The Print Gocco is a screen printing device from Japan. It's only about the size of an average shoe box, but it allows you to print just about anything you can imagine... as long as your design is around 4"x6".
Print Gocco was originally created as a card printing machine, long before electronic printers with good image quality were affordable and widely available for home use. So what better way to demonstrate its basic capabilities than by making some cool holiday cards? (You can also use what you learn in this tutorial to make all the wedding stationery you could possibly need.)
The process takes some set-up, but once you've chosen and prepared your design, you can easily print off a bunch of unique, artistic cards in less than an hour. Join me after the break to find out how!
Step One: Gather your supplies
- RISO Print Gocco & accessories (at least one screen master, ink, at least two bulbs, blue filter, etc; this tutorial assumes that you have a B6, PG5, PG10, or PG11 unit rather than the larger Gocco Arts unit)
- Image-editing program (I used Adobe Photoshop) or Microsoft Word-type program
- Alternately, download our Print Gocco Holiday Card Art file (PDF) , which allows you to print the art I used to make the cards in this tutorial. There is also a version of the art there in which the words "Merry Christmas" have been erased. You can use it either to make a more secular holiday card, or to make a card which will have words inside.
- Ability to make a photocopy: if you have a laser printer, you can most likely use your print directly from the printer, and do not need to photocopy it
- Paper to print onto
- Craft knife and metal straight-edge
- Embellishments (glitter, rhinestones, etc.), if desired
Get a Print Gocco. This may be the most difficult item on this list: they were mostly unavailable in the US for several years, until very recently. (See gallery image: Hello Gocco.)
If you don't have -- and can't get -- a Print Gocco, you can still do a project like this with other printing processes. Try other, more classic methods of screen printing, have a rubber stamp made with a reversed version of your art, have your image photocopied onto postcards at a copy shop, etc. The Gocco itself is merely the easiest and most compact method for screen printing a card yourself, partly because it was designed for home use.
Choose some paper you'd like to print on. A single Gocco master can make over 2000 prints, but you probably don't need that many!
In this demonstration, I'm using a pad of 4" by 6" Canson Montval cold-press watercolor paper, because it's very close to the size of the final Gocco print, and I won't have to worry about the folded half getting in the way.
I don't necessarily recommend these cards: while they took the print well, they come stuck to a block on all four sides with the exception of a small area around one corner, and you have to run something like a bone folder or plastic knife around all the edges to separate them. This is great if you're doing watercolors and don't want to have to stretch the paper, but kind of annoying when you're printing cards.
Canson makes Montval watercolor postcards that are easier to use and come pre-printed with address lines on the back. Strathmore makes good printable cards that come with envelopes.
If you want something fancier, Fabriano Medioevalis makes wonderful paper cards in several sizes which are perfect for this project; they sell the envelopes separately. I would try the 4.5" by 6.75" flat card, leaving you room to sign at the bottom, but there are a few choices which would be appropriate. Although your Gocco image is limited to a little less than 4" by 6", you can print onto any paper size you like.
You could also try printing with metallic inks on darker colors of paper. Silver or gold ink would look great on black or dark blue paper, and burgundy or dark green paper with gold ink would be a perfect choice for the holidays. Metallic ink doesn't come standard with the Print Gocco, but it can be ordered very easily.
Since the screens can be cleaned and re-used, you aren't limited to choosing one paper and ink combination.
Step Two: Decide on your art
Choose your art. If you don't draw, you will need clip art and fonts that you like and want to use. If you do draw, you will need line art. You can draw with the special RISO carbon pen that comes with the Gocco, if you like: it keeps you from having to make a photocopy. (If you choose to draw with the RISO pen, or another pen that works with the Gocco, you can skip steps three and four here. Note that Sharpie is incorrectly listed as a compatible pen.)
One way to get interesting free clip art is to check out "dingbat" or symbol fonts. DaFont is a great source for these, and they even have a Holiday: Christmas font category. Look out for dingbat sets by Manfred Klein, Dani Foster Herring, Kat's Fun Fonts, and The Scriptorium.
If you would like a more overtly religious card, or would like to explore motifs outside of the holidays, check out the Various Dingbats category... but beware. Because it's a catch-all category, a very small percentage of the fonts shown there are adults-only and NSFW (this affects only a few fonts out of several hundred, but I'm required to mention it). Manfred Klein (again), House of Lime, Listemageren, and Emerald City Fontwerks all have great work-safe options in this category.
DaFont also has helpful maps on the fonts' own pages: they tell you which image is mapped to which character, so you know which key to press on the keyboard.
For this tutorial, I chose Cobb Shinn Christmas Cuts by Jeff Levine, a totally free dingbat font made of mid-20th-century clip art. The Art Deco-ish deer design used here is on the letter Z; there are 25 other designs in the font.
Step Three: Create your image
This is where your creativity reigns!
If you're working with a dingbat font, you're going to need to type it into your image-editing program. MS Word will work too, in a pinch, but these instructions assume you're using Photoshop or something similar (I used Photoshop 7). If you use Word, just treat a regular document like the "image file" document and cut your image to the correct size later.
Create a new document that is 4" by 6". The background should be transparent: white is OK, but the grid on a transparent image will help you center your art. Consider the clip art you've selected when you choose the document's orientation (portrait or landscape).
Choose your text tool, and make sure that "smoothing" or "anti-aliasing" is chosen as an option on the font, so you don't get jagged edges on curves or diagonals.
If you want to test the colors that you plan to use in your design, you can, but you need to change them to black before you print the design out. Otherwise, just work in black.
Select the dingbat font you want to use, click the cursor on the open document, and type in the appropriate letter, so the image appears. It will probably be very small, even if you choose the largest font size on the menu.
Highlight the image with your cursor, then put the cursor in the font size box and type in a much larger number than the one that's there. For the art in this demonstration, I chose 350; it's a good starting point.
Change from the font tool to the move tool. Click the image with it, and use it to move the image so that it's more centered in your document. You can do this by holding the mouse button down and dragging the cursor, or you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard, which will also help you make finer, pixel-by-pixel adjustments.
The image I used is slightly skewed within the dingbat font, but I chose to center it as much as possible on the horizontal axis, while making it closer to the top than the bottom, leaving margins that remind me of a page in a book. (See gallery image: Creating the Art. )
Add and position text, if you want, in the same manner.
Be sure to leave margins. Printing will be a lot easier if there's some whitespace around your art on the card.
If your understanding of Photoshop is more advanced than the instructions I just gave, you can make some kind of collage with several elements: clip art from a dingbat font combined with text from a regular font, several different images that combine in a funny way, scanned line art from a royalty-free clipart book, you name it.
Whatever you choose to make, save your image and print it on a good-quality inkjet or laser printer.
If you would like to use the same art that I used, without having to create your own, you can download the Print Gocco Holiday Card Tutorial art PDF. (This file also includes the optional art for the two-color card, described below.) The black borders around this art are there only to give you a cutting guide: make sure there are no black borders around the art when you make your screen.
Step Four: Photocopy your art
This step is short and simple: go get a good-quality photocopy of your art on the lightest setting. If you use a laser printer with carbon-based toner, you don't need a photocopy.
I neglected to use the lightest setting in this tutorial, and it worked fine, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Some copiers will leave black specks in white areas, which can mess up your screen, causing spots on the final prints.
If you would like more details, read this information about cleaning up your artwork for printing. The procedures described are probably not necessary if you're following this tutorial to the letter, and may be confusing if Print Gocco is entirely new to you. However, it's information you may find useful in the future.
Step Five: Create your screen master
Cut your art out to size with a craft knife and a metal straight-edge, or use scissors carefully. Make sure there are no black edges around the art: anything that is black will burn into your screen and eventually be an inked area. (See gallery image: Preparing to make the screen.)
With your Gocco, load two bulbs into the lamp housing. The bulbs have little bumps on the sides of their bases, and on the B6 model, you'll notice that the sockets have corresponding slots for the bumps. Push the bulbs in until the bumps are in the sockets, then twist. The bulbs should hold. In the PG5 model, the bulbs twist into sockets.
Set the lamp housing aside.
Make sure your Gocco has batteries (if it doesn't work, dead batteries are your first suspect). In the B6 model, batteries go in the handle part of the upper section. Refer to your manual or look your machine over closely to see where they go in the PG5.
The Gocco comes with a thin, dark blue transparent plastic filter (like a photographic or lighting gel). Load this into the stage glass (the upper part of the lid, when it's open and facing you). The tab should be pointing downwards.
Load a print master screen into the stage glass, right on top of the blue filter. The plastic overlay sheet should be facing away from you, up against the blue filter. A tab will point downwards, and you'll also see a downward-pointing red arrow on the cardboard edge of the screen. You will have to slightly flex the screen to put it in the stage glass holder, but don't let it crease.
Place your artwork on the pad table (the sticky pad in the bottom section of the machine). It should be positioned to look the way you want it to look on the finished print: try either centering it or lining up the edges in the upper left corner. You may put a blank piece of card underneath it. (See gallery image: Still preparing to make the screen
When you close the lid, you should be able to see your artwork through the clear stage glass window.
Insert the lamp housing into the lid of the Gocco (on the opposite side of the stage glass). One side of each part has arrows: line these up and insert that end of the lamp housing first. The other side has metal tabs that need to touch each other, so gently slide that side into place. (See gallery image: Snap crackle pop -- imaging the screen
When the lamp housing is in the lid, lower the lid and press down on the front (open) end with both hands. You might want to turn your head or close your eyes as you do this, because the bulbs will flash brightly. You'll hear a popping noise. Continue to hold the lid down for a few seconds, until all popping or crackling has stopped.
Remove the lamp housing, but don't touch the bulbs! They're hot.
If you're lucky, you now have a successfully-burnt screen. The design should be very visible on the screen. (See gallery image: Screen success! )Remove your original art and set it aside. Remove the screen and blue filter, and put away the filter.
If you aren't lucky, your original art is stuck to the screen and the screen is a mess. Go photocopy your art with a lighter setting, and try burning another screen, making sure to use the blue filter.
(I have heard that some people leave the artwork stuck to the screen while inking the screen, but this is moot if the artwork doesn't stick to the screen to begin with. If you decide to go this route, be prepared to scrape the ink off of your screen into a plastic baggie in case you have to use it on a different screen.)
Step Six: Ink your screen
At this point, particularly if you don't have "master cleaner" for your Gocco screens, you may want to cover the cardboard edges of your master screen with clear packing tape, so that your screens can be washed in the sink. (See gallery image: Taped-up screen.)
(Sink cleanup is reputedly quite messy, even if you wipe most of the ink off of the screen with a paper towel or baby wipe first. Gocco paper ink is oil-based. RISO recommends that you use their screen cleaner, which did not come with the basic B6 kit, but does come with the PG5. It can be ordered from most Gocco supply retailers. Even a cleaned screen will still have ink stains on it, but they won't affect later prints with other colors.)
An inked screen is good for around 75-85 prints. If you need to pause in your printing, you can put the screen in a zipping plastic freezer bag, fold it so most of the air escapes the bag, and seal the bag. (Don't push on the screen in the bag: you don't want to get ink everywhere! Some people put a card on the printing side of the screen before they store it.) Put the bag in the freezer, and it will keep indefinitely.
If there isn't a color of ink that you like, you can mix your own. My Gocco kit came with mixing instructions and recipes, but the procedure is that you use a small plate or dish to mix your colors, then transfer them to a small conical bag with something like a plastic knife or a tongue depressor. Cut the bottom tip of the bag to ink the screen.
This is exactly like filling and using a pastry bag or a cake-decorating bag, particularly the home-brewed kind that began life as a normal plastic sandwich bag.
But don't think that you're going to be able to mix your ink in the sealed bag by mashing it around with your fingers. I tried that, going for something a little darker and more metallic than the standard blue ink I used for these cards. It won't mix easily at all. The ink is just too thick for the colors to blend: it's made so that it won't spread out much under pressure.
I wound up using the basic blue ink that comes with the Gocco for these cards. On white paper, it comes out a medium royal blue.
The basic inking technique is:
Put the screen on a sheet of scrap paper, with the transparent film facing upwards. Lift the transparent film and fold it back. You'll be putting the blocking sheets and ink on the part of the screen with the design; the ink should be between the two layers.
Surround your art with the ink blocking sheets
(foam tape strips) that come with the Gocco. They will keep ink from seeping out to the edges of the screen. If you would like to create color separations, you can use it to do that, too. It wasn't necessary or desirable for this design, where everything is really close together. (See gallery image: Ink blocking strips
. Note that I did not use them on the deer's body, but using them there wouldn't hurt.)
Choose a color of ink, then pipe it onto the screen in a single layer in "stripes". The tip of the tube of ink is shaped to make this easy for you. Some people don't do this as neatly as others, and their prints still come out fine. Ink only the areas of the screen that will print, avoiding solid areas. The stripes can be as far apart as a few millimeters; they don't have to touch each other. (See gallery image: Inked screen
. I touched up an area on the lower left after this photo was taken.)
When you've finished inking, fold the transparent sheet back over the screen so that it's covering the ink.
A design like this might take a little less than half a tube of ink. If you want to make fewer than about 80 cards, it would be OK to apply the ink stripes a bit further apart, then smooth them over the rest of the screen by skimming a plastic knife across them.
If you'd like to try other inking techniques (pointillism, multi-colored stripes, a color gradient, etc.), visit this Print Gocco Inking Technique information sheet.
Step Seven: Print!
Do a test print on any sheet of scrap paper (or a card you don't mind messing up). The following steps are for both your test print and your real prints:
Put your card on the sticky pad table. If you chose folded cards, open the card and put only the half that you want to print on on the pad table. Make sure that the card is oriented properly, so the design won't be upside down when you refold it! Doing your test prints on folded
scrap paper might be in order if you're using that kind of card. (See gallery image: Ready to print another card
. This image also illustrates why it might be a good idea to use some ink blocking strips on the deer's body, and how well they work on the outer edges of the design.)
Lower the lid on top of the card. Press down. It can be difficult to establish the correct amount of pressure: too light, and your design may not print completely and solidly, but if you press too hard, you may lose fine detail in your print. If you press unevenly, your design may be inked unevenly, especially in large solid areas (this happens to me if I set the lid down on the card, let it set for a second, then press down on the lid). A couple of test prints may help you establish the ideal pressure for your design. (See gallery image: Problematic prints
. Another gallery image, Pretty good prints
, may also be helpful.)
Don't hold the lid down for a long time: you only need about a second of pressure.
Lift the lid. Your card may be on the sticky pad table, but it's more likely to be stuck to the screen in the lid. Peel it off gently. This is why you needed margins on your art: they make wet cards easier to handle.
Your design should be correctly printed! Set it aside to dry. Drying usually takes several hours, but you can let your cards dry overnight to be safe. (See gallery image: Lots of cards
Step Eight: Let your cards dry and add optional embellishments
You can use embossing powder on your cards while they're wet. Heat-set the powder according to package directions.
When the cards are dry, you could try gluing on rhinestones, piping on glitter glue, use glue to add flocking fibers or loose glitter, etc.
In this design, you could use a toothpick dipped in glue to draw stars in the sky or cover the little trees, shake fine glitter over the glue, then shake the glitter off the card onto a sheet of scrap paper, which you can use to put excess glitter back into its container.
For an ultra-personal touch, try using black ink on white watercolor postcards. After the ink has dried, decorate unprinted parts of the design with watercolor paints.
Step Nine: Send your cards to their lucky recipients
Write your greetings, stamp, and mail! If you want to be extra-fancy, you can use the techniques above to create a greeting inside your card with a new screen, or you can create a reverse side with address lines for your postcards.
Optional: Create a two-color card
This is more advanced than the process described above, which is basic Gocco printing.
There are other ways to get more than one color onto a card. First of all, if your art elements have some room between them, you can use multiple colors on a single screen. This technique was described above.
That wouldn't work with the art I used, because its elements are all connected or extremely close together. (I could still use different ink in different areas, if I didn't mind the ink bleeding into adjacent areas under pressure.)
If you'd like to make a two-color card, maybe one where the image is outlined in a metallic color, you will make a second screen. You can create one by creating a copy file of your image in Photoshop, then applying the "Photocopy" filter to the image. This will give you a different version of the art, with any large solid areas turned into outlines. (This version of the art is included in the PDF file.) Then follow these steps:
Burn a second screen master with this version of the art, but be careful to line it up exactly as the first version of the art is lined up. My Gocco kit came with a special template sheet and detailed instructions for lining everything up. This is mostly a problem for B6 and PG5 owners: PG10, PG11, and the larger PGArts kits all come with a built-in registration system that allows you to line up multiple screens.
(In regular professional screen printing, there would be a crosshairs-shaped symbol called a "registration mark", but our piece here is so small that we don't have room to cut registration marks off of the edge.)
If you don't have anything that will help you with registration, stack your copies of the art on top of each other and look through them at a bright light before you create a screen with either of them. Make sure they share an edge that you can use to place each in the same position on the pad. You will also need to be careful when printing the cards: line each one up meticulously in the same position on the pad. (This is where the upper left corner of the pad table comes in handy.)
Use a flat color like red, blue, or black on the first screen. Do not ink the second screen yet.
Print the first version of the card. When the ink has dried, use metallic ink on the second screen and load it in the Gocco. Carefully put each card back in its original printing position, then print it with the second screen.
You should end up with a two-color card: metallic outlines on solid-colored art.
Extra credit: gift tags
You could also create a gift tag design: you should be able to fit two to four tags (two or three if they're one on top of another, or four in quadrants) in the print area of a screen. Use smaller clip art than you would for a card, and match it up with a font for "to" and "from."
You can print directly onto tags, or you can just cut your flat cards apart to make tags. Large, tag-shaped hole punches are available. Or, you can run your finished tags through a die-cutting machine at a scrapbooking store, where they have tag-shaped dies you may be able to use for a nominal fee. If you use a hole punch or die-cutter, you'll need to plan your art around the shapes you use. Lining the art up properly for use with a die-cutter might be difficult.
Check out Flickr user Creature Comforts's Gocco-printed holiday cards, which are designed to be turned into gift tags!
More about Print Gocco
- Check out my previous article, DIY Definitions: Print Gocco.
- The Small Object has a Gocco tutorial similar to this one, which emphasizes some technical aspects of the Gocco. This tutorial shows the older B6 model (the one I have).
- Felt Cafe (a Gocco seller) has a similar tutorial using the newer Gocco model, PG5.
- Daredevil Studios also made Christmas cards, with a contemporary design style. You can print cards like this with a single screen, using ink blocking tape to create separate areas around the image and around the text.
- Gocco Christmas Card (2:10) is a YouTube video showing the Gocco printing of a holiday card. The design is very different from the one I used for this tutorial, and touches the card's edges. The creation of the artwork is not shown in the video, but you'll see great stuff like some intricate use of ink blocking tape.
- Dilettante Crafter's basic Gocco tutorial uses rubber stamps to make a Christmas card. (This is not actually legal or advisable if the rubber stamps you use are not from an "Angel Company" that allows reproduction of its images.)
- Another simple Gocco tutorial from Things I Make, Things I Love.
- Xtina Lamb, a well-known Gocco artist, has ideas for "DIY Registering" -- getting your multiple screens to line up properly.
- Finally, Jill Bliss's excellent site Save Gocco! has become the de facto resource for the Print Gocco community since its launch two years ago.