Wednesday , October 21 2020
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Book Review: Digital Alchemy: Printmaking Techniques For Fine Art, Photography, And Mixed Media by Bonnie Pierce Lhotka

Digital Alchemy is a book that will show you how to turn your standard inkjet printer into an instrument that is capable of turning your printed images into works of art. Through the use of step-by-step instruction, you will work through over a dozen projects that will have you transfer and print to a variety of different surfaces. Digital Alchemy is 320 pages in length and is contained in five sections of 24 chapters.

Section I, “Basics,” begin with an introduction by the author Bonnie Pierce Lhotka of her background, explaining what this book is about, and what you need to know to be able to effectively use this book. Primarily this consists of being able to create an image, and print it on a digital printer.

Next Lhotka goes through the materials that you will need to work through the selections in the book. She examines substrates, precoats, transfer films, transfer mediums, as well as other materials. Finally she looks at the equipment that you need to do the processes listed in the book. The main items are a computer and a printer, but there are other equipment such as your work surface, alignment board, coating applicators, as well as some other items.

Section II, “Alcohol Gel and SuperSauce Transfers,” starts with an introduction to gel and SuperSauce mixtures and how they work. The Alcohol Gel is effectively hand sanitizer. Here you will see what it takes to work with it and how it can be used. You will see how to create the SuperSauce mixture and the precautions that you need to know to prevent potential problems.

From there it moves to the use of SuperSauce transfers to plastic or metal and the techniques, materials, and tools that are needed. Next you move on to using it on wood, paper, and fabric. The final chapter takes a look at a gallery of work using both techniques.

Section III, “Gelatin Transfers,” now shows you how to use the gelatin transfer process to move an image printed on digital transfer film to a different surface. It begins with preparing the gelatin, getting it on to a surface, and working with four types of panels.

Moving along, we get into details about working with the white marble fresco transfer process, the gelatin acrylic paint transfer process, the travertine tile transfer process, a gelatin to metal transfer, and a clear gelatin transfer to plastic sheet. The final chapter is a gallery of work.

Section IV, “Direct Printing,” is a process where you create a unique substrate and print to it directly. There is no transfer involved. It is like printing to your ordinary paper, but instead you are printing to a different surface, or a customized substrate.

Some of the surfaces you will work with are direct printing on to metal, metal leaf, and custom substrates. Then you will see a gallery of work using the technique of direct printing. These include a wide variety of images.

Section V, “Finishing Up and Looking Ahead,” finishes the book up with processes that aim to preserve and finish your product. These are the postcoats that preserve your art work and prepare it for presentation. First Lhotka examines the different types of coatings as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Next she examines some of the new stuff that is coming out of her studio as well as discussing what she would like to see happen. Finally she finishes with a gallery of new technology work.

In addition to the tutorials in the book, there is also a DVD that contains over 60 minutes of Lhotka in video training. In this you will see how to perform an alcohol gel transfer, transfer an image to a wooden surface, use your inkjet printer to create great prints, and more.

Digital Alchemy is aimed at artists with a backgrounds in digital artistry and/or photography who want to take their presentation skills to a new level. The book is very well written and easy to follow. With the well-designed illustrations and the final artwork, it makes for an enjoyable reading experience.

Digital Alchemy goes beyond the basics and employs many unique and interesting methods for presenting work. This is especially true for those digital artists who love working with new challenges. If you are producing artwork and want to get really creative with your presentation, then I highly recommend Digital Alchemy.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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