This is my latest print. I'll start with the first state, and work up through to the last (although there is a divergence at one point which resulted in two final states, but the difference is subtle; I'll show them both). The image was provided to me via a Daily Kos contribution on ravens in San Fransisco. I contacted the author and received not only permission to use the image, but a higher resolution copy to work from.
This is a reduction cut relief print. For those of you who are not printmakers, this process basically involves removing material from your plate, leaving behind the colour of the paper, and eventually, subsequent ink layers. Once you've finished with the last carving, that's it, you can't do any more prints on this edition, because the block changes after each layer of colour. So generally, you start of printing more than you'll eventually want in the edition, because chances are good that you'll have to use some as a proof, or want to keep some to represent one of the progress states, or you might just muck up something (e.g. registration) and not want to keep that print in the edition.
One of the benefits of the reduction method is that colours build on the paper, rather than being separate from each other (which happens when you're using many plates to achieve multiple colours), sort of like doing washes or glazes in painting. While these inks aren't transparent, they're not strictly opaque, either, so there is subtle interaction of colours in the layering.
This image was carved out of vinyl/rubber block (kind of like Speedball's "SpeedyCut" but cheaper, and consequently, less consistent in quality), and printed on black Stonehenge 245g paper using Speedball water based inks, and hand burnished. The final image dimensions are 7"x4".
So the first state (of which I did keep one, 'cause I kinda like it):
The gradations are achieved by a technique using the brayer (roller) to blend the inks together before applying them to the paper. I first brayered on the mid-value grey blue, and the light value mauvy pink, then did a rainbow roll of the two to merge them together. Notice how strongly the words on the road sign leap out at you still? Well, that really bothered me, so here's the modification (and final version for this state):
Next, I carved away almost the entire background, and wanted to provide a uniform mid-value for the signs. At the top of the image, I did a faded roll (kind of like rainbow, but instead of a second colour, I just carefully feathered out the ink to almost, but not quite, the edge of the brayer) with a darker indigo colour and got the third state:
You think I would have learned from the second state above that clearly cut words REALLY draw the viewer's eye (i.e. the stop sign).
Nope! Had to print it first then smack my head, do a little more carving and got the final version (although, looking at the digital image, it isn't quite as bad as it was in real life; trust me, it was worth fiddling with). Here's the slightly alternate final based on the first version of the second state. Note that the lettering on both signs is now sufficiently obscured to not draw the eye too much.
So I didn't really need to obscure it for the second state, but I actually like the bit of light value in the final version, which is this one: