A Festival of Sight and Sound Printed on Canvas

Stephen Kerner, the Woodstock, N.Y.-based fine artist (www.stephenkerner.com) and fine-art printer (www.stonerivergiclee.com) profiled here at the LexJet Blog about this time last year, is no stranger to the abstract. Nor is Kerner a stranger to complicated, outside-the-lines projects that challenge and perplex.

Printing graphics for music festivalsBoth of these qualities – the abstract and the complicated – as well as Kerner’s 20-plus years of experience came to the fore on a recent project he completed for big-show set designer and promoter Marco Ferrero, who also owns Vivo Fine Art gallery in Woodstock.

The result was a giant pyramid structure, covered in canvas and complete with projected video and extensive LED lighting designed for music festivals. The structures most recent stop was at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival held earlier this month in Manchester, Tenn.

This design, which was really creative, was totally his. One night he approached me about the job. I thought it was fantastic and didn’t realize he was ready to go into production. It happened very fast, as a lot of things do. A lot of people were involved in a lot of different levels.

“He approached me about creating 18-foot tall pyramids and printing his design, which was triangles within triangles. Marco designed them in many different colors and we tested them on a lot of different substrates: backlit, canvas, vinyl and even metals. We printed a lot three-foot test panels, and he chose LexJet Instant Dry Satin Canvas. He liked that look and the canvas looked beautiful; there was such vibrancy to the colors,” says Kerner.

Inkjet printing on canvas for a music festivalKerner printed four panels for each triangle that made up each three-sided pyramid on his Epson Stylus Pro 11880. These panels were seamed together by printing a two-inch bleed area, folding it over and joining the panels with either LexJet Heavy Duty Banner Tape or an industrial adhesive.

Then, the canvas was attached to the metal framework with grommets on all three sides placed at three-inch intervals. The final pieces were then coated with a solvent-based ClearStar coating from LexJet.

“The satin canvas is durable up to a certain point, but the festivals are outdoors and there’s typically a lot of rain down in Tennessee this time of year so they wanted to make sure they were heavy duty,” explains Kerner. “The problem we had here was with curing times on both the coating and the adhesives were using to the seam the canvas. It rained here constantly, so the humidity was high, making those curing times much longer than normal.”

The pyramids open up and reveal 12×12 video screens while hiding all the video equipment that runs the screens in the base while another pyramid houses huge speakers. Ultimately, the pyramids were designed as both festival décor and as practical working devices to bring the show closer to the thousands who throng the festivals Woodstock-style.

Coating and finishing canvas“It was very complicated and it’s probably the most difficult project I’ve worked on. It took many weeks of collaboration and tons of math to make everything fit just right and work together,” says Kerner. “When you’re dealing with triangles everything is on an angle so it’s a lot different than dealing with a square piece.”

Kerner adds that he also collaborated with world-renowned Nevessa Studios and its owner, Chris Anderson, on the fine details of the project.

Birdie Time: Quick Change Backlits for Promotions at Mid South Distributing

Printing backlit signs for advertising and promotions

It’s a simple yet effective branding tool: backlit boxes. Backlighting brings out the best in graphics, making the message more vibrant and eye-catching than an unlit sign. There is a danger, however: light acts as a magnifier, bringing hidden flaws in the print to the fore.

Fortunately for Mid-South Distributing’s Chad Mallich, he has the right tools and support to maximize the power of backlits for branding, as well as a designer’s eye for what brings out the best in a promotional sign.

With two Canon iPF8300S wide format inkjet printers, a cold laminator, a hot laminator, an OKI small format laser printer, a vinyl cutter and other sundry shop equipment, Mallich is ready for any challenge that comes across his desk. And, with support and materials from his LexJet customer specialist, Kelly Price, quality and quantity are able to effectively intersect.

Mallich’s recent backlit project was designed to draw thirsty golfers at Saddle Creek Golf Club in nearby Lewisburg, Tenn., to one of Mid-South Distributing’s prime brands, Miller Lite.

“We were looking for an alternative material for a short-term promotion that was less expensive than a typical backlit film that still imaged well and was easy to work with,” explains Mallich. “Kelly recommended LexJet 8 Mil PolyGloss Banner, so I put it on the light table, turned out the lights and it looked great. I’ll send an email to Kelly describing a product and she knows exactly what it is, so she’s been very helpful. As we get requests from other accounts like bars that have light boxes we’ll swap them out with this material.”

The appealing golf-themed sign is 11 3/4″ x 35″. With golf season in full swing, Miller Lite is the perfect antidote to promote this summer. Malich says that as the seasons change, he uses backlits to promote the seasonal draughts at various locations. “You can do more graphically with a backlit with contrast and bright colors; they just look better backlit,” adds Malich.

Benefit Brings out the Best in Photography and Inkjet Printing

Benefit for the Craniofacial Foundation of America included inkjet canvas wraps

The Craniofacial Foundation of America, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a non-profit that supports the ongoing work of helping people with facial deformities lead normal lives. One of its biggest supporters, who worked tirelessly to help with the Foundation’s recent fundraiser, Palate 2 Palette, is Art Warehouse’s Mark Lakey. Lakey, previously profiled at the LexJet Blog, donated his time and printing expertise to help ensure a successful fundraiser.

Gallery exhibition of Ed Rode's music photography
More than 800 people attended the benefit for the Cranial Foundation of America. Here, attendees enjoy the one-of-a-kind music-oriented work of photographer Ed Rode.

Lakey’s role was to bring the talents of three photographers to life with more than 60 inkjet-printed gallery wraps of their work, varying in size from 24 in. x 16 in. up to 50 in. x 50 in. The images were featured as part of the event’s Gallery Walk. The photographers who donated their images represent some of the finest talent in the Southeast: Keith Mitchell, Chattanooga; Ed Rode, Nashville; and Jim Begley, Corbin, Ky.

All regular Art Warehouse customers, Lakey took his usual care and diligence in the pre-production, printing and finishing process to properly present and draw attention to their work for the Craniofacial Foundation event.

Lakey used LexJet Sunset Select Satin Canvas SUV for all the prints. They were printed on Lakey’s Epson GS6000 solvent printer.

Canvas wrap inkjet prints at benefit gallery

“The prints turned out fantastic. It was my first experience working with the canvas, and I really enjoyed working with it. I also preferred the satin finish for this project. Glossy is great for consumer work, but from a viewing standpoint, especially in the gallery, the satin is very rich looking. Photographers are pickiest about print quality and they were all thrilled with the quality,” says Lakey. “I’m a stickler on finishing the product so that it’s gallery-ready. When Ed Rode does a show, for instance, it’s always at a gallery. He’s got photos in The Bluebird Café in Nashville, at record studios and other high-profile spots, so my finished work has to be right on and all three photographers appreciate that.”

Lakey hand-stretched each canvas, as he does with all of his canvas work, to make sure the canvas is perfectly taut on the stretcher bars. He used three cases of stretcher bars, more than 100 linear feet of canvas and three boxes of archival matte board backing.

“I stretch with the mentality that there will be some relaxing of the canvas over the course of a few years, so I know exactly how taut to make it so that it never gets sloppy. I don’t wrap a canvas, I stretch it, which is why ink adhesion is so important to me,” explains Lakey.

Printing canvas with an Epson GS6000 solvent inkjet printer
Printing one of the 60 inkjet canvas gallery wraps at Art Warehouse on LexJet Sunset Select Satin SUV with an Epson GS6000.

More than 800 people attended the event this year and strolled through the various galleries on the Gallery Walk tour, which included the photography gallery that Lakey put together, a living gallery and a youth gallery, as well as an after party.

“The photography gallery was phenomenal this year, particularly given the photographers Mark chose to work with for the event,” says Terry Smyth, executive director of the Craniofacial Foundation of America. “It really helps get the word out, especially since he reaches out beyond the local community to other regional artists. The Lakeys put their hearts and souls into the event, and it shows.”

More Great Inkjet Canvas Options from LexJet

Printing canvasBuilding on more than 15 years of researching, developing and bringing award-winning inkjet printable canvas products to the fine art, photography and graphics markets, LexJet introduces Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas and Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

Both canvas products are now available and shipping from one of LexJet’s ten nationwide distribution centers and, like all LexJet products, come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas and Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas round out a diverse portfolio of LexJet inkjet canvas products that include the award-winning Sunset Select Matte Canvas and Sunset Select Gloss Canvas, the solvent and UV curable compatible Sunset Select Satin Canvas SUV, and Instant Dry Satin Canvas.

“Both versions of the Sunset Reserve Canvas have a nice subtle texture for true artistic color-critical canvas reproduction,” explains Alex Ried, LexJet product manager. “And, since some customers prefer a bright white base to a more neutral white tone and vice-versa it was important to offer that option with the same performance, quality, consistency and color gamut.”

Compatible with aqueous printers from Canon, Epson and HP – and specially engineered to take advantage of the wider color gamuts provided by the latest generation of their printers – both canvas products are perfect for a variety of applications, from commercial and corporate graphics to gallery and museum wraps and other fine art and photographic output. Both are optimized for LexJet’s Sunset Coatings – Gloss and Satin – and work well with other spray and roll-on protective coatings.

Canvas printing
Mark Lakey, Art Warehouse, Chattanooga, Tenn., printed this black-and-white photo by Nashville photographer Ed Rode on Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

“It prints great. I love it because when I profiled the canvas, I could amp up the sharpness with photography and get more detail out of it. And, the coating allows for a high ink load, so if someone wants to produce high-quality prints they can do it with this canvas,” says Mark Lakey, owner and president of Art Warehouse, Chattanooga, Tenn., who prints for renowned photographers and artists. “You see more vibrancy with this canvas in color prints and for black and white printing I can hit the tonality marks I’m after.”

Stretching and wrapping canvas
Lakey stretches and wraps Beach at Sunset, photographed by Jim Begley, Corbin, Ky., and printed on Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas has a neutral-white finish that produces a wide color gamut without optical brighteners. Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas features a bright white base. Both are a water resistant, acid-free and pH-neutral with a poly/cotton blend so they’re easily stretched for gallery and museum wraps.

How Art Warehouse Brought Chattanooga to Life with Inkjet Wall Art

Custom wall mural inkjet printing

Mark Lakey, owner and president of Art Warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., strives to be in the “top two percentile” of his trade, and judging by the quality of the photographic and graphic reproductions shown here, Art Warehouse is there.

Lakey’s work is more than simply reproduction; it’s art and science. He’s meticulous about maintaining the fidelity of the original image and enhancing subpar images so that they meet his high requirements for the printed and finished product.

Lakey had both situations in front of him recently for two separate but similar and related projects: One for the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau and its Visitors Center, and another for Rock City Gardens, a local landmark and favorite spot where visitors from all over enjoy the scenery and rock formations.

Both projects were printed with an Epson GS6000 solvent inkjet printer on Photo Tex PSA Fabric – Solvent Printers from LexJet. Printing and installing the images was a cinch. Lakey chose Photo Tex because the customers wanted something they could tear down and easily replace if they wanted to try a different wall mural or remodel in the near future.

Inkjet print custom wall mural“That’s probably the greatest advantage of the Photo Tex material. All they have to do is have the contractor clean up the wall a little bit, and it’s done. From their perspective they have the freedom to decide if they want it up to leave it up for as long as they want. They love the possibilities it opens up. Particularly in the case of the Visitors Bureau, if our skyline changes in the next couple of years they can put up an updated mural that reflects those changes,” says Lakey.

Lakey adds that he offered to clear coat the murals, but the clients preferred the matte finish because you can view it from any angle in any lighting situation with zero glare. That worked for Lakey too, since he’s a self-described “matte finish freak” whose favorite photo paper is LexJet’s Premium Archival Matte.

The real challenge was in pre-production and processing the images for printing. In the first instance, at the Visitors Center, he had an amazing image with which to work, courtesy of local photographer Lawson Whitaker. Whitaker’s capture of the Chattanooga skyline was right on, but the challenge was the sheer size of the file and the final output size, about 17 ft. x 13 ft. in four panels.

“Each file presents its own algorithm to make it that large. It starts with a proper workflow to be as good as it can be. That workflow can change so it’s not written in stone,” explains Lakey. “Typically, I’ll either de-noise it or instead of doing a line sharpening I’ll do a radial sharpening to separate the shadows and highlights a bit, and run it through either PhotoZoom Pro or Genuine Fractals. Data is data. If you don’t have it then you try to make it as close as you can so you don’t see over-Photoshopping. I don’t want to make it into something it’s not.”

The other image for Rock City Gardens was much more of a challenge and required a lot more work to the file to make it just right. The image was originally taken in the ‘70s then drum-scanned, and it wasn’t a great drum scan to begin with, says Lakey.

“Scanners are great, but just like a camera lens, they have a sweet spot. You can hit below it or above it and not have a good photo. It’s all about knowing your equipment so you hit that sweet spot, but they did not hit the sweet spot,” explains Lakey.

Lakey and the graphic artist on the project spent most of their time on the signature portion of the image, the waterfall area called Lover’s Leap. It’s the piece that’s used in all of Rock City Garden’s marketing and basically works as a brand.

“In Photoshop I did a color selection of that particular section. I used Nik Software’s sharpening tool and Photoshop’s sharpening tools. Depending on what the file has in it, I’ll either go into unsharp mask and do more of a radial sharpening, and then go back into Nik with a line sharpening. Then I’ll do a color selection on parts of the photo I think have the most noise and do a Noise Ninja process on that,” says Lakey.

Design, Print, Build: A Masterpiece in the Park

Essyx Design + Fabrication does exactly what its name implies, and everything in between, which is why Warriors’ Path State Park in Kingsport, Tenn. turned to the all-in-one design-build graphic company for its interactive displays.

Eleven displays dot the walking paths in Warriors’ Path State Park, informing park goers about the flora and fauna that populate the park. The displays were built and installed by Essyx and include any number of interactive features, also built by Essyx.

The main print that provides the primary information is embedded in a layer of epoxy. Essyx used LexJet 8 Mil Production Satin Photo Paper, printed on the company’s HP Designjet 5500. “We used the Production Satin because the paper is very economical and it’s easy to work with in production,” says Christian Schmid, graphics manager for Essyx. “We sent out the print for the epoxy treatment, but it’s the only piece of the project we subbed out.”

The paw prints, hoof prints, leaves and other dimensional pieces attached to the face of the display were fabricated in-house with a type of modeling clay. Essyx made a resin cast from the clay pieces and then sanded and painted them.

Some of the displays also feature sound. Users can push a button to hear the animals speak in their own wild language. Schmid says that the displays have taken a beating but have withstood far more abuse than the typical park sign can handle. “Kids are especially tough on displays like this,” says Schmid. “Because of the interactive nature of the displays we had to make them as weather-proof and vandal-proof as possible.”