The data plate obsession has just about run its course, thank goodness.
I fussed with the artwork for what seemed like a very long time, and finally the job turned the corner when Eric Malossi pitched in with his Photoshop skills (which were just a bit better than mine) and his critical eyes. By picking harder at smaller sections of my retouchings we came up with a truer piece. I went through his work and he, through mine. The result was better than either of us could have concocted on our own.
The piece went off to the pros for laying onto metal, but not before I had at it with some silkscreen. I do think that large runs of plates like this would use some variant of silkscreen, and I think that the original plates used the process, though not to print black — as today’s shop most likely would — but to put down a masking lacquer coat prior to metal etching. I found that the silkscreen method I used left details too foggy, and this was the fault of the method, not the artwork. I used no camera or even a transparent image but instead used a regular old laser printed copy on some regular old copy paper. It works for T-shirts. It doesn’t work for data plates.
On the original plates, I think the process was etch and anodise, and the corners of the letters on the original betray the method. They are rounded — eaten a bit by the etching solution. That fact made the artwork for the replacement plate a bit harder, since the letters had to reflect a little roundness even though the individual pixels of the image are square. (The artwork uses a 300 dots-per-inch screen, so it is fairly high resolution.)
So, when will the data plate be back from the shop? I hope soon, at least something mid-summer.