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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

"Everything Old is New Again: Trends for 2002"

January 2002

Trends are a general course or prevailing tendency; a current style or vogue; a certain direction. It appears the trends for mounting this year will be more of the same, and not. History has shown us again and again that "everything old is new again" (FYI: this is a line form a song in All That Jazz). And quite honestly this could be the theme song of this years mounting trends. Macrame', decoupage, and candle making re-emerge every ten years or so in the craft industry. Bell bottoms and tie dye from the 70's flooded the fashion industry a few years back and retro is everywhere.

Revolutionary Dry Mounting

Last month I gave a walk-through history with the development of heated dry mounting with its revolutionary concepts and adhesives. Progress and technology had been keeping up with the hands-on world of custom picture framing by developing equipment and techniques that made long term mounting permanence an easy achievement. The machine age helped make life simpler and more predictable for the framer. Presses not only iron things flat and bond them to boards, but also suck the air out and dry all the layers as it bonds them, very user friendly. But, it is up to the framer to be able to determine the best way to enhance and protect any image that he/she is challenged with framing.

Heated dry mounting has been touted over the years as the best way to long term mount any mountable. And though that may still be true, dry mounting may not be suitable to all items. Originals, limited editions, family heirlooms, collectibles, may all tolerate heat but require preservation mounting when being framed because of their inherent or emotional value. The thermographics of the 80's including faxes, tickets, and raised lettering on business cards and invitations are all heat sensitive.

Digital Trends

Trends in technology and art greatly impact our industry. We have seen the birth of the CMC (Computerized Mat Cutter) and its rise to stardom almost overnight. We have also seen the once disposable digitally printed proof (prerequisite for the lithograph) evolve into fine art. First the disposable proof, then four color copiers, 1 hour developing, and now home office inkjet printers. Technology is remarkable and sure makes life more immediate and disposable, which is a good thing. Right? Let's explore.

Electrophotographic, electrostatic, thermal transfer, and inkjet printing all fall under the print technologies umbrella, what we often refer to as digital imaging. They are all difficult to identify by sight and nearly impossible to tell apart in relation to heat sensitivities. Perhaps the best way to explain the basic types of digital images is to attempt to define the types of printing that creates them.

Four Basic Print Technologies

The four basic printing groups as are electrophotography, electrostatic, thermal transfer and inkjet. In layman's terms digital printing, also called electronic printing, is done with either desktop printers or copying machines. A desktop printer requires a stream of digital data, while a copier requires an original document.

Electrophotography = Dry pigment toner copiers for existing documents

Processes of photocopying use electrical, chemical, or photographic techniques to copy previously printed and pictorial material (existing documents). There are wet methods of electrostatic photocopying that use liquid ink and dry (xerographic) methods that use dry granular ink caller toner.

Electrophotography is based on a dry copying process introduced in 1950 called xerography, from the Greek "to write dry". Xerography is an indirect printing process in which an electrically charged rotating drum receives an illuminated image that has been converted into a dot pattern. It is contacted by dry powder toner which is attracted to the charged drum, is rolled onto the clean paper and is fixed by heat and pressure (fuser) rollers, the same way a laser printer does.

Color electrophotography includes all basic four-color copiers, like those found in consumer stores like Office Max, Staples and Kinko's. To create color images, the entire process described above for black toner needs to be repeated four times, three with color toners (yellow, magenta, cyan) and once with black. The illuminated image is internally color separated and the image drum is activated and rotated once for each color separation. After the drum has rotated four times the paper is fed past it to transfer the image, which is then fixed by heat and pressure.

This process was originally launched by Canon, Inc. about ten years ago, and remains the primary system found in color copiers and color printers in offices. In its infancy this process was rather light fugitive, but today tests have proven these copies to be lightfast.

ELECTROSTATIC PRINTING = Pigmented toner on dielectric paper, laser printers

Electrostatic printing is generally not used for fine art. It is a copying process that uses static electricity (electrostatic) or the attractive force of electric charges to transfer the image to a charged plate or drum. A laser to gives a negative electric charge to a cylinder in the specified pattern corresponding to the image to be printed. Positively charged toner is attracted to negatively charged areas on the drum. Paper is pressed against the drum, receives the toner and is run through heat fuser rollers to set.

Electrostatic graphics are defined by the fact that images must be printed on special dielectric media, which is usually paper. The machine applies the electrical charged pattern to the surface of the dielectric paper. Electrostatic photocopying does not use thermal papers, it does use a heat-set ink process.

It is best to select cold mounting techniques of wet, spray, or P-S methods for mounting. Any cold mounting procedure may be used, but moisture control should be implemented. Though relatively lightfast printed images for commercial use should be cold laminated or surface coated to protect them from moisture.

Once printed the image may be transferred to another substrate such as vinyl, then laminated for commercial wide format use. This transfer process falls into three categories: image transfer (for outdoor signage), dry transfer (short to mid-term use banners), and wet transfer (numerous commercial applications). Color electrostatic plotters are considered the top choice for fast, accurate, high-quality color images. These are large format printers for commercial applications. This process is not used for fine art.

THERMAL TRANSFER = 4-color printers using dyes and pigments on a ribbon of wax-like paper

In thermal printers, a head is in direct contact with the uncoated side of a wax ribbon with the inked side of the ribbon in contact with the printing surface. Ink is heated causing it to melt and adhere to the print surface. Wax ribbons in each of the four process colors (CMYK) pass over media while a thermal printhead lays down minute dots of wax in precise color locations.

Thermal printing produces uniform dots and color densities. Spot-color ribbons have good opacity and consistent color characteristics. The resulting images may be 40" wide, UV resistant and moisture resistant. The advantage to thermal transfer technology is its tolerance for outdoor use without lamination or transfer to another substrate. Since the image is transferred with heat during printing, they could be heat sensitive. This is not always the case, since the hotter temperatures used in the process are significantly higher than traditional mounting equipment and adhesives.

Dye sublimation technology of the 90's was a standard for photo realistic printers as a common thermal transfer process. Dyes are gasified and absorbed by the print or transparency medium. Dye sublimation printers have the ability to vary dot size, plus crispness makes images appear more photo realistic. Could be heat sensitive though.

INKJET PRINTING = liquid inks sprayed as dot pattern onto assorted substrates

Inkjet imaging is by far the most common digital device. Printers are relatively inexpensive, reliable, and easy to use. They have superior color intensity and consistence, but are still dealing with fading and lack of moisture resistance. Inkjet uses cartridge inks (dyes and pigmented dyes) and are made for small desktop use, large format commercial, and fine art applications.

Inkjet equipment is less expensive than electrostatic but they are slower to print and the materials are higher cost. Since there are so many variations and types of inkjet, their individual heat sensitivity varies depending upon substrate, inks and printer combinations. Heat should be avoided.

There are two basic categories of inkjet printer, drop-on-demand (DOD) and continuous flow. DOD technology deposits ink at the appropriate location as the printer head moves back and forth across the paper surface. There are three types of DOD printers: thermal (bubblejet), phase change, piezoelectric; and one continuous flow.


Thermal (Bubblejet) is the most common desktop technology. In the thermal print head the ink is drawn into a reservoir where it is heated, pressurized, and jetted through a nozzle onto the paper or canvas media. Thermal DOD printers are generally not used in fine art printing of giclees'.


Phase change is a type of inkjet which uses a solid wax-based CMYK color ink stick or puck. The wax ink is heated then projected onto the substrate surface through the nozzle onto the paper. This type of printing is generally considered more commercial and will print on many types of substrate.


Piezoelectric printing, also known as micropiezo, uses ink droplets that are squeezed through a nozzle when voltage is applied to a crystal. The crystal pushes on a sealed membrane which in turn pushes the drop onto the paper. A separate crystal is used for each color (most require six) and a drop is pushed out for application with every voltage signal.

Piezoelectric printers are used predominantly in fine art, large format printing and are manufactured by leading names including Epson, Xerox, Tektronics, Roland and ColorSpan. They can print with water-based or solvent-based inks, dye and pigment inks.


Noted for near photographic duplication, continuous flow inkjet printers such as the Iris printer have revolutionized the fine art industry with such a tight dot pattern it appears nearly to be a continuous flood of ink. Iris systems developed a 3-picoliter droplet which makes 300 dpi appear to be 2000 dpi. The technology is of such notable quality that Iris prints are on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Other companies have now followed in the footsteps of the high tech age of continuous flow printers first established by IRIS and with wide format printers and lightfast pigmented inks, the quality of digitals is soaring.


OK, so now that the digitals have been identified on paper how are you to identify them when the paper comes into your shop? Knowing what the technologies are will never allow you to tell the difference between them. Many look alike and the heat sensitive ones will not stand out as ready to melt in a press. Because of that, the mounting advice for the time being is to keep the heat presses turned off and revert to cold mounting methods. As mentioned last month, we've come full circle for everything old is new again.


Determining whether something is mountable or not seems to be the question of the day, and in there lies the issue to the digital world, heat sensitivity. I will be writing about this next month in Digital Dilemmas, as I begin to report on recent heat sensitivity testing I have been doing in association with ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and Nielsen & Bainbridge.

During the course of this year Mastering Mounting will be written as a bi-monthly column interspersed with two other somewhat related features, Digital Dilemmas and Design 2002. All articles will feature the same format and you will be able to identify me by the masthead photo as with this familiar column. Topics for Digital Dilemmas will concentrate on facts, testing, identification, and handling of digital images of all kinds. While Design 2002 will target specific mounting and framing of assorted items such as decorative tiles and silk embroidery. Both of the new features may address mounting as a core topic, but this frees me to write about additional issues for you.

So, Happy New Year, may it turn out to be progressive and positive, leaving all the disaster of 2001 behind. The West Coast Art & Framing show is this month, a great way to launch the new year. Top educators and lecturers will abound with exhibitors at every turn. I'll be there...will you?

Copyright © 2002 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183
Tehachapi, CA 93561
P 661-821-2188