How to make a Collagraph Print

a collagraph print of a house surrounded by a picket fence in a meadow near a stand of trees with puffy clouds in the background

What is a Collagraph?

A collagraph is a type of printmaking, traditionally made from a collaged printmaking plate.

If you’ve wondered how to make a collagraph – especially from mat board – here are the basic instructions, with a tutorial video!

Shapes and textures are layered on a matrix or plate (usually metal, masonite or plexiglass) and sealed with a gloss varnish.  After the sealed assemblage dries, the surface is inked, and wiped, intaglio style, with tarlatan, which is starched cheese cloth.

Inking and Wiping

The wiping removes ink from the uppermost surface area, but leaves plenty of pigment embedded around the textural elements, and caught against the curbs of layered shapes on the collage.

When the inked and wiped collagraph plate is pressed against paper – usually on a press, (but also rubbed with a baren or spoon) the resulting collagraph print is richly textured and wonderful.

Collagraphs, Many Ways

Here’s a link to a traditional collagraph, made with kid-grade construction paper, cut into the shape of a sleeping figure, and adhered to a sheet of mat board.

I’ve included a list of posts on collagraph plate building, inking (including a la poupee), wiping and printing below, so keep scrolling on down to see more… ?

a collagraph print under construction - hands carving and peeling linear elements in the shape of a woman's profile into a sheet of mat board
Peeling the uppermost surface of mat board to make a line-style collagraph

Collagraph Variations

Collagraphs are the chameleons of printmaking, because you can design the plate to print relief style (ink printed from 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. (For more tips and tricks from the studio, subscribe to get each new post via email here.)

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 like the image below.

a glue collagraph print, inked full color and being printed onto a sheet of paper
Pulling a print on a mat board base glue collagraph

How to make a mat board Collagraph

  1. Gather your supplies (here’s a list) and watch the tutorial video here: mat board (also called mount board in other parts of the world), a blade or knife, a pencil to draw your design, Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish, non-skid counter liner, a craft paint brush, intaglio printmaking ink, tarlatan wiping cloth, printmaking paper and a spoon.
  2. Draw your design on the back (smoothest side) of the mat board
  3. Seal the plate with the acrylic gloss medium and varnish thoroughly on the front, back and all edges.
  4. Lay the mat board on non skid shelf liner to keep it steady, 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 to remove them. You’re basically removing the drawn line, and replacing it with a trough you’ll pack with printmaking ink.
  5. Seal the plate again with the same varnish, pushing a thin coating along each line you carved to seal the exposed paper of the mat board
  6. Ink the plate with intaglio printmaking ink, wipe it with tarlatan, and buff any upper surface areas you want to “brighten” to alter the shades of plate tone (you can see this done in my demo video below)
  7. Lay a thin sheet of kozo mulberry printmaking paper or BFK Rives light weight printmaking paper on your inked and wiped plate. Hold it steady with one hand while you burnish the back of the paper with a spoon. You’ll see ink adhere to the paper as you push the cotton pulp of the paper towards the ink resting in your carved linear elements.
  8. 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!
mat board collagraph being built on a sheet of mat board
Carving the drawing of a house from the back of a sheet of scrap matboard
a mat board collagraph plate, with ink pushed into the incised linework 2019
Inking the collagraph plate intaglio style, with a dauber, water-clean up intaglio ink and wiping cloth.
a few colored pencils to layer color on a line style collagraph printed in brown ink
Adding colored pencil to a line style collagraph

(Watch the video demonstration for making the collagraph above on my youtube channel here.)

Try Making a Collagraph. 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 show us 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!

Belinda

P.S. If you’d like to get each new post via email – you can subscribe to this blog here (free).

Art Quote

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

Oscar Wilde
how to title your art online course details
Click the chalk art to get more information about this fast, effective video course

Collagraph Printmaking Tutorials

  • This post goes over the difference between intaglio and relief style inking and printing, and demonstrates using single, and multi-colored inking approaches for collagraph prints.
  • Carborundum is a very useful tool in the printmaker’s arsenal, and it works particularly well on mat board collagraphs. This post shows you how it works. Here’s another on using carborundum in collagraph portraits.
  • Once you get familiar with collagraph prints, you can mix them with other printmaking methods to create detailed, full color print editions. This post demonstrates collagraph plates to print background color, and a plexiglass drypoint to add the linear details of a whale and a mermaid swimming together.

19 thoughts on “How to make a Collagraph Print”

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  8. Belinda, I’ve been so inspired by your mat board collagraphs and videos and have been “practising” for a few months. At first I was much too heavy handed but thanks to your help my technique has improved.
    Over the past few days I’ve made four little plates–60mm x 90mm–from the same photo and printed about a dozen little prints, coloring four of them. Could I send you a photo?

  9. Pingback: Collagraph: Rainy Day Girl (making a collagraph with mat board and construction paper) - Belinda Del Pesco

  10. Shirley Hambrick

    I too just watched your you-tube collagraph tutorial and am blown away by your generosity. Now I’m itching to try it out! They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something so I’d better get started! πŸ™‚

    1. Shirley! You’re so kind! Thanks for this nice note, and I hope we can cross paths somewhere and trade stories from Provence! When you make a collagraph, share so we can see!

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  12. Absolutely stunning! I just finished watching your tutorial on youtube of the collagraph, brown version of this print. Thank you SO very much for sharing your expertise and techniques! Keep up the wonderful, inspiring work!

    1. Thanks for your visit Julie – I’m glad the video tutorial was helpful, and I hope your foray into making collagraphs is a resounding success. It’s a whole lotta fun. πŸ™‚

  13. As always, such a pleasant read! Your photographs are phenomenal and transport viewer right in the midst of the event. LOVE the Calvin & Hobbes quote – but I must add that “they never let you do that” no longer applies once one is retired and can finally say, with great pleasure: “they” can go……(to be completed at reader’s discretion!). LOL!

    1. Hah! Hi Gayle, yes, I imagine that retirement supplies a perpetual Permission Slip, so yes, pull up the covers and grab a book. Thanks for your always encouraging feedback.

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