Friday, 4 January 2013

The Gocco experiment

I'm very interested in prints and print making, and own a few original prints that I love.  I've never attempted printing myself, however, but have long wanted to give it a try.

And now I can!  For Christmas, my parents very kindly bought me a second-hand Gocco set - they're no longer made and so can't be bought new.  This will allow me to make small (B6 paper size) screen prints.  They were intended for home use and so are designed to be easy to use; in their heyday they were hugely popular in Japan, but were overtaken by technology, and are now mostly used by arty-crafty types.  There are a lot of artists producing beautiful work using Goccos, which gives me something to aspire to.

So, let's give it a try!  Here's the box:

And the goodies within:

The set comes with the basic printing machine, a housing for the flash bulbs needed to make a screen, and some bulbs to go in it:

And some inks to get you started, though there are more colours available to buy:

The small tube at the bottom is screen cleaner.

The idea is to make an original image in something containing carbon; some pens are suitable (one is provided) or, more commonly, photocopies or laser printouts. I produced a design based on the same photo I used for the 'White Iris' embroidered panel, printed it out on my home inkjet printer, then took a photocopy of it for use.

This is placed on the foam base, and a blank master screen slotted in above:

I forgot to take a photo, but there is also a blue filter placed in front of the master screen, between it and the flash bulbs, which should be used with a photocopy or laser printout.

The top part of the machine is lowered, and the housing with the bulbs placed on top:

The front of the machine is pressed down, causing the bulbs to flash.  This heats up the carbon in the original, making it melt the thin plastic layer on the back of the master screen.

The original sticks to the master, allowing you to add ink accurately:

It is possible to make multiple screens for proper colour separation; I'm just playing about here as I've never done this before, so I'm not too concerned about the colour bleed that I fully expect to happen by putting several inks on one screen.  The inks themselves are oil-based and quite thick, so don't run, and a clear plastic sheet folds over the top, forming an ink sandwich, and stopping a great deal of mess from getting everywhere.

The original is peeled off the back of the master screen, and it's slotted back into place:

As this is the small B6 version, I can only use paper up to A5 size, as here, though it should be great for small prints and cards.  There's also a B5 Gocco machine that can do A4 prints, but one thing at a time!

The top part of the machine is lowered and pressed down, and voila, a print!

Lots of prints, in fact.

There is a problem, though.  Here's a print close up:

While this isn't bad for a first attempt, it's not the look I'm after - it's very, shall we say, textured.  While it does actually look rather nice, I wasn't aiming for texture, I was trying to achieve solid areas of colour.  Having now read up on this, it seems that it's a very common problem: too much carbon.  Modern photocopiers and laser printers deposit a lot of carbon, even on the 'light' setting, and even using the blue filter, which is supposed to prevent this, there's just too much of it and it sticks to the master, blocking the mesh and preventing the ink from getting through properly.

Hmm.  More research needed.  Still, I think this is a good start, and well worth pursuing, don't you?


  1. Yes, worth persuing! I had a couple of friends go through a Gocco craze a few years back, and I gave one a set like your's. They are awfully handy for producing Christmas cards. Do you have that sort of use in mind, or something more one off and arty?

  2. Both, I think, or at least that's the plan. I'll see how my own Gocco craze works out!

  3. Love it!
    (although not sure how I feel about you not only managing to send Christmas cards, but making them too... !! Impressed I guess!)

  4. Well I haven't made them yet so I wouldn't be impressed just yet!