First of all, I get all my photo-polymer plates from Boxcar Press. As you can probably tell from the name, photo-polymer plates are light sensitive plastic material. They come in various sizes, but the ones I get are around 16″x23″ and I cut them down to the size I need.
You can either scratch the image into the negatives by hand or you can have them printed. All the negatives I am using for my Jack Vance project were printed. The negative at the top left of the picture is the image for the cover of the book. The other three negatives are page spreads within the book.
Once we have the negatives and plate material cut down to the correct size, we expose them using the Anderson Vreeland Orbital VIII (or “Roy Orbital”), which can be seen in all its glory below.
Above you can see that I’ve placed the negative on top of the plate material in the exposure drawer of the machine. A thin sheet of transparent plastic called the “kreen” (for mysterious reasons unbeknownst to me) is placed on top of the negative/photo-polymer sandwich. The machine uses a vacuum to keep everything flat. The drawer is pushed in and the plate material is exposed to UV light for three minutes. (NOTE: There are different exposure times for different plates and machines.)
After the plate has been exposed, it is placed on top of a rotating platen in the washing portion of the machine. Everything that was not exposed to light remains soft and is washed away by a big square brush. That part of the process takes five minutes. After it has had its bath, the plate is placed in yet another drawer on this wondrous machine: the drying drawer! After about twenty minutes of drying time, the plate is placed back in the exposure drawer and exposed for another five minutes. This is the step that really hardens the image on your plate.
Above are almost all the plates I will be using on my Jack Vance project. I used about a sheet and a half of plate material for this book. After all the plates are made, they are backed with a special adhesive. This adhesive keeps the plates from moving around while printing. The plates are placed on special metal bases (also from Boxcar Press) to make them the height of type for printing.