The culmination of months of diligent and methodical preparation is here. Finally seeing our maps spring to life on the printing presses is a big day for us. Unlike a standard digital print, Lithographic printing is a real craft, so we take great care to get it just right.
These are no ordinary printers. These are Italian Litho Printers. With an awe-inspiring knowledge of their giant machines, a fastidious attention to detail and an industrious approach to the craft of printing, this happy crew are about to start work printing our maps, so it's no wonder they are smiling.
The elements of our art: our canvas, paint, and brush.
Silk-coated to show off those eye-popping colours to the max and give an ultra modern finish.
The silk coating means the colours can't bleed into the paper, making the end result clean and vibrant. Of course, it's sustainably sourced too and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Hand-mixed by colour wizards to create our bright and vivid pigments.
Okay so they don't have wands, but that doesn't make our ink-mixers any less magical in our eyes. These vibrant, metallic and luminescent colours bring our maps to life. Mixing colours to the exact pantone means we can use tones that take your breath away.
Etched plates are bent around each roller. Each plate lays a separate colour on the paper.
The greased plate is inserted in the roller, each roller unit is filled with a different coloured ink. The ink is repelled by the non-greased areas and adheres to the greased image. As the paper passes through the roller this image is printed onto the paper.
Preparation and patience are the order of the day.
With these giant machines and an incredibly detailed map, it's vital that time is taken to set the machines up perfectly.
Loading the plates and the inks takes upwards of 2 hours. Once it's ready to go we work on the alignment and colours.
Each roller must be perfectly aligned, so the print is perfect. Just a millimetre out would create chaos.
Careful tweaks bring the saturation of the colours up or down and we'll spend a good while getting it right and ensuring the balance between the colours is perfect.
This is where the craft and the skill of the printer is so apparent. Getting this bit right can take time. Slowly making incremental changes and meticulously inspecting the results to get the perfect result.
Amidst the roar of the machines, the waft of the inks, and the intoxicating atmosphere of the print room, keeping a cool head is vital to ensure a beautiful map at the end of the day.
Once we're happy we finally sign off the first proof.
Then with a huge sigh of relief from everyone involved, we start the print run proper, although we can't put our feet up quite yet... As the machine runs, the printers pull out sheets to double check everything is up to our exacting standards. Lithographic machines aren't always constant and the printers will continually make minor adjustments where needed to keep the print uniform throughout the run.
Once printed, the maps are left for 24 hours to fully dry before bring trimmed to size.
Then we add our trademark gloss varnish to the landmasses. This is done on a separate screen printing machine. The screen is made of very fine mesh, most of which is blocked out, leaving the land masses open.
The varnish is pushed across the screen which seeps through the open sections, creating a beautifully glossy finish on the landmasses.
AND WE'RE DONE
It can take six months from concept to seeing the map come off the press as a finished product. This can be even longer for a City Map.
The map before us is the culmination of a lot of work: developing the concept and design behind it, gathering scientific data and statistics, forming the colour palette, and working with the expert craftsman on the print process.
It’s a satisfying feeling to be part of a creative chain like this, and to see it finally come to fruition.