How to make a Collagraph

mat-board-collagraph-house 2019

Harmony House, 6.25 x 8.25 Collagraph (sold)

What is a Collagraph?

A collagraph is a type of printmaking, traditionally made from a collaged plate. If you’ve wondered how to make a collagraph – especially from mat board – I hope this is helpful. 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.

how to make a collagraph 2019

Peeling the uppermost surface of mat board to make a line-style collagraph

Collagraph Variations

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. (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.

what is a collagraph? 2019

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): 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.
  2. Draw your design on the back (smoothest side) of the mat board
  3. Seal the plate with the varnish thoroughly on the front, back and edges.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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)
  7. 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.
  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

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-based 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 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!


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

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~Oscar Wilde

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How to Make a Collagraph from Mat board, Glue and Ink
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How to Make a Collagraph from Mat board, Glue and Ink
Here are step by step instructions for making a mat board collagraph with process photos and links to demonstration videos and supply lists.
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Belinda Del Pesco
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16 Responses to How to make a Collagraph

  1. Clare 18/08/2018 at 1:57 am #

    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?

  2. Shirley Hambrick 08/01/2017 at 4:04 pm #

    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! 🙂

    • Belinda DelPesco 10/01/2017 at 3:41 pm #

      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!

  3. Julie Polt 14/11/2016 at 5:29 am #

    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!

    • Belinda DelPesco 15/11/2016 at 8:14 am #

      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. 🙂

  4. seamustheone 14/05/2016 at 12:55 pm #

    Harmony House is glorious. A lovely piece. That its is sold is excellent .. it takes away temptation …

    • Belinda DelPesco 14/05/2016 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks for the confidence booster. Sold is always a plus, yes, and I very much appreciate that you found it tempting. 🙂

  5. gaelle1947 11/05/2016 at 5:46 pm #

    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!

    • Belinda DelPesco 12/05/2016 at 7:28 am #

      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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