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how to make a collagraph
Rainy Day Girl 4×6 Collagraph with watercolor and Colored Pencil printed on Arches Cover paper

Make a Collagraph

This collagraph was inspired by a photo snapped in Rockport, MA in the 80’s, and it was one of the first collagraph’s I assembled. This is a simple, straight forward method of printmaking you can do at home. Collect your art supplies; a piece of matboard or illustration board as a base, some construction paper to cut out the shapes of your subject, scissors and an exacto knife, and a bottle of liquitex gloss medium varnish to adhere the pieces, and seal the entire plate once your cut paper has been laid in place. Then, you’ll need ink, paper to print on, some rags, and a wooden spoon to rub & transfer your print to the paper.
Another version of Rainy Day Girl

Printing a Collagraph Intaglio Style

After the print was inked, wiped (intaglio style) and printed ; this (above) is an option for printing if you want to leave enough paper exposed under the ink to add watercolor, colored pencil, gouache, etc.

By printing this plate with a myriad of ink colors (above, printed in black, and below, inked in blue), I have a variety of prints in the edition to play with. For the piece at the top of this post, I left black ink from a previous run though the press on the plate. The same day, I top rolled the plate in a gray-green ink, buffed a little of it away here and there, and printed. After the ink was dry, I added a little colored pencil. The options are endlessly fun.

Print Without a Press

You can print a collagraph without a press, by hand-rubbing the back of the paper with a wooden spoon, or a wooden drawer knob.  Visit this post to see photos of another collagraph with shots of the plate being assembled.

Pulling the collagraph print after inking it relief style (on the uppermost surface)

Pulling the Print

After inking and wiping the plate, paper is pressed against the ink,  and pulled away to reveal all sorts of interesting patterns and texture.

Once the ink on the paper is dry, you can go in and alter the image with watercolor, pastel, colored pencil or acrylic, etc. The possibilities and effects are endless, and each print you pull becomes something wholly unique from every other print.
The collagraph plate under construction, with reference sketch, and construction paper adhered to matboard with liquitex gloss medium varnish.

Choose a Subject

If you decide to make a collagraph, choose a relatively simple image, with a focus on shape, rather than complexity. For example, if you want to start with an image of a still life – choose something with easy-to-cut edges, like a tea pot, rather than a flower arrangement with a million little petals. 🙂  

what is a collagraph
Another mat board collagraph, inked as a relief print, with the blue on the uppermost surface, after being inked and wiped, intaglio style with a graphite colored ink, to get a two-color effect.

Gather Your Art Supplies

  1. Mat board
  2. A reference image and a pencil to draw with
  3. Liquitex gloss medium varnish and a brush for application
  4. An exacto knife or a fiskars fingertip knife
  5. Ink (Akua Intaglio works well, mixed with Akua MagMix)
  6. Printmaking paper
  7. A spoon (wooden or metal) or a baren (or both)
Collagraph print, ready for other media to create something wholly different from the other prints. Here’s a playlist of tutorial videos I made on my YouTube Channel to assist you with making one. Happy Printing!


Share Your Art

If you decide to make a collagraph, be sure to leave us a link in the comments so we can come and see what you’ve done. Printmaking is a wonderful medium to play with, and there are hundreds of ways to create the plates, ink them, and print them. It’s a never ending adventure and I bet you’ll be hooked once you try it!

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

P.S. You can subscribe to get each blog post (free) as an email by signing up here.


how to title your art
If you struggle with inventing compelling titles for your art, let me help you with that. I’ve got a great art titling system to share with you. Click the kitty for more info.

how to make a collagraph print
Pulling a collagraph print from a sheet of mat board covered with cut construction paper, sealed and inked intaglio style.

Art Quote

The world is bigger than you are; your only choice is to make things better or not at the scale of your abilities. Therefore when times are good, build. And when times are bad, build. The times are not yours to dictate, only the building. The world you can best make better is the world of your family and friends. Improvement in the world at large has always been largely a matter of a preponderance of people who made their small worlds better. Therefore mark a sad time for a small period, then take heart, and be glad of heart. Go on doing good.

Daniel Maidman
Which Watercolor Paper should I use?
Click the rinse water to get a free Watercolor Paper 101 three-page info sheet full of details about surfaces, weights, manufacturing and types of watercolor paper.

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6 thoughts on “Collagraph: Rainy Day Girl (making a collagraph with mat board and construction paper)”

  1. Ginny Barkman

    I am very interested in your knife cut matboard collagraphs, This is something I would like to try with the idea of adding watercolour paint to the “pulled” collagraph. Logically, one probably needs to use an oil based ink, rather than water-based, just for the waterproofing issues to prevent the dissolving of the inks. Are my assumptions correct? I did watch your you tube on this technique but don’t recall your mentioning the oil-based vs water-based inks. Thanks for the great video.

    1. Hi Ginny, I answered this via email, but I want to answer it here as well, in case anyone else has this question: Some water-soluble printmaking inks re-wet with watercolor, and others don’t. If you want the option of adding wet media to your dried prints, try inks by Akua (intaglio, recommend adding mag mix to the ink), Caligo Safe Wash, and Charbonnel Aquawash Etching ink. They all clean up with soap and water, but they dry permanent once they adhere to absorbent paper.

  2. Super print and description of your process. I remember standing in front of Monet’s paintings of Poplars in Stuttgart, Germany and feeling like weeping at the beauty. Up close the paintings were very abstract.

    Love your work.


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