Collagraph Prints from Recycled Paper Food Cartons

collagraph-print of a girl and a sunflower made from a recycled food carton

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Making Art from Stuff at Home

After printing drypoint etchings from recycled plastic food containers (see drypoints from plastic in this series), I’m experimenting with other household materials. In this post, a recycled paper food carton will be used to make a collagraph print. Let’s head into the kitchen!

Experimenting with collagraph prints using a section of packaging snipped from a rice carton

Printing Collagraphs with What You Have

With lockdowns in place all over the globe due to the pandemic, we have to make art with what we have on hand, right? I used an awl to scribe a figure gazing up at a sunflower, based on a photo my friends Thomas and Maureen gave me permission to use as a reference.

I added printmaking carborundum – which is sand paper grit – around the figure. It’s a great way to add contrast to your prints, since it holds ink, even after wiping the plate.

Carborundum is basically sand paper grit, and it comes in different particle sizes for printmaking

Make Do

If you don’t have carborundum, you can use corn meal. You can also cut fine-grit sandpaper and adhere it to your plate. It also works to sand the plate where you want some dark areas, and that will rough-up the surface a bit.

Seal the entire plate when you’re finished scribing and texturing. If you’re fresh out of gloss medium and varnish, you can dilute white acrylic paint and seal the entire plate (at least twice) front, back and edges. Shellac or button polish also works well.

I used Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish to adhere the carborundum to my plate. I also used it to seal the plate front, back and edges.
After painting carborundum mixed with the liquitex gloss medium over the background around the figure

Watch the Demonstration Video on Patreon

If you’re a Patreon supporter, head over to my Patreon page to watch the video demo of this fun little experiment. If you’re unfamiliar with Patreon, read the About section over here.

I’ve made a list of supplies below, so you can gather your goodies, and start printing from cereal, pasta, cracker or cookie cartons. Making art from recycled materials is surprisingly rewarding. There’s less pressure to “get it right”, and more permission to let wild hairs spring!

The lines incised to hold ink on the interior of the rice box were scribed with an awl. You can see the granules of the grit in this close-up

Collagraph Printmaking in the Kitchen (or the Garage)

I hope your creative forays during lockdown have included perusing the drawers in the kitchen and the garage. There are all sorts of culinary and utility tools you can re-consider as art supplies.

Don’t have carborundum? Try finely crushed cornflakes. Don’t have a press? Experiment with a die cutting machine, a bench vice, a rolling pin, or a stomp method of printing. Don’t have collagraph plate material? Try a cereal or pasta box, or a sheet of cardboard.

After inking and wiping the plate with Akua Paynes Gray intaglio printmaking ink, the collagraph was pressed against soaked and blotted BFK Rives printmaking paper on an etching press
The collagraph print, next to the rice carton collagraph plate. The image is a little rough around the edges, but a bit of colored pencil will be a fun fixer-upper.
I waited till the next day for the ink to dry so I could play with color and detail using colored pencils.
On the couch, adding the first layer of colored pencil to the collagraph print. The carborundum created a toothy texture the pencil loved sticking to
Adding successive layers and refining details on the collagraph print with colored pencils
The collagraph print, finished with colored pencils. Star Gazing – available in my Etsy Shop.

Put Your Experimenter’s Hat On

I’ve read lots of posts in this Facebook collagraph group from artists who feel afraid to try a new press, or new ink, or a challenging reference image.

Please don’t be afraid of art. We are not suturing a stab wound. We’re making fun things with our hands!

Direct your mind towards enjoying the process. Shrug your shoulders if it turns out a little wonky. You Get To start over if it doesn’t work. Fancy that! And, you take all the particulars you just learned with you to the next experiment.

If you catch yourself starting to feel afraid or hesitant to make something new, tape the mouth of that naysayer, and wrap a super hero cape around your shoulders. Have courage, and make something. (<– Read this if you need a boost.) It’s just art. Carry on.

Thanks for your visit, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. If you’re interested in trying Akua’s carborundum gel (I’ve not tried it myself yet), this product PDF is very informative. It looks fun, right?

P.P.S. If you’re interested in seeing other printmakers using recycled materials, look at Karen Wick’s collagraph prints from medicine and juice containers, and Dan Tirels’ monotypes made from oil paint and plastic grocery bags.

Adding colored pencil to a figurative collagraph print of a woman napping with a cat
Have you experimented with colored pencils on your collagraph prints?

Art Quote

I cannot think of myself apart from the influence of the two or three greatest friendships of my life, and any account of my own growth must be that of their stimulating and enlightening influence.

Edith Wharton
Stone washed linen artist’s apron. This soft shade of pink is my favorite, and it’s hanging on my studio door right now – because my sweet husband gave it to me as a gift! (They come in all sorts of colors) Stone washed linen seems like a nice alternative from the usual stiff canvas or denim artist’s studio aprons, don’t you think?

Supplies for this Collagraph

a cat asking the question: Are You Missing Your Art Supplies?
Have a look at this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

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4 thoughts on “Collagraph Prints from Recycled Paper Food Cartons”

  1. Belinda! Hi. I read your whole blog today…I’ve been drawing….isn’t it amazing what this isolation can gift us? Hope you are well. Katie Poole

    1. Hello there, my friend! You’re drawing!?? Tell me more! What are you drawing and with what media? Yayyy for you! We are all well, thanks, and I wish the same for you and yours. XO

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