These Designers Created A New Way To Print: By Blowing Bubbles

Bubble prints are the new marble.

Microcosmos, a new design from the Amsterdam studio BCXSY and the Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico, is kind of like a Rorschach test. It’s easy to get lost in the pattern–which launched during Milan Design Week–but hard to figure out exactly what you’re seeing. An up-close detail of a marble slab? Some sort of cellular sample? A watercolor painting? It’s really a blown-up print of bubbles.


[Photo: Lauren Coleman]
Courtesy of a laborious technique, BCXSY found a way to preserve the ephemeral beauty of bubbles. The designers first filled a tray with a solution of soap, glycerine, and ink, then stuck a straw into the liquid and started blowing. Once the entire surface was covered in bubbles, they gently placed a piece of paper on top, creating an imprint.

After seeing the resulting pattern, they repeated the process using different recipes for their solution until they achieved the print they liked the most. Then, they scanned the image and adjusted the color to mimic the natural iridescence of soap bubbles–a digital process that took weeks. Finally, Calico digitally printed the pattern on its wallpaper.

“The bubble part was for us merely a starting point,” Boaz Cohen, co-founder of BCXSY, says. “The technique itself is a common children’s craft and was for us more of a nostalgic reference. Although we did find it interesting—and fun!—to experiment and look for the best soap-bubble solution which would render as many details as possible, what we found most fascinating were the cutting-edge technological developments which made it possible to enlarge those original prints to an image more than ten times the original size, without losing any crispiness and details.”

Last year, BCXSY and Calico collaborated on a wallpaper collection using satellite photography from NASA. While that series celebrates outer space, Microcosmos commemorates the universes that are only visible through microscopes. See the full process in the slide show above.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.