Collagraph Printmaking: Cape Dory Book Club


Cape Dory Book Club 7.25 x 10 Collagraph    Available in my Etsy Shop.

How to Make a Mat Board Collagraph

If you’re new to collagraph printmaking, you might enjoy watching the process for how to make a collagraph in tutorial videos posted on my youtube channel.  This blog post will show you some of the steps so you can make an intaglio style mat board collagraph too. There is a list of supplies with links at the bottom of this post so you can see what some of them look like if you’re not familiar with this style of printmaking. Scroll down for more details on this versatile, fun printmaking process.

how to make a mat board collagraph

Pieces of non-skid shelf liner and scrap mat board (also known as press board in other parts of the world)

Is this the only way to make a Collagraph?

Collagraphs are printed in a variety of ways, with a myriad of materials in print studios worldwide. I’d like to show you how to make an inexpensive collagraph plate and print, using scrap mat board, acrylic varnish, a blade and water-based printmaking ink. (All supplies are listed below.)

Gather the Goods

To start, gather your supplies and a simple design for your first print. (For the sake of perspective, the boat in the collagraph at the top of this post is *not* a simple design. This post shows a simpler design, so I’d recommend starting with less cut-outs and focusing on line-work.) I use non-skid shelf liner (above) cut into smaller squares to put under my mat board plate while it’s under construction to keep it from sliding around while I’m cutting. Any time you’re using a blade, or doing fine, detailed motor-skills on your work, it’s very helpful to have your work surface held steady and still, so your other hand isn’t doing all the plate-stabilization un-assisted, which can put that hand in the path of your blade.

You can put a light pencil drawing of your design on the *back* of the mat board. The back is generally smoother than the face of the mat board, so you can wipe the ink away easier for your lighter areas.

Light and Dark in Your Design

After your design is sketched on the mat board, look back at your reference photo and squint till you see only areas of light and dark shapes – no details. Now, back on your mat board plate, you can shade in some dark areas of your design with pencil to match the darks in your reference image. This will give you a map of where you want recessed areas to hold ink. In the photo above, I’m peeling a shallow cut of the uppermost layer of mat board away to leave a textured shape in a slightly recessed “well” that will hold ink. These are going to be the darker areas of my design.

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Examples of Collagraphs

Here and there on this art blog, you’ll find variations on watercolor painting, printmaking and drawing. In the category of printmaking, there are quite a few collagraphs to look at, like these:


Mama’s Day 4.5 x 3.25 Collagraph with watercolor

Sunday Morning, Collagraph with watercolor and colored pencil

Breakfast Alarm – Collagraph with colored pencil














You can click on the images above to read more collagraph blog posts from the archives (they go back to 2005) or you can use the search box at the top of this blog to search for the word ‘collagraph’ – and poke around the archives at your leisure. Either way, I hope you feel energized and inspired to make a collagraph. They are so much fun!  Okay, onward to the process shots! Are you still with me? Good!

how to make a collagraph from card

Using liquitex gloss medium and varnish will seal your mat board plate, and serve two purposes. Sealing the plate, and reducing tears as you cut and peel lines and shapes.

Sealing the Plate

This is a very important step to the collagraph process if your plate is made from any paper-based product. Ink is wet, and cleaning products are too. If you wet your mat board, the paper will swell, droop, absorb moisture and be ruined. Coating the entire surface with a sealer – including the edges and back – will transform your mat board into a sturdier printmaking plate. I use Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish. (Some artists use shellac or button polish, but the liquitex cleans up with water, so I prefer this to something that requires solvents to wash brushes afterwards.) In printmaking, you want the ink to release from the plate, and adhere to the paper you’re pressing against it.  The gloss varnish is an important part in that process; it’s slick, so it releases ink easily. Your ink won’t transfer well if you’re using a matte-finish sealing product.

making a collagraph from mat board

I’ve already cut my darker areas from the plate, and now I’ve added more pencil to map *some* of that area again, because I’m going to add carborundum.

More Advanced Additions to Collagraphs

After adding gloss medium to the pencil marked and carved channels, and while the medium was still wet, I poured carborundum (sand paper grit) on them.  (You can see more fun experiments with carborundum on this Sinking In collagraph.)  You don’t need carborundum in order to pull a successful print. The purpose of the grit is to hold ink, so that even after I’ve wiped inks from the plate to lighten shapes in my design, some of these carborundum-treated areas will remain rich with ink, because the pigments stay embedded around the granules of the grit.  If this is your first print, skip this part and scoot down to the process video below, and the inking section. 🙂 After pouring a thin layer of carborundum grit on still-wet, selected shapes, I let everything dry, and removed any excess grit.  The entire plate got one more, final thin layer of Gloss Medium Varnish.

using carborundum on a mat board collagraph

Same process, different plate; the sandpaper grit – carborundum – will stick to the still-wet areas I’ve carefully re-wet with gloss medium.


how to ink a collagraph using the a la poupee method

Inking the sealed and dry plate with water-based inks, using a piece of rolled felt as a dauber.

Inking the Plate

In the photo above, I inked the plate using the a la poupee method, with rolled and taped felt daubers, or “dollies” (poupee is the French word for doll). The rolled end is dipped into ink, and them rubbed on the plate in sections of color. This is a great way to do a multiple color print from one plate, and with one pass through the press. And the effects are often quite painterly. The photo above was taken just before I started wiping the plate, to clear some of the uppermost surfaces that I want to print lighter than the darker, recessed areas. (Watch the sink still life video below to see how wiping is done, and what the effects look like on the print.)

collagraph printmaking

After going through the press, you can see the way shapes cut into the mat board have embossed the printmaking paper. The pressure of the press stretches the paper to dip down into the recessed areas to collect ink.

Using a Press to print a mat board collagraph

After a trip under the press, with soaked and blotted paper on top of the plate, you can see the results of the pressure (in the photo above); the paper is embossed with the shape of the voids I cut & peeled out of the mat board collagraph plate.  The soaked paper is flexible enough to drape and stretch down into the recessed areas I cut from the mat board. The paper will collect the ink I added to the plate, and the pigments will transfer to the paper when pulled from the print.


Pulling the print from the plate after a trip through the press. This is the best part. 🙂 And there are always surprises, no matter how careful you are.

More Examples

This (below) is another simple crescent mat board collagraph plate, sealed with a few layers of Liquitex Gloss Medium Varnish. In the video, you’ll be able to see how the inks are applied, and then wiped to get a full color print.

Make Something Soon

Have you ever made a collagraph before? If you’re interested in trying one, and you don’t have a press, you can get started with just a few supplies. Here is a play list of collagraph printmaking tutorials from my YouTube Channel. I hope they’re helpful to you, and I always welcome your comments and questions, so don’t be shy!  If you’ve made collagraphs, please share your tips & resources in the comments.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You can subscribe to get these posts via email. It’s free! Sign up here.

(Some of the links in this post are affiliates, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a tiny commission if you make a purchase. I’m grateful for your support. These gestures go towards art supplies so I can continue to share my experiments with you.)

Supply List (with links)

Mat Board


X-Acto knives:

Standard xacto knife

Retractable #9 (small) blade knife

Fiskars Swivel Tip Finger Knife

Fiskars Fingertip Craft Knife

Rubber Pencil Grip

(I have one on an xacto knife to help with finger-fatigue in some of the tutorial videos)

Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish

Paint Brushes

Rubber Gloves

Akua Ink starter set

Akua MagMix (modifier to thicken the ink)

Akua Transparent Base

storage jars for leftover ink

BFK Rives paper Heavier Weight (for use with a press)

BFK Rives paper (lightweight) for use with hand rub/transfer
(*recommended over the Kozo paper below if you plan to add other media*)

Kozo Mulberry paper (for hand rub/transfer – no wet media should be added to the finished print)

Tarlatan cloth

Pointed Q-tips

Self Healing Cutting Mat

Colored Pencil (optional media to add to your prints)


Non-skid liner to secure your plate while inking & cutting

metal ruler with cork back for paper tearing

spatula for mixing/laying out ink

Mylar sheets (tape one down to mix ink on, if you don’t have a piece of glass)

Takach etching press

NOTE: If you’d like a downloadable four-page PDF of the supplies, with links and descriptions, you can order one here.

Art Quote

Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.
~ Richard Feynman

Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

How to make a collagraph print from scrap mat board
Article Name
How to make a collagraph print from scrap mat board
Let me help you learn how to make a collagraph with scrap matboard. You and I will go over all the basics with video tutorials and process photos! Let's dive in and make some art...
Publisher Name
Belinda Del Pesco
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6 Responses to Collagraph Printmaking: Cape Dory Book Club

  1. Marian Fortunati August 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Amazing, Belinda!!
    What a fascinating process… with beautiful results!!

  2. Belinda Del Pesco August 29, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Hi Carol, I could get quite a few, as the plate is plenty sturdy, but I’ll likely pull 15-20 in a variety of colors. Thanks for your compliments. 🙂

  3. Carol Blackburn August 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Wonderful, Belinda. How many prints will you get from this one?


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