Warhol. Just Uccello out, Gehry. Don't Mantegna the status quo. Turner a new leaf. I hate when you come home all Tiepolo. How's that Titian gig. Bought us a couple Rubens and Courbet lites. Rousseau up some plates? ROFLRaphael. well that killed some time.
posted by dracomarca at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Litho basically works because grease attracts grease and repels water, and vice versa. So you generally create your drawing with a greasy substance, then treat it with acid to sort of force the grease into the drawing surface. Then you use a sponge to put a very thin film of water over the whole drawing. The water will only stick to the places you didn't draw. You roll greasy ink over the whole surface, which is repelled by the water film and sticks to the greasy areas where you drew. The acid "etching" process, while called that, doesn't create any meaningful height change in the printing surface. The printing relies completely on the chemical change caused by the acid.

A good spoon alternative is the plastic scraper things that come with 3M adhesive film. I've been tempted to try a pastry scraper since the shape is similar.
posted by sepviva at 3:09 PM on September 16, 2011

You could probably improvise a baren without too much effort. You can get a nice Japanese style baren for like $7, I like that kind because it is a slightly rounded instead of flat. But a little spoon just hits a small spot, you can't get a smooth burnish unless you go over and over and over it for evar.

will this work on t-shirts too?

Very unlikely, these plates don't carry enough ink for that. If you want to work on fabric, you either have to go with silk screening, dye transfer printing (like iron ons) or use a photo emulsion that adheres to fabric like cyanotype or gum bichromate. Silk screen is the only process that will really get enough pigment and binder onto the fabric so that it won't wash out when laundered repeatedly.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:57 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

What if you bought another roller and used that instead of the spoon? Would the pressure not be great enough?
posted by bizwool at 5:35 AM on September 17, 2011

Also do you think he meant crayon? Because the translation of Crayon is Craie Grasse which literally means grease chalk.
posted by bizwool at 5:40 AM on September 17, 2011

Well yeah, bizwool, if you get a big wide roller and apply enough pressure, you've just made a litho press. But it takes a hell of a lot of pressure, more than you can apply by hand. And if the roller is narrower than the paper, the pressure tends to concentrate on the edges of the roller, leaving little streaks. That's why they recommend a convex object like a spoon, or a convex baren.

I know some printmakers who use a hand cranked laundry wringer as a press. They are not designed to produce the even pressure of a real litho press, but if you sandwich the plate and paper between some felt printing blankets, it seems to distribute the pressure well enough.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:24 AM on September 17, 2011

Update: the address given above for the English pdf instruction manual has suddenly gone dead (hope this is nothing to do with us ...). It is now here.
posted by woodblock100 at 3:01 PM on September 19, 2011

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