Discoloration around edges of letters?

I printed 30 pieces to get 15 good prints for an edition. Lost 5 pieces of the 30 due to this odd discoloration around the edges of the letterforms [photo].

Paper: mouldmade, damp packed the night before. It is a “mystery” paper, given to me by a friend. The image in the watermark looks a bit like a chicken to me. (???) The watermark itself [photo] is round, about 1” across. The paper is cream colored, quite soft, about the weight of BFK, and was overall a pleasure to work with. It came to me torn down into 11x15” sheets, so I’d guess that it is sold in 22x30” sheets.

I can’t figure out why this discoloration happened on a few of the prints. It is very noticeable, although my photos of it aren’t great. A light gray cloud surrounds each word. With the second run (which was printed in red), the discoloration was not a problem with any of the pieces.

What is your opinion?

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Images didn’t work the first time around. Here they are:

image: watermark


image: funny gray discoloration

funny gray discoloration

What kind of ink were you using? Did the hazing show up immediately or did it become noticeable only later? It kind of looks to me like the ink started to separate and perhaps some oil from the ink bled out from the print into the paper.

I’ve not seen this before but it could just be a weird combination of paper, ink (which ink are you using?), and the dampening process that caused this leakage. If the paper is a watercolor paper in its fabrication, dampening will actually do you no good (best printed dry). Or your ink and an incorrect dampening procedure might cause this. Just guessing though.


Could this possibly be one of the east European papers proffered after the iron curtain fell? They are heavily surface sized and do resist inking when dampened.


The paper is made by Hahnemühle in Germany (not a former Soviet product). If it is Aquarell it is mould-made from High Alpha Cellulose and was designed as a watercolor paper. It should print alright, but I suspect the sheets that bled were overly dampened and caused the oil in the ink to halo.


I assume Paul is correct here and that may be why your second run was more successful; the paper was less damp. Though, actually, in a normal situation, with the correct paper, one would try to maintain absolute consistency in the hydration process during the consecutive print runs.


Thanks all! You are so helpful.

Yep, oil based ink. The hazing was immediate.

It makes sense that the paper was a bit too damp … I probably left it soaking for a good half hour before blotting and damp packing. Must think letterpress, not etching.

Interesting to know about not dampening watercolor paper … I’m always on the lookout for mouldmade papers that I don’t have to dampen. My favorite in that department is Pescia (also high alpha cellulose). more cellulose=dampen less?

In regard to the dampening of paper I just follow the Allen / Everson technique. Their printed work was sort of exemplary, right?. Right? No matter what anyone proffers, look to the very best examples and find out how their makers did it. Not just in dampening paper, by the way.

Letterpress printing is a practice that has been around for something like five-and-a-half centuries; it can only be improved on, not reinvented.



I’ve not had a problem dampening Pescia. I’ve used it quite a bit and always dampened. It’s not a cellulose factor, it’s a sizing problem. For dampening, waterleaf (no sizing) papers are best, heavily surfaced sized papers are the worse.

One of the thicker papers I’ve encountered that should not be dampened is Stonehenge (a watercolor paper). Hit it dry though, with a hard smack, and wow.


Yeah, I was pretty psyched when they came out with all those new colors for stonehenge. But some of them (like the kraft) crack horribly even when folded with the grain, unlike the standard cream and white. That was a little disappointing.

I like stonehenge for drawing and letterpress printing, but it’s a complete fail for intaglio. I don’t think it was designed as a dedicated watercolor paper though … maybe more of a multimedia paper.


I guess I’ve only used the Stonehenge for broadsides (where watercolor was required afterward), never in any situation where it needed to be folded. You probably know more about it than I. After a couple of attempts at trying to print it dampened, and disappointed with the results, I gave up on it. One of my students revealed how well it printed dry with a bit of impression, accidentally, of course! Goudy said the old folks stole all our best ideas. Not necessarily!


hahnemuhle means mill of the Cock as in poultry hence watermark-they make several sorts, eg digital papers etc,including paper for printing etchings which is more their product range I believe(“hence german etching paper”)only need soaking for a couple of minutes, so to use that one for letterpress (not saying yours is this paper) I would almost just wipe a sponge acrosss each side of the paper-you’ll be guessing unles you can actually identify it. I love moulin de gue paper, like printing on soft white fluffy clouds, but is v textured not really done much letterpress with it, only blind printing samples…..

Update: I went to a good paper counter and compared my samples to what they have … I’m pretty sure it was Hahnemuhle German Etch (cream). In which case I definitely soaked it for too long … even when I use it for etching I only leave it in for 10 or 15 minutes. Oops.

Lesson learned: identify mystery paper BEFORE printing on it. :)