Places and Spaces: Digital Printing Processes and Altered Art


Develop a portrait of a place you know well. Explore its architectural elements, its inner spaces and its outer landscapes. Try not to be nostalgic. Use your knowledge of lighting and composition to interpret this place creating a final printed work of art that evokes a mood that is unique to that certain place. Produce a final larger ( 8 x 10, 11 x 17 or 13 x 19 inch) image that incorporated altered art techniques, traditional art techniques (image transfer, drawing, printmaking, stamping, painting, collage, sewing, fiber arts, metal or wire arts)and digital substrate manipulations. You could also produce an altered or hand made artist book.

So this is your assignment...what does it really mean?

Definitions would help!


The surface that an artist makes a print onto. This could be paper, metal, wood, cloth or any other surface that accepts a print (digital, photographic, artist print). Some artists even print onto 3-dimensional surfaces like clay. The images here are examples of how professional designers use varied substrates to create design displays. The left side illustrates a trade show and the display on vinyl flag material, the image on the right shows imagery that has been printed on see through fabric called organza.

Below on the left is a custom substrate created by PHS art student Jake Platt. He used collaged newspaper that was adhered to a transparency with gel medium. Once dry the collage was coated with a digital ground and then fed through the printer. The image was printed directly onto the collage. The middle and far right images are examples of industrial substrates including plastic and glass.

Jake Platt Portrait of A Place.jpg

ASAP-display9.jpg home_image7.jpg

Terry Kurgan is a South African artist who prints on large pieces of silk organza to create beautiful ghostly images.


Digital Substrates:

This implies that you've created your own substrate to print onto, usually be collaging/layering items like ripped paper, newspaper, old art, fabric, cheesecloth etc. to make a printable surface that can fit through the printer. The key is to make sure that the substrate you create is thin enough to fit through the printer.

You can also create your own digital substrate by using Gel Medium and creating printable gels that can then be applied to other surfaces. See the video below for details on this process.

See Through Acrylic Gel Medium Skins to Print Onto


After making a digital substrate you might then coat it with a Digital Ground. A digital ground is a substance that seals the surface of the substrate and makes it more likely to allow ink to adhere to it and print clearly. Digital grounds can be transparent or opaque, glittery, glossy, matte etc. You could also apply a digital ground to a substrate that you didn't make such as a piece of fabric. By applying the ground you've made the fabric more likely to feed through the printer and have ink adhere to it. You may have to attach the fabric to a feed sheet. Butcher paper, wax paper or inexpensive overhead transparencies can all be used as feeder sheets.

Ink Aid Digital Grounds Intro

Image Transfer:

Often image transfers are used as a form of altered art. Usually a transfer is done because you want to put an image onto a surface that won't fit through a printer. So for example, perhaps you want to print onto a piece of wood. You could print onto paper and then use an image transfer technique to transfer the image onto the wood. There are many types of techniques including polaroid transfers, where the emulsion of the polaroid is lifted off in water and then reapplied to another surface. Acrylic Gel medium transfers utilize the gel medium to create a new emulsion that the print emulsion is embedded into. You can also do inkjet wet transfers where an inkjet print is transferred to a moist surface and run through a printing press or in a pinch rolled over with a roller to create a print. In most image transfer processes the image you are trying to transfer gets reversed in the process. You can use Adobe Photoshop to create a flipped image to help resolve this. Go to Image...rotate canvas....flip horizontal. This will flip the image so that when it is transferred it is facing the correct original direction.

Gel Medium Transfer with Paper

Wet Gel Medium Transfer

Altered Art:

This implies that an already existing piece of artwork has been used as a starting point and through many changes and add-ons a new artist appropriates the work and changes it to make it into their own work of art. There are a lot of websites about this, but try starting here for a history of altered art :HINT: it's not as new as you might think. Make sure you look at the books that I have too. Some great artists to look at also include:

Teesha Moore (check out her YouTube stuff too)
Sabrina Ward Harrison (this is a tumblr link, which you won't be able to view at school, as Tumblr is blocked)


Digital Printing Processes

This implies that the artist has gone beyond just taking a photograph, editing it in Photoshop and then printing it out on paper there has been some sort of manipulation along the way, which could include, making a substrate to print onto, printing onto something other than photo paper (organza, cotton, silk). This also implies that the artist may have done something to the final print such as drawing or painting on it. Check out the digital art studio for more details on techniques used to create unique digital printing processes and substrates.

Here is an overview of one of the books by Bonny Lhotka that shows the possibilities of these processes.

Here is an example from the website that demonstrates the whole process.

Experimental Printmaking Process

Krause Studio, Marshfield Hills, MA

A brief look at the process of creating "Lady of the Flowers"

"Lady of the Flowers"

44 x 39 inches(112 x 98 cm)

© Dorothy Simpson Krause 1996

Dot's process images
Dot's process images

Dot's process images

Photographer Jan Doucette, took the photograph of a Romanian Flower seller and the celestial map came from Planet Art's copyright-free CD, Maps. Working in the software program Painter, Krause combined the two images by layering them together. (above, upper middle) Krause used a process called "cloning" to create a copy of the image. She filled the clone with a sandstone color and then applied a texture which embossed the image into surface (above, upper right). Because the embossed sandstone surface was linked to the original, she "cloned" the face and some of the details back into the copy. The final digital file ready for printing is shown above, lower right.

Dot's process images
Dot's process images

Dot's process images

A loosely woven linen was coated with gesso and rolled to created surface cracks. After printing, the linen was glued to a plywood surface and the surrounding area was further textured with modeling paste and painted with metallic pigment. A 4" x 5" transparency was taken and scanned back in to the computer for further manipulation. The "final" print was done on a textured substrate. After printing, gold leaf was added to the celestial "halo".

Look at the work of John Paul Caponigro for inspiration on how to portray a place and evoke a mode. He is amazing!!!

Check out a few of the Pin Boards I've Collected That May Inspire You:

More Links That Might Be Helpful-
Here is a link to my diigo bookmarks that might help you in your research. If diigo doesn't work here are the direct links:

Ink Aid website that sells ink jet pre-coat finishes and has some good examples and instructions.

Collage Techniques

If you finished this page of research click here for the assignment page.