Inking Tutorials for Collagraph Prints in Single or Multi Color Prints

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Mat Board Collagraph Versatility

Have you ever made a mat board collagraph? If not, and you want to try it, visit this post for a detailed overview on making your first collagraph plate.

If you’ve already created mat board collagraphs, do you print them just one way? Intaglio (with the uppermost surface cleared and wiped, and the recessed areas loaded with ink, to print from the “basement” of the plate)?

Or Relief prints – applying and printing ink only from the uppermost part of the plate – or the “roof”, leaving the recessed areas blank? [NOTE: If you have trouble distinguishing between printmaking terms intaglio and relief, you can word-associate relief with roof. ? ]

a sheet of mat board - also known as press board or mount board - in a hand
Click the mat board to visit a playlist of youtube tutorials on how to make and print mat board collagraphs

Keep Imagining Beyond the Plate

Let’s go over your options for inking a collagraph plate for a minute.

Mat Board collagraphs are such a versatile printmaking method – in everything from the plate building, to surface treatments. You can create massively topographical collagraph plates, with assorted hills and valleys of material adhered to the plate, or subtle, repeat pattern prints like these glue collagraphs by Eunice Kim.

But don’t stop your experiments on the plates themselves, because you can have an absolute party with the inking methods you choose.

blobs of ink on a plexiglass covered work surface, with printmaking and inking tools around
Typical Print Day table top: Inks, brayers, stir sticks and g-tips.

Inking the Plate a La Poupee

A la Poupee is a french term in printmaking referring to inking a plate with multiple colors using a dauber. The translation for a la poupee is “with the doll”.

In the photo below, I’ve got a rolled swatch of crafting felt held around the belly with masking tape to make a dauber – or a “doll”.

You can dip the felt dauber into different colored inks, and apply them to portions of the mat board collagraph plate.  This will allow you to print a full color collagraph with one pass through the press.

So, inking the plate in full color, with a dauber is called “a la poupee”.

[Note: You can also ink the plate in different colors using stiff-bristle artist’s paint brushes.]

a mat board collagraph of a black tuxedo cat being inked in full color
Inking a mat board collagraph plate in the a la poupee method
a craft felt dauber made by rolling two inch strips of felt and securing them with masking tape to use as an ink applicator in printmaking
Another felt dauber to use on a collagraph plate. The plate was created from mat board, and carborundum – sand paper grit. (You can see the plate – under construction -in this blog post.)

How to Make an Ink Dauber

You can buy crafting felt online or at your local fabric and craft store. Any color will work.  I tend towards white to see the ink color used on either end of the dauber, but you can see in the photo below that, over time, the dauber’s get so inky, the color of the felt won’t show or matter.

By clipping two inch strips of felt, and rolling them tightly (see below), you can secure them with masking tape, leaving a bit less than a quarter inch of felt exposed at either end. The collar of tape keeps the dauber firm in your hand and stiff enough to push ink down into the incised lines on your plate. Use one color on each end – Example – green ink on one end, and blue ink on the other.

Make at least 3-4 daubers, which will give you 6-8 colors to dip and push around on your plate. After several months of use, the ink dries out and gets too stiff in the felt, so you can clip and remove the masking tape, unroll your felt, and use scissors to trim 1/8 inch off the inked edges, and then re-roll and re-tape the dauber to start fresh again.

pencil drawn diagrams for cutting and rolling felt daubers for a la poupee printmaking
How to Make Ink Daubers from Felt and Masking Tape for your a la Poupee Printmaking Adventures
A color collagraph of a great dane dog in profile, with trays of colored pencils in the background
Colored pencil as a saturation-enhancing medium – sticks to most printmaking inks beautifully.

Color Your World

The print of the great dane at the top of this post was printed here in full color, using the a la poupee method of inking the plate.

After pulling the print, I added colored pencil, which  sharpened the dog’s features, and enhanced the saturation of some colors on the print.

Keep in mind that you can ink your plate in totally different colors for each print in your edition. Printing an edition of 10 collagraph prints? Ink them 10 different ways. Go ahead. Summon the power of your own Say-So.

That great dane in the collagraph above could be traffic-cone orange if you wanted. The artist is the Boss. It’s totally up to you.

putty knives, carving tools, brayers and palette knives in the studio
Printmaking tools in the artist’s studio
A collagraph of a great dane in a garden, printed from a collagraph plate in black and white
The same mat board collagraph plate pulled in monochrome

Inking Your Collagraph in All Sorts of Ways

When inking your collagraph plate, you can use a single color, intaglio style. The plate above was inked in graphite gray ink with a felt dauber, and then wiped with tarlatan cloth.

Wiping the upper surface – the “roof” of your plate leaves a light “plate tone” or veil of ink on your print, so those wiped surface shapes will print very light.

The narrow, recessed areas remain full of ink as the tarlatan passes over the top, missing the ink huddled in the skinny “basement”. 🙂

Think about where you want that darker line work when you plan the cutting in your mat board.

A collagraph of a great Dane dog standing in a garden, in profile, watching intently
Garden Watch 7 x 7 inch collagraph (available matted and framed here)

Wiping Ink and Pre-Planning

Big, broad shapes that are cut away from the surface of the mat board won’t hold ink when the tarlatan cloth sweeps over the exposed, broad, shallow craters in the plate.

In the dog’s head, which is not cut-away as much as it’s outlined, is wiped clean. The markings around her eyes and ears stayed dark, even after they were wiped because I used carborundum – or sandpaper grit in those shapes.

Ink stays embedded between the granules of grit, so you can wipe the area, and still retain and control dark passages.

Carborundum was also used in some of the garden trees and tiles of the patio.

collagraph printmaking inking methods
A collagraph plate inked both intaglio – coated in paynes gray ink, and wiped, and then inked in a relief style – top rolled with an aqua ink

Overlapping Inking Methods

In the collagraph plate above, there is no carborundum, but the linear elements were added with two, overlapping inking methods.

First, graphite colored ink was pushed into all the line work on the plate, and wiped intaglio style, clearing the uppermost surface. This left the rich, gray pigment in the recessed lines around the figure, the book and the pattern on her dress.

Then a mixture of transparent base (colorless ink) and a bit of green and blue inks were blended together to make a transparent aqua-color.

This aqua-tinted ink was top-rolled on the plate with a brayer, to coat all the upper, cleared-of-gray-ink, flat areas.   Now, we have gray ink in the crevices, and turquoise ink on the top, or relief areas (the ‘roof’ of the plate, if you were an ant). 🙂

The aqua ink was made partially transparent so we can see through it to the fully opaque gray inks. The result is a two-color print that can be presented as is, or with added media – like colored pencil – after the ink dries. Make sense?

Collagraph Inking Tutorial Video

The Great Dane collagraph in this post was created as a video tutorial to demonstrate inking a la poupee (multicolor) and intaglio (monochrome) on my youtube channel.

If you want to see the inking and wiping of a collagraph plate as described in this post, click on the video above, and watch the demonstration of inking your plate in two methods. The model was my neighbor’s sweet, big dog – Stella – long gone now, but still with us in memory.

Garden Watch, matted and framed, and ready to hang (available here)

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

There are no right or wrong ways to ink a collagraph plate. All of it depends on what you expect as you pull the print. It’s almost always a surprise. (The single color collagraph inking for controlled values tutorial below might give you some tips and tricks.)

Try to keep an open mind, and whet your expectations with a bigger sense of wonder. Each new inking and printing set up will instruct your next print. Try to enjoy the learning as much as you enjoy the making. 🙂

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


P.S. You can subscribe to receive each new post as soon as it’s published by signing up here.

Art Quote

Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. … It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.

Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

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9 thoughts on “Inking Tutorials for Collagraph Prints in Single or Multi Color Prints”

  1. Hello Belinda.
    Your art work is incredible!
    I have never made a print. I have never taken a printing course. I do not have any printing supplies.
    I would like to try to make a very simple print.
    I appreciate your generosity , as you share your print making process with others.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Terri,
      Thank you for the compliments! I hope your journey into printmaking sparks further exploration, an explorer’s hat, and an experimenter’s planning and plotting and testing!

  2. Hi Belinda… I recently discovered your site… your work is wonderful and your videos are so generous with both practical and inspiring material. I noticed the link for the craft felt to make a dauber is for wool blend felt. Is that preferable to acrylic felt? Thanks!

    1. Hi Andrea, Thanks for the kind feedback. 🙂 The dauber can be made of either wool, wool blend or acrylic felt. Thicker is better, but they each break down with time and use, so I tend towards less expensive materials with that in mind. So preferable will be determined by your collagraph plate style, ink choices, frequency, and budget. Start with acrylic and move up from there, if it doesn’t suit you. Happy printing!

  3. Oh ok you twisted my arm. You’re the best and I love your blog. I just wish I could afford that Takach etching press you use. The company that makes them is located here in Albuquerque, New Mexico on South Broadway. I look forward to your blog.

    1. Hi John! Thanks for your kind words. I’m jealous that you live close to Takach, and you can visit their showroom and buy supplies locally! They’re such good peeps over there! If you work small, have you seen the movement to use embossers by X-Cut and X-Press to make intaglio prints? Here is a facebook group: And here is a post on my blog about those, and the use of pasta makers for the same purpose:

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