Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tile Picture

‘This is going to be excellent,’ I thought. ‘Ninety cents for tiles and two dollars for tissue paper? Best Christmas present that’s ever been bought completely out of parking money.’ I didn’t factor in the hundred or so hours it took me to make the gods-cursed thing.

The tutorial from Instructables was simple and straightforward, which means it missed out so much detail I found it almost impossible to follow. The basic process was good, though, so I just filled in the gaps as I went along.

Photos that will look the best are the ones with light backgrounds, because it blends into the tile and looks like the people are painted on, whereas photos with dark backgrounds look like you printed it on tissue paper and stuck it on a tile.

Eventually, after trying hundreds of free programs that would split only half the image, or declared excitedly that I was the winner of a FREE iPod but wouldn’t actually split any of my image, I found TileMage, which was simple and effective. For cutting each square, I went with the low-tech approach: dropping each square into a Publisher document and cropping the edges in by 0.5 cm. I don’t even have a Facebook, okay. Photoshop was way beyond my technical prowess.

I tried all the techniques for printing on tissue paper suggested in the Instructables comments, from ironing it onto regular paper to gluing it on the paper with Mod Podge. The only thing that worked for me was cutting out squares of tissue paper slightly larger than the image and sticking them onto regular paper with masking tape around the edges, which won’t melt in an inkjet printer like it would in a laser. An entire ream of paper and two ink cartridges later, when you finally have nine decent images, cut them out with a ruler and a Stanley knife.

The gluing step will work far better if you’re not poor and you have a laser printer. The only laser printers I know of are at the university, and I suspected that lying on the library floor with my scissors and masking tape would probably get me kicked out of law school, and possibly also deported. The best method for gluing tissue paper is to lay it on the tile and paint the glue lightly on top of it, but if you try this with an inkjet printer, the ink will run like the cops are chasing it.

The trick is to be so gentle the paper just thinks it’s lying down and choosing not to get up again, and doesn’t realise it’s actually been glued. Use a very thin layer of glue and wait until it’s tacky but not quite dry. If you use too much then when it dries you’ll be able to see the streaks through the paper, though you can’t when using normal paper, and the ink may also discolour in spots. Get a bird’s eye view and lower the tissue down slowly, because once it makes contact, the only way it’s coming off is in pieces.

I also tried the ironing method at this stage (which is the most I’ve ever used an iron: since I don’t iron my clothes, it took me almost thirty minutes just to find it – I wasn’t sure if we even owned one). The advantage is that because it uses even pressure, it doesn’t smudge the ink like finger-smoothing may, but it also doesn’t do a particularly good job of getting rid of wrinkles and air bubbles. Pick your poison.

Quite obviously, I wasn’t going to seal them with Mod Podge. I used three coats of Arbee Crystal Clear Handcraft Varnish, which doesn’t produce a particularly tough coating, but since I wasn’t planning to use them as coasters I figured it didn’t matter.
Of course, the frugality of the present was somewhat undermined when Mum went out and had it professionally framed. Don’t think this is some great reflection on my artistic skill, though: if I sneezed on a piece of paper, she’d put it on display in a glass cabinet patrolled by security guards.

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