Collagraph Printmaking: Antebellum

glue collagraph printAntebellum 4.25 x 4.75 Glue Collagraph with colored pencil  (Visit my Etsy Shop)

What’s a Glue Collagraph?

Glue Collagraphs are a fun & easy printmaking method. You can collect the supplies and get started right away, and have a print party. 🙂 This simple, painterly approach to printmaking doesn’t require any cutting or sharp tools, and with a little planning, you won’t even need to use a press to pull the prints!


Scrap mat board, with a light pencil sketch, sealed with Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish. After the plate is dry from being sealed front, back & sides, trace your pencil drawing with quick drying glue.

How Do you Make a Glue Collagraph?

Building this plate is so simple, I love this process! This is a scrap piece of matboard, sealed front and back with Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish. The suggested figure in the hat was doodled in glue with a precision tip  squeeze bottle that comes with Scotch 3M glue. The piles of printmaking ink (oil based) in the background were used for a whole day of printing other plates, so you wouldn’t need this much for a project and plate this small, and you can use water-based printmaking inks too (but be sure they are the type that don’t dry as soon as they’re exposed to air, as many do, or they’ll dry on your plate before you’ve even printed). I pulled four glue collagraphs from this plate, using small amounts of printmaking inks.


The printmaking plate, inked in the background first, and then brayer-rolled over the glue in a darker hue.

Ready to Ink

Here is the plate above, inked. I used an inexpensive paint brush to apply light shades of yellow, orange and cerulean blue inks to the background.  I saved the darkest value of indigo blue ink to “top roll” the raised glue areas with a printmaking brayer. This contrast brings the linear elements and random spread of the glue up from the background colors on the pulled print. You can see that my brayer touched the background in some areas (hazy blue ink on the yellow background around her hat), but no matter, because this is a loosey-juicy method with lots of wiggle room for ooopsies and darnits.

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pulling a glue collagraph print

Pulling the Print

After a trip through the press, *or* a good hand-rub on the back of the paper with a spoon or a wooden drawer knob, the print is pulled from the plate to reveal this very painterly image. If you’re hand-transferring the image (without a press), I’d recommend two things; 1) keep your glue drawing pretty simple, with very few or no little circle or loop shapes, since you won’t get your paper into any “donut hole” raised glue interiors to collect background inks. And 2) use a lightweight paper, like BFK Rives lightweight white paper, which will adhere well to the ink, and it’s thin and flexible enough to curve around the raised glue areas to dip towards the flat surface of the plate and pick up your background colors. BFK Rives is also tough enough to give you the option of adding other media.

a glue collagraph print before adding colored pencil to enhance the image

Enhancing with Other Media

This (above) is what the print looked like before I added colored pencil. There is a variety of media you can add to the print after it’s dry – which is why you don’t have to be too fussy with the inking. Colored pencil, pastel, acrylic and oil all work very well on top of this collagraph art print.

Print in Different Colors

At this point, you can add more ink to the plate and print another collagraph in the same colorway, or wipe the plate clean and add completely different colors to print it again. (Unfortunately, the plate for this print was stolen at an art exhibit. I carried it to the exhibit with me, along with supplies to describe/encourage the process. I was talking with a patron for just a minute, and when I returned to the counter, the plate was gone. Grrrr. To whoever stole it; Karma, people! What goes around, comes around.)


Another collagraph, without glue this time, made from mat board with an exacto knife and carborundum (sandpaper grit) and ink.

Free Online Video Tutorials

If you like this method of printmaking, and you’re interested in learning more, you can also make a line-style collagraph, like the girl above, using mat board, an exacto knife and carborundum. And if you want even more collagraph goodness, you can watch the tutorials I’ve posted on my youtube channel here.

Thanks for stopping by to check out this glue collagraph printmaking method. I’ve published a few other posts on this process here and here.

I’ll see you in the next post!


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Art Quote

One authentic portrait of Leonardo by his own hand exists in a red chalk drawing at the library at Turin. Dating from the last years of his life, it shows the face of a seer, moulded by incessant thought into firm, strongly marked lines. The eyes lurk deep beneath shaggy brows, the hair and beard are long and straggling – it is the face of a man who has peered into hidden things and who has pondered deeply over what he discerned. The beard is no longer “curled and well kept,” in the words of a contemporary document, wherein he is described as “of a fine person, well proportioned, full of grace and of a beautiful aspect, wearing a rose-coloured tunic, short to the knee, although long garments were then in use.”

Mr. Berenson has suggested that the youth in armour, who alone among all the figures in Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi in the Louvre turns away from the scene and looks towards the spectator, is a portrait of Leonardo himself.
~The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci by Charles Lewis Hind (1907)

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16 Responses to Collagraph Printmaking: Antebellum

  1. James Chapman August 27, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    I normally do not comment unless I see something that really excites me,and this piece did just that,I like it so much Im starting a new Pinterest board around it.Great job,Me likes.

  2. Linda Roberts May 8, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    This looks like allot of fun and I love your comment about accepting the “oopses and darnits!” We should do that more in life! I paint mostly in watercolor but I’m always looking to step out
    of my comfort zone in search of other creative outlets. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Linda Roberts

  3. Belinda Del Pesco April 14, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Hi Anon – In this print, I used oil based intaglio ink, but it works as well to use water-based (akua, daniel smith, etc.) I’ve got video in the works to demonstrate this process on my channel:

  4. Anonymous April 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    What type of ink did you use? Oil based or water based?

  5. Jo Murray April 2, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Love this process…thanks for the info.

  6. Belinda Del Pesco February 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    @Doodles – you can absolutely prep cardboard ahead of time with the medium, but it’s gotta be Gloss Medium & Varnish – not Matte – if you want the surface to be slick enough to release the ink from the plate to the paper. Especially if you’re transferring with a spoon or a brayer instead of a press.
    I don’t know how much control you’d get with a hot glue gun. What if you gave the kids grease pencils to draw a simple design, and then you (and hopefully, an assistant) used the glue gun, or embroidery floss dipped in the medium to lay over their drawings? The medium dries fast.

  7. Doodles February 9, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Hi there! I’m a teaching artist and want to do something like this with my kids for a one day workshop. Do you think that I could put matte medium on the cardboard beforehand, then use hot glue (obviously helping them!) so that the glue dries right away? And, tempera paint?

  8. Belinda Del Pesco November 24, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    @Gloria, Thanks for the compliment. Yes, you can get speedball and Akua inks for printmaking at Dick Blick and most art supply stores. The colors I used were mixtures saved as leftovers from previous printmaking sessions. (Scrape them into a square of cellophane, wrap and twist, label [oil based vs water, etc.] with tape.)

  9. Gloria Garrett November 24, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Belinda…I just love this. I am not familiar with this technique. Are printmaking inks readily available at craft stores?…and what colors did you use? This is just beautiful. Thank you.

  10. Belinda Del Pesco September 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Adrienne – books wouldn’t work, because you have to get in there and push the paper to the flat of the “plate” and get it to wrap around the raised glue areas too, so you have full contact between the paper and all elements of the inked plate. A book would only imprint your raised glue areas, because it’s too flat/hard/stiff to dip into the little flat areas between adjacent glue ridges. A hand rub with a drawer knob would work, or you can try a rolling pin (like you’d use to roll out dough for a pie) covered with an athletic tube sock, to help press into the low-lying areas of the plate. This, combined with some touch up hand rubbing with a spoon or a drawer knob should do the trick. :O)

  11. adrienne trafford September 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    this is wonderful – i soooo want to try this – and you believe it would work without a press, just with pressure from a book or something heavy?

  12. Carol Blackburn August 20, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Thanks for the information Belinda, I might want to give this a try someday. Right now I am plenty busy but you never know what will happen during the winter. I might need something to stave off cabin fever if the snow is plentiful. Doesn’t that sound wonderful right now, snow….:)

  13. Belinda Del Pesco August 20, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Carol, you could use glue on your board, but I’ve found that ink doesn’t release from the plate as well, and it doesn’t dry to the same hardness as the varnish – it’s sort of rubbery – which will reduce your details & give you trouble in inking/wiping/cleaning. Your plate will likely curl over time if you use glue, which would limit your edition size and cause you to utter expletives under your breath, so I would recommend getting the Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish – you can buy small containers of 8oz for about $6 on Blick and other in-store & online suppliers. And yes, the varnish blocks the ink and cleaning agents from absorbing into the plate, but it also makes the plate harder and stiffer, as well as slicker for releasing ink.

  14. Carol Blackburn August 19, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    How awesome is that! Does look like a fun thing to do, Belinda. Instead of investing in the varnish could you cover the board with a thin layer of glue, let it dry, then add the raised components of the picture with more glue and use it that way? I assume the varnish is to keep the ink from being absorbed by the board.

  15. Laurel Daniel August 19, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    I loved seeing this process. It does look SO fun and I loved seeing how the final piece evolved! THANK YOU!

  16. Anonymous August 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Very cool. Thank you for sharing your process. You do inspire!

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