I had this crazy idea to design and print a bank note. How hard can it be?
Quite hard, actually.
I ain’t no numismatist but I have always liked printed ephemera and a bank note seemed like an honourable addition to the oeuvre of Black Daffodil Press. I have issued a competition around the design of the One-X note so will not be discussing it in any detail until I decide to close the competition, but in the meantime I can at least discuss the printing methods.
Yet again, I would not necessarily recommend my own methods, but I tend to work very intuitively and sometimes just start doing things before I have sufficiently considered the practicalities of it.
The first unwise / wise move was to lay out the design with Keynote. Yes, that’s right, Apple’s Mac-only presentation software. Why do that?
I am fully aware that I would probably be better off using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop but Keynote is actually very intuitive, responsive and has a number of features that allow you to produce high quality graphics very easily.
It also has some major disadvantages, the most grievous of which is lack of layer control, which makes complex, multi-layered graphics a challenge to work with. Whatever, I like Keynote and I use it a lot for simple editing of graphics and preparing online slides.
Having installed a continuous ink supply system (CISS) in my A4 Epson Stylus Photo RX585 I decided do the printing on that. The CISS is demonstrably very cheap to run and I decided to print onto basic 80gsm inkjet paper which is satisfyingly crinkly once printed both sides. I debated about printing onto A6 paper which would only require me to trim one side, but this would require edge-to-edge printing which is significantly slower on the RX585, so I decided to print three per A4 and trim all sides. On standard quality this made printing very fast and the quality of the first batch was very good.
After my first batch of about 600 notes, I decided to print the same again so that I would have over 1,000 with some spares. Having not used the printer in-between for a few weeks after the first batch it needed more ink and head-cleaning, and the next few days could be described in two words: IN SANE. I’ll spare you the detail and all the swearing, suffice to say I used an alarming amount of ink on more head cleans than I care to remember. The ink is very cheap (from Coralgraph), less than £5 for a set of 6x100ml bottles, but what really drives me to distraction is the amount of time it takes and the knowledge that the printer will register a critical number of head cleans once it thinks the waste ink tank is getting full. Which it will be. Another thing that pushed me a little closer to the edge was that, despite cleaning all the pipes out with printer cleaning fluid (from Printhead Hospital), each time I reinstalled the CISS and flushed out the air gaps, different colours were not printing correctly. AAAAAAARGH!
The ink tanks were full before I started and it was still not printing satisfactorily.
Again, I can’t really complain because it is printer-hacking, but it’s monumentally frustrating. The advantage of using domestic grade equipment is that it can be very cheap, but the problem is that these things are not designed to be user-maintained and they either work or they don’t, and there’s not much you can do about it. (I have got the printer working since, but more about that in a later post).
Anyway, after an uncounted number of head cleans I decided to just go ahead and print another batch, complete with patches and smears. The overprints you see here are test sheets I printed and, quite perversely, I really like the spoils too, although I was trying to make them as perfectly as I could.
Obverse and reverse of the New Bank of X One-X note, showing crop marks.
But here’s the crux. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not real. It’s just a stunt. Actually it’s not JUST a stunt, it’s an exceptional stunt, but the reason for printing so many is to give it some physical presence, some inferred authenticity. Having decided to make a suitcase full, I liked the idea so much that nothing else would do, so I decided to just blunder ahead and print enough for my purpose regardless of the faults.
So, here is the stash. This was shown as part of Bloc Studios’ Spring Fete in Sheffield, UK.
There is more to say about the printing but I think that’s enough for now. Part 2 soon…