Friday, 17 February 2012

Digital print texture bank - for illustrators & designers

One of the advantages of having a studio in a large printmaking workshop, is that I have access to everybody's rubbish!!

Over the years, I've struggled to find a consistent source of high quality print textures, for use in digital illustration and design. There are bits and bobs on the web, as you'd expect, but apart from the low resolution required to compress most internet images, there's also the issue of moral rights. Sure - maybe not a burning issue for many as a texture may only be an enhancement to an image, rather than the focus, but it's not good practice really - is it?

Over the past 8 months, I've been scavenging, rifling through bins and drawers (in typical Sim fashion), and generally pestering the artists at the press to donate what largely constitutes rubbish in most print processes, but which to me is texture GOLD!!

I've been collecting, preparing and scanning this material, and I now have a significant digital library of textures which to all intents and purposes would be impossible to recreate digitally. I've also been screen printing colour blocks, blotting and thinning the ink as I produce a run, to get as much texture variation as possible. I use these colour blocks as image backgrounds, frequently overlaid with textures form other processes, such as etching.

It's occurred to me recently that, as it's such a valuable resource to me, it may well be to other illustrators, digital artists, graphic designers, compositors, 3D & CGI artists, animators, etc. Before I just go ahead and make all this stuff available though, I'd be very interested to get as much feedback as possible on the matter. Please feel free to comment on this post, or email me.

I use a Microtek 9800XL pre-press scanner. It produces VERY high quality scans. It will scan at resolutions up to 1600dpi, but as a rule I tend to scan everything at 600dpi, 48 bit RGB TIFF's. Unless there's a requirement for dramatic enlargement (for large format digital print, for example), 600dpi is more than enough. Most high quality publications are printed at 300dpi, so there's plenty of margin there.

Above is an example of a prized find... a test print from an etching plate onto stiff proofing paper.

Another great find - a piece of newsprint which an artist had used to rest a roller loaded with oil-based relief ink.

These are great... I have very many, many variations. It's tissue paper used to protect etching press blankets from ink smeared plates. They take a fair bit of preparation prior to scanning, as the tissue wrinkles substantially due to the pressure and the softness of the blankets.

This is an example of a bespoke screen printed colour block. The first few prints in the run tend to result in solid blocks of colour - although at reasonably high resolutions, they still contain lots of textural depth and variation. As the run progresses, the prints become more varied. I purposefully introduce mistakes, and allow errors to happen, as they make for very interesting broken edges and marks. I only stop the run when the ink is gone, and the images become so feint and broken, as to render them pointless. This makes for a huge bandwidth of useable textures. This particular example has been re-coloured in Photoshop. I also have all manner of marks, from drips and splashes to smudges, thinned ink rubbed by cloth onto newsprint, hand & finger marks, brush strokes, screen filler (translucent blue) on acetate, scanned using a transparency adapter which makes for a very striking effect, scratched perspex, and all manner of dots, splodges and marks - too numerous to mention!!

I currently have around 300-400 scans, which I'm adding to all the time.

If you've stumbled across this post in a hunt for such textures - please do post your feedback below. If you're struggling to find something that you need now, do email me... I may have exactly what you're looking for!!


Print textures now available to buy at Nanamee (part of You Work For Them)

My website's on the way, but I'm too busy to make it happen soon, Nanamee are great though, and the images are all available as large 600dpi files. You get to choose between small, medium, large, Xlarge, and XXlarge files at great prices - So we're all happy!!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

No Escape

No Escape
A piece I made last year after refreshing my screenprinting skills at the press. I just love those NY fire escapes.... I'm thinking about animating this sometime...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012



This is another image from my book about Bluefin Tuna. The text is temporarily set in Populaire, but the finished thing will be hand written...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

X-Ray Spex

Mike Oughton

This is Mr Mike Oughton, Punmeister General at McCann Erickson in London Taaaaaaaan. A little portrait wot I dun last year...

Slapstick Manifesto

Slapstick Manifesto

If only there were more strategically positioned pianos teetering dangerously on the parapets of high buildings, the world might be a better place? I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Mellieha Birdman

For a country with so many hunters prepared to shoot anything out of the sky, it's somewhat surprising that there are also so many pigeon fanciers on the Island as well. It comes as no surprise, however, to learn that the two groups frequently collide...

Maltese Hunter

Oh, how the Maltese love to hunt!! This is a drawing I made the summer before last following an upclose & personal encounter with a group of hunters in a designated picnic area near Mellieha. 4 guys, dressed to kill, swept through our peaceful lunch spot randomly blasting stuff as they went! There are hunting 'shacks' dotted all over the island in the most unlikely places - 50 yards from Childrens play areas, right next to a bird reserve, inside picnic spots...

Malta is a natural refuge for many migratory birds, but for significant numbers, it becomes their last resting place. Herons, Owls, Raptors, Warblers, Sea birds of all descriptions... Nothing is sacred - That is all except the hunters traditional and seemingly divine right to annihilate...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Le Chasseral, Jura Mountains, Switzerland

This is a drawing I made last year, of a communication tower on the highest peak in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland.

Everybody's Sukkiri

Something non-Tuna related! This is a drawing I did a couple of years ago (from a photo, as there aren't too many Japanese garbage trucks around in Malta!). If only all utilitarian vehicles and appliances were this cheerful looking!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Knights of the Brine

This is one of the first images I produced for the book, whilst living in Switzerland. I had an opportunity to dive with these magnificent animals whilst in Malta the previous summer. Tuna are stiff bodied, muscular fish and they struck me as being somewhat robotic. It was a surreal and unforgettable experience. 1000 fish around 250+kg each. Just a shame they were in a pen, destined for the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo to be sliced up for sushi...