In a color-critical world, printers must have the means to measure & mix ink colors accurately. Here's an innovative tool that'll help.
We printers put ink on paper. Lots of ink. A great deal of that ink we mix ourselves. So we know that mixing & matching color is critical to a good printing. I print everyday. And I wrestled with color matching problems routinely—until I built a tool that solves many of these problems, the Ink Dial™.
The Ink Dial cleanly and precisely dispenses any amount of ink, without weighing, “eyeballing” or guesswork. It allows color mixes to be accurately repeated, thus reducing waste, time & money. It's not just a tool but a simple color mixing system that allows more control over this essential part of printing.
Based on my success with the Ink Dial in my own studio, I want to get it out into the world. Since it is so easy to use, it will prove incredibly useful to the teaching & practice of printmaking & letterpress printing, handy in the classroom, the artist’s studio, and to beginning & experienced printers alike practicing these disappearing crafts.
The Rewards & the Artists
As a letterpress printer, I particularly enjoy printing the work of lettering artists. It is challenging work and they are often the most demanding, yet interesting clients.
So with two simple notions in mind (lettering & color) I approached 15 internationally known artists whose work involves lettering in some form or fashion for help with the rewards portion of this project.
Based solely on my detailed description of The Ink Dial, the artists offered me original work to print letterpress in a limited edition, each print signed by the artist. Many of the designs will be created solely for this project (see Updates for examples), and printed using The Ink Dial’s mixing system. The artists are:
A very diverse & eclectic mix, to say the least. Their faith in this project is heartening. I hope you will join them in supporting this project!
What’s the goal of your Kickstarter campaign?
The goal of my Kickstarter campaign is to manufacture a dozen sets of Ink Dials and install them in a diversity of print shop environments so the system may be put through its paces, leading toward the Ink Dial’s commercial availability. This latest round of products will include many new features improving upon my rough working prototype system.
My goal is to raise enough funds in order to manufacture sets of the last generation of prototypes and get them in the hands of some qualified testers so they might really put the system through its paces.
Acquiring patent protection will allow me to display & discuss the Ink Dial™ publicly. In many instances I may travel along with the sets to offer an instructional installation as well as my own strategy for proofing color.
Kickstarter made it pretty clear to me that no one would pledge to this project unless they could see what they are supporting. The patent attorneys made it equally clear that such pre-promotion & public financing were inadvisable. It was recommended that I keep this entire project under wraps until I am ready to take orders and ship product.
I have opted to err on the side of caution and am walking a fine line here. I can tell you that it is very simple, made of steel, and built-to-last. The Ink Dial™ & its resultant ink drop do appear quickly in the video. I have some really ugly working prototypes I call the Mark 1’s (as in Iron Man’s first suit of armor.) These are genuine Alabama good old boy welding shop jobs and don’t come close to what the final presentation will look like. They are my initial proofs of concept and it would not be beneficial at this point to display them publicly.
The Ink Dial™ system, above all else, liberates the printer by putting more control in his or her own hands. The fundamental principle of the Ink Dial™ is that it allows the printer to mix small amounts of ink in his/her own shop when he/she needs to.
If one has the entire standard PMS colors, then certainly, one can use the Pantone Matching System. (I will gladly admit I own a PMS guide and have used it as a point of departure.)
BUT! (and this is a big BUT!) while a printer may choose use the Pantone Matching System, by no means must a printer employ PMS to use the Ink Dial™ successfully. In other words, the Ink Dial™ system in neither married to nor dependent upon Pantone in any way.
It does not dictate what type or brand of ink a printer uses or even what a "part" is. The Ink Dial™ allows you to measure amounts of whatever component colors you wish to cook up your own color recipes. Proof a color sample and document your recipe with it, and you’ve begun to develop your own color system. In other words: Your ink, your recipe on your paper. Isn’t that an idea worth supporting?
And speaking of Pantone, I did contact Pantone early on and their lawyers sent me a storm of licensing agreements. Bottom line: they offered me no support and wanted me to pay to use their name. Seeing as I have no money and the Ink Dial™ doesn’t rely on their system, all that correspondence was for naught.
[I believe my use of the word Pantone here in order to distinguish & clarify the use of the Ink Dial™ falls under "Fair Use." If this fair use proves problematic for me, the phrase "color matching system" may be substituted without sacrificing understanding.]
Paint mixing machines were an early inspiration for the Ink Dial™, but it is far less complicated & cumbersome than those costly paint machines.
I use dial & caliper micrometers daily in my shop. So being influenced by those precise tools I used to call the tool the Ink Micrometer™, until the name Ink Dial™ came along.
How is this different than using a triple-beam balance, an easy and existing system that has been around for almost 50 years?
Through a large, informal survey I’ve discovered a universal experience: printers either "eyeball it" or if they are more precision minded, they use a triple-beam balance. Those that want to kick the scale idea up a notch consider using a digital scale the bee’s knees.
Eyeballing is great if you’re just winging it, having fun, and don’t expect consistency from run to run.
I’m all for fun, but designer clients aren’t paying you to have a good time on their job. If they specify a color and don’t get that color, well . . . you’re printing that job over again at a loss.
I’ve tried using a balance and it seems every old-timer I meet offers a slightly different nuance to the process. If it works for you, great!. But after 50 years should we still be resting on our laurels? Should we not improve technology further? Should innovation, even in a field as esoteric as the measuring of inks for mixing colors, cease? Simply answered: no.
More practically speaking, the transfer of ink from container to knife, to weighing surface to knife to mixing surface has never struck me a particularly efficient. Lots of opportunity for ink loss in there, and therefore lots of room for variation & error.
And measuring is only one issue the Ink Dial™ addresses. Eyeballing or using a scale still requires getting ink out of a can, which poses a handful of ink maintenance concerns: debris, drying, color contamination, etc.
Isn’t the possibility of such an innovation alone merit support? I would like to think so.
This is an excellent question. I initially believed the system would be practical for screen printers, but during my informal survey I learned the nature of screen printing ink is different than its counterpart in letterpress, intaglio & lithography.
Someday I hope to reconfigure the Ink Dial™ to suit screen printers, but for now, the screen printer in the video is only another example used to illustrate the phrase: "Printers. We put ink on paper."
I wish I could tell you that it’ll be $19.95 with shipping & handling right now at this very moment, and that if you act now I’ll throw in a set of steak knives. I’ve only priced out the costs of this next round of prototypes, which is one of the main reasons my goal is what it is. I expect that a genuine production run will be less expensive than the next generation prototyping.
I aim to make a quality product that is priced fairly. The Ink Dial™system will be another investment in your shop, just like your type, photopolymer plate base, litho stones & printing presses themselves. Once you have it, it will in due course, pay itself off by saving you time, energy & resources.
I don’t expect this system to suddenly make its way into every print shop in the world, but I do want to make it available & affordable to printers who see value in the idea and believe the system will work in their shops.
The Ink Dial™ is meant for small-to-micro batches of ink. The smallest amount possible would be a tablespoon of mixed color.
More importantly, the system is scalable and I have a few technical improvements already in mind that will allow for larger amounts of ink to be dispensed, say, for instance a half to a whole pound of ink.
The Ink Dial™ will be graduated in both fractional & decimal increments.
No. Since the two are mutually exclusive, there’s no need nor benefit to my imposing any color matching system on other printers. Including any such guide books would be not only misleading, but unnecessarily expensive.
If you want a PMS guide book, go for it! You’re better off buying one on your own. Why buy one from a middleman who would have to mark up the cost to recoup expenses? One less headache for everyone all around.
I think it is safe to say that you turn a dial and a certain amount of ink comes out. The Ink Dial™ is simple & purely mechanical with very few parts. No computer software or hardware is necessary to operate it successfully.
Doesn't this sort of tool/system already exist somewhere? You can't possibly be smart enough to dream this up.
I've had this idea for a long while always expecting to find it in some old shop or on Amazon or eBay. I've seen large ink delivery systems that work in tandem with massive offset presses, but that's a whole different world than the craft printer's niche.
So after many years and some serious research, I can honestly say, such a tool does not exist that I know of. If you've seen or heard of one intended for small amounts of ink, please let me know. You'll be saving me a lot of time & energy.
And I never said I was a smart guy. I've been a printer for 20 years and this problem of measuring for mixing as long bothered me. I came up with a practical solution that works for me. I am just wanting to share this with others.
I expect to make this as light and as durable as I can.
A simple shelf above your mixing glass will support its weight.
Seriously? I can’t ever remember any Kickstarter project posting their business plan for donor review. While I do have a draft of a business plan this Kickstarter project focuses on improving product design rather than raising funds to back a business. For that reason, I am not releasing copies of my business plan to Kickstarter donors at this time.
Well, first of all, pledge. That’ll help.
Secondly, if you’re interested in helping test this first production run, just drop me an email. Tell me about yourself and what you do. Don’t think you’re too small or don’t print often enough. If you’re interested, you’re interested. The answers always no if you don’t ask.
I can tell you this much about what I have planned for testing. A handful of sets will be sent out for a two-four week test period with instructions. Through trial & error each printer should be able to tell how well it’s working and what the initial problems are with the tool and instructions, if any. This will offer me valuable feedback so the final production master will integrate the all concerns & technical improvements suggested by working printers.
Do you tweet? Do you Facebook? Do you blog?
Do you have readers, clients or vendors interested in printing ink, letterpress, graphic design, American-made products, micro-entrepreneurism, lettering art, or beautiful limited edition prints?
If there’s a yes to any of those questions, then please, by all means, spread the word. And when you do, send me a link so I know who I owe the support to, okay? I’m the sort of person who supports the people who support me.
I realize it is a ridiculous amount of money I’m after, but I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t need it to make this happen. And if this Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, well . . . it’s not going to happen then.
More than you can imagine. Lawyers & patent research takes time & money and in these dry times, they want to be paid as much as they can upfront. Trust me, if there was another way to do this I would.
As the artists send in their work, I will post updates to the campaign to showcase the prints. Backers will not have to settle on their print selection until soon after (and only if) the campaign is successfully completed.
No. The campaign will determine the edition size, leaving no prints for sale after the fact. The editions will only be printed if the campaign is successful. So kids, if you want Tinker Bell to live, clap harder.
Personalized holiday gift notices are available so you may share the spirit of your gift with its recipient in a timely manner. If the campaign appears to be on track toward success. I will mail the donor (or the recipient directly) a lovely card stating all the particulars of your generosity and when they can expect Santa to make his late delivery. The choice of prints is all up to you; you or the recipient may select the artist or print. I require some means of communicating the choice before the selection of rewards must be settled.
Je prépare une traduction française de la vidéo et des explications sur Le Cadran d'Encre™.
I have a friend in Japan who'd love this, but he doesn't speak or read English. What for ever shall I do?
Yep, working on a Japanese translation too. Keep an eye on the updates.
Yes, I am proud to say those are my kids AND their presses. Well, Jim's press is a 5x7 Pearl actually, but he pulls a mean proof on the Vandercook Universal I. Ellie is still mastering the fine motor skills requisite of success use of her Craftsman tabletop platen press. Plus it needs new rollers. They are both good printer's devils. Somedays more devil than good, but, you know, you get the drift.
pledged of $35,000 goal
seconds to go
Nov 14, 2011 - Jan 13, 2012 (60 days)
Pledge $1 or more
Much gratitude expressed in the form of a large & colorful hand-printed postcard with an equally colorful quotation.Estimated delivery: Jan 2012
Pledge $5 or more
Much gratitude; the large, colorful & aforementioned hand-printed postcard; and an equally colorful limited edition print designed by the inventor/designer/printer, me.Estimated delivery: Feb 2012
Pledge $35 or more
15 internationally known artists (see list at left in "About This Project") whose work all involves lettering in some form or fashion have graciously offered their designs (many original for this project) that I will letterpress print in a limited edition, each print signed by the artist. Backers may have their choice of prints for a $35 pledge. A $70 pledge merits the choice of two prints and so on. Please note, personalized holiday gift notices are available so you may share the spirit of your gift with its recipient in a timely manner.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $500 or more
All 15 prints enclosed in a special folio meant to house the prints complete with a title page & colophon (a credits page), the latter of which would list the $500+ backers' names.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $1,000 or more
2 complete sets of prints. Perhaps you would like to purchase a set for an institution or another individual. Please let us honor your gift by sharing the intended recipient's name and it too will be included in colophon.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $2,500 or more
2 sets of all 15 prints (one to keep, the other to share), the donor's name as an 'Executive Sponsor,' and a set of 15 Ink Dial units that I will come personally deliver, set up and show you how to work. If you don't have a need for the Ink Dial set yourself, you may designate an institution of your choosing as the recipient. I'll be happy to travel wherever they are (within reason) and set them up.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012