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.
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.
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… 🌀
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.
How to make a mat board Collagraph
- 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.
- Draw your design on the back (smoothest side) of the mat board
- Seal the plate with the acrylic gloss medium and varnish thoroughly on the front, back and all edges.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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!
(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!
P.S. If you’d like to get each new post via email – you can subscribe to this blog here (free).
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.Oscar Wilde
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.