Collagraph: The Written Word (& Akua Water-based Intaglio Inks)

The Written Word 7×10 Collagraph with Akua Ink & Colored Pencil (sold)

I’ve been experimenting. Since I’m starting to print in my studio (instead of the community college print lab where they had ventilation), I’m looking for non-toxic solutions, and I hit the jackpot with Akua Water-based inks. I’ve tried a few other brands of water-based and water-soluble inks, and after watching a few demo videos on the Akua web site, and paying attention to some of the tips and tricks suggested by the manufacturers, and artists out there using their products, I am totally impressed. They *are* a bit different from the oil based inks I’m accustomed to; the viscosity, tack and wiping feels different, but the richness of the pigments, and the ink’s adherence to & release from the plate is spot on. I can’t wait to experiment more in the coming weeks.

The process shots start at the bottom of this post.

The first print I pulled, all dry a few weeks later, ready for some colored pencil fun. I’ve found through various experiments that colored pencil works wonderfully on top of oil-based inks, but it barely leaves a mark on water based inks, so I started this with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to find that colored pencil sticks to the Akua ink much better than any of the other water-based inks I’ve tried in the past.

Pulling the first blue-green over graphite print from the collagraph plate after a trip through the press. As you can see, there is still plenty of ink on the plate – I was able to pull three ghost prints without re-inking. Pretty nifty ink, that Akua stuff!

After pulling a print in the graphite, I mixed a little blue and green, and top-rolled the plate with a brayer. I’m using tarlatan cloth to wipe selected areas where I want a little less density of color & you can see how rich the pigments are in the Akua ink.

Using a scrap piece of mat board to coat the plate with Akua Intagio Ink in a beautiful color called Graphite.

I made this plate a few years ago in my garage. This angle shows the back of a piece of matboard, with a pencil sketch, followed by a coat of Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish on the front and back. After the varnish dried overnight, I incised lines and removed the top later of mat board in shapes with an exacto knife to create “wells” that will hold ink. I re-coated the plate with gloss medium three times during the cutting to seal the plate, and hold things down if the cuts were close together, or when I got overzealous with tearing away shapes.

Art Quote
It may perhaps be thought, that in prefacing a manual of drawing, I ought to expatiate on the reasons why drawing should be learned ; but those reasons appear to me so many and so weighty, that I cannot quickly state or enforce them. With the reader’s permission, as this volume is too large already, I will waive all discussion respecting the importance of the subject, and touch only on those points which may appear questionable in the method of its treatment. In the first place, the book is not calculated for the use of children under the age of twelve or fourteen. I do not think it advisable to engage a child in any but the most voluntary practice of art. If it has talent for drawing, it will be continually scrawling on what paper it can get; and should be allowed to scrawl at its own free will, due praise being given for every appearance of care, or truth, in its efforts. It should be allowed to amuse itself with cheap colours almost as soon as it has sense enough to wish for them. If it merely daubs the paper with shapeless stains, the colour-box may be taken away till it knows better: but as soon as it begins painting red coats on soldiers, striped flags to ships, etc., it should have colours at command; and, without restraining its choice of subject in that imaginative and historical art, of a military tendency, which children delight in (generally quite as valuable, by the way, as any historical art delighted in by their elders), it should be gently led by the parents to try to draw, in such childish fashion as may be, the things it can see and like – as birds, or butterflies, or flowers, or fruit. In later years, the indulgence of using the colour should only be granted as a reward, after it has shown care and progress in its drawings with pencil. A limited number of good and amusing prints should always be within a boy’s reach: in these days of cheap illustration he can hardly possess a volume of nursery tales without good woodcuts in it, and should be encouraged to copy what he likes best of this kind; but should be firmly restricted to a few prints and to a few books. ~from The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin (1920)


18 Responses to Collagraph: The Written Word (& Akua Water-based Intaglio Inks)

  1. Jacquetta Miner 29/11/2018 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi Belinda
    Can I ask how you edition these ‘hand-finished’ collagraphs’? Which I think are lovely?👍

    • Belinda DelPesco 29/11/2018 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Jacquetta (cool name!) – When numbering an edition that is hand colored, or has differences from print-to-print within the edition, it’s customary to include the letters e.v. after the edition number. For example: 2/5 e.v So the print is number 2 of 5, and the ‘edition varies’. Is that how you do it? (Thanks for the compliment.)

  2. Belinda DelPesco 29/09/2015 at 3:48 pm #

    You’re re-wetting the glue with the inks. You can let your plate dry, and then coat it front back and edges with liquitex gloss medium and varnish, and try again.
    The coating material for the plate is crucial because it has to be water-proof, as well as slick enough to release inks, and strong enough to have inks scraped on and rubbed off, etc. Go with the liquitex.
    Please report back on your progress so we can see your results.

    • Perry 30/09/2015 at 8:55 am #

      Don’t be sorry. You might just be my hero. I’ll report back with my results, but I have to go now… to get some Liquitex.

      • Belinda DelPesco 30/09/2015 at 12:16 pm #

        🙂 You might consider putting 2 coats of liquitex gloss medium and varnish on your plate, to be sure you create a barrier between the glue and the ink. Cheering from the sidelines: good luck!

  3. Perry 29/09/2015 at 3:44 pm #

    glue. No good?

  4. Perry 29/09/2015 at 2:51 pm #

    I am having trouble printing collagraphs because the ink is sticking to the paper and the paper is tearing and sticking to the plate, which is a mat board covered in glue that has dried for 2 days. I am using a paper called domestic etching and soaking it for 10 minutes. Too long?

    • Belinda DelPesco 29/09/2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Perry, did you use glue to seal your plate, or liquitex gloss medium and varnish?

  5. Anonymous 14/09/2011 at 7:40 am #

    Im not a frequent blogger, but I stumbled across this post and was thrilled to see “Akua Water-based Intaglio Inks” as the headlining title. There is a common misconception about not only water-based inks, but particularly the Akua Inks (the intaglio inks are actually soy-based , how cool!).

    I’ve heard many people comment on their prints drying “dull” or “mat”. More often then not, this results from over soaking the paper, or the type of paper used. It’s important to know that though Akua Intaglio Inks are not water soluble, the pigments will “dull” when too much water has gotten to them because the water is causing the ink to further disperse. This can happen from over soaking the paper, or re-soaking the paper in between pulls. From my experience, using a smoother grained paper like Somerset or BFK Rives and printing it dry (when using an etching press..printing by hand is a different story)will yield the best results. Similar if not equal results can be yielded by soaking the paper for a short period of time (about 1-2 mins) – soaking paper this way will ensure that you are only softening the paper, and not actually making it wet. Making the paper wet does nothing for absorption or releasing of the ink – dampening paper is meant to make the paper soft so the details can easily press into the fibers of the paper.

  6. J.G.Nieuwenhof 09/09/2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Only problem I have found is that the prints dry dull and I am trying to find a solution to this as I really like the inks otherwise. Jen

  7. Barbara M. 24/08/2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Hi Belinda,
    Beautiful work, and ambitious post. I have not seen the word carborundum
    for years. It used to be a teenage joke, “nihil illegitimas carborundum.”

    Love the quote too. I saw a show a few years ago with drawings of Whistler’s wife dying and letters from his friends after her death.
    Very moving.


  8. John Brisson 22/08/2011 at 10:05 am #

    Hi Belinda…I have used Akua Kolor inks for my relief printing and find them perfect, especially for lino. I had purchased some Akua Intaglio ink but haven’t used it yet. Your results are super!


  9. Nick G. Swift 22/08/2011 at 4:32 am #

    amazing print. I just started following your blog last week. I can’t believe how prolific you are. I’m surprised the inks did not bleed more. The one from a week ago with a strong vertical is a personal favorite of mine. great works, Nick

  10. Jeanette 22/08/2011 at 3:19 am #

    Its good to hear your working experience with Akua. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting them for awhile and now think some will be going onto my next order list.

  11. Belinda Del Pesco 21/08/2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Dinah – You’re very welcome… I’ve heard about Akua forever, and always wanted to try them. They have a nifty little starter pack of basic colors on their site that might work for you.

  12. Belinda Del Pesco 21/08/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Carol, akua inks appear to dry within a day or two, depending on the humidity in your area, but I was working on commissions, so I had to hold off before adding the colored pencils. It’s my own little reward system (cuz I’m juvenile like that): finished commissions=playtime in the studio. 🙂

  13. Carol Blackburn 21/08/2011 at 5:06 am #

    That is wonderful, Belinda. Do the prints really take weeks to dry all the time?

  14. dinahmow 20/08/2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Thankyou, Belinda, for your review of Akua. I, too, am keen to move away from toxic solvents (I work in my house!)and, until now, have not read much about Akua when used with coloured pencil.

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