How do you print white on white?

In 2004 we produced a collector’s edition art book that was one of the biggest challenges in our printing careers, Moving Mountain by AK Dolven. Anne Katrine Dolven is one of Norway’s best-known and highly acclaimed artists. She works across many mediums including video, painting, audio and sculpture and her work encompasses both the monumental and the intimate. The book we made Moving Mountain is based on a film installation and exhibition of the same name.


A complex project

I first met Anne Katrine in 2003 in her east London studio through the designer, Herman Lelie, just prior to the Moving Mountain exhibition at the Bergen Kunsthall in Bergen, Norway. Work on the book for the show had just begun, but reproducing a a particularly important series of paintings was proving extremely complicated.


Our Challenge

The problem was that these were white paintings and contained many subtle shades of white. As you can imagine, reproducing white paintings on white paper is difficult to say the least!

These paintings had been reproduced before in *cmyk but with very poor results. The paintings dealt with emotions and feelings and it was vital that their intricate and subtle patterns and shades be properly reproduced. Since each shade of white was perhaps only half a percent different to the next, it was no surprise that something as crude as *cmyk would struggle. And besides, in what universe would you imagine it a good idea to reproduce shades of white using red, blue, yellow and black!


How do you print work based on feelings?

It was when AK showed us how she painted that we understood how to reproduce them. She started with a base material and then made up the image with layers of identical colour. So we thought we’d do the same. With no budget for proofing, we had to use the tiny nuance of shade difference within a photograph to identify and cut out the patterns within the paintings. Finally, on press we loaded up the eight colour press with seven plates in seven whites and started the machine.

To this day, if anyone asks me the best feeling in printing I’ll say “Standing at the end of a press when an incredibly expensive experiment works out!”. It did work, it’s an exceptional piece of printing, and it was a great feeling.


The Details

The book was printed on a silk coated paper throughout and fully bound in a pale pink Suedel hardback cover. There is a black and white printed label ‘tipped’ onto the face and matt dark grey foiling is used to block the text on the face and spine. The skin-tone Suedel picks up tones from the images within and gives the book a soft and tactile surface. If you are very lucky, you may even find a ‘secret edition’, softbound with an 8 page cover printed letterpress in two colours on BFK Rives handmade paper. We made a handful of these for a launch dinner ahead of the show before the final edition was printed.

And the artist’s reaction?

AK Dolven was thrilled with the finished book, and so are we!

Collectors edition art book

Words : Francis Atterbury

If you’ve been disappointed with the printed results of your work start a conversation with us at [email protected]

See more of Moving Mountain here.

For our latest work : view our portfolio


*cmyk refers to the four colours used in colour process printing – cyan, magenta, yellow and black.