Glass photo printing has become a very popular way to artistically express and display those treasured mementos as well as for signage. Since the birth of the photograph in the 19th century, artists and commercial photographers alike have been constantly searching for new bounds to push their works. One way to place these stills of the ever-moving world around us into an entirely new realm of perception is by the process of glass photo printing. The idea and practice of placing a print on glass rose out of the 17th century European style of the mezzotint. However, it was not until Ansel Adams and other 19th century artists realized that this transparent medium, which was already used in the processing of images, would make an extraordinary background for the placement of these newly created images.
One of the very first methods of glass photo printing was fusion, where the snapshot was placed and fired between two sheets of the crystal-like medium, making it appear as one uniform object. Other early methods of glass printing include the practice of emulsion. This method utilizes liquid emulsion placed on the back of the medium allowing the image to be exposed onto the medium the same way it would to paper, it is then fired in the kiln, and finally removed revealing the crystal snapshot. Emulsion can also be employed in combination with silk screening by creating a stencil with the liquid emulsion, exposing the stencil to light and the image to the emulsion liquid, and then pressing the ink in different passes through the screen stencil, transferring the image almost exactly as the snapshot appeared.
Similar to the majority of modern technologies, the practice of glass photo printing underwent a digital revolution, adding unsurpassed efficiency and savings to this growing field. This newly computerized procedure eliminated all materials besides the medium, glass printing machine, and the inks. The process of digitally imposing an image onto this transparent material is completely self-contained within one large unit operating on command from an onboard computer, so the design is able to travel from a digital concept to a tangible image in one step.
The two most capitalized upon methods of ink delivery on a digital system are inkjet and air brushing. These methods make for extremely fast and gorgeously accurate application, but are not able to help with drying time for inks that have to be fired to set. In response to this problem, a new style of ink, called ultraviolet (UV) inks were created for this purpose. These inks, even though appearing liquid, are only in a liquid state until contact with UV light is made, whereby they instantly cure. When these inks are delivered by inkjet or air brushing, multi-colors are able to be sprayed back to back and sometimes simultaneously, depending on the snapshot. Companies are also able to handle the glass photo print as soon as the machine stops in order to be packaged and delivered. This state of the art ink style is almost solely applied digitally, along with the processes of sand blasting and embossing which can also be used to capture timeless portraits in this crystalline material.
Glass photo printing has not only risen to prominence in the world of art, but in the world of sign making and advertising as well. With this new capability a company can now timelessly capture any desired image to be advertised and displayed more boldly and beautifully than any competitor.