What is a Collagraph?
A collagraph is a type of printmaking, traditionally made from a collaged plate. Shapes and textures are layered on a base plate (usually metal or plexiglass) and sealed with a gloss varnish. After the assemblage dries, the surface is inked, and wiped, which leaves plenty of pigment embedded in the textural elements, and caught against the curbs of layered shapes on the collage. When pressed against paper – usually on a press, but also rubbed with a baren or spoon – the resulting collagraph print is richly textured and wonderful. Here’s a link to a traditional collagraph, built on a sheet of mat board.
Collagraphs are the chameleons of printmaking, because you can make them to print relief style (ink on the uppermost surface) or intaglio style (ink wiped off the top and left to print from the recessed areas).
You can use additive methods – by applying layers of collaged materials – or subtractive methods, by cutting and peeling parts of the base plate away, if you’re using something carvable like mat board.
You can also draw on the surface of the plate with glue, and print from both the flat planes of the plate, and the raised glue linear elements.
How to make a mat board Collagraph
- Gather your supplies (here’s a list): mat board, a blade or knife, a pencil to draw your design, Liquitex gloss medium and varnish, non-skid counter liner, a craft paint brush, ink, wiping cloth, paper and a spoon.
- Draw your design on the back (smoothest side) of the mat board
- Seal the plate with the varnish thoroughly on the front, back and edges.
- Lay the mat board on non skid and begin carving the line-work out of the top-layer. Keep the cuts shallow, and tilt the blade so you cut in a V shape under your drawn lines.
- Seal the plate again with the varnish, pushing a thin coating along each line you carved to seal the exposed paper of the mat board
- Ink the plate, wipe it with tarlatan, and buff any areas you want to “brighten” from the shades of plate tone (you can see this done in my demo video)
- Lay a thin sheet of kozo or BFK Rives printmaking paper on your inked and wiped plate, and hold it steady with one hand while you burnish the back of the paper with the spoon. You’ll see ink adhere to the paper as you push the pulp towards your carved linear elements.
- When you’ve peeked under your paper, and confirmed that ink has transferred from the plate to the paper, gently peel the paper from the inked surface, and behold the bravo and belissimo of your first collagraph print! TaDahhh!
(Watch the video demonstration for making the collagraph above on my youtube channel here.)
Try One. Really!
Are you going to make one? (Oh, c’mon, say yes!) If you do make a collagraph, come back and leave a link in the comments to where you posted it. We’ll rah-rah your efforts and swap tips and tricks on this amazingly accessible printmaking process.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.