Silk Aquatint Printmaking: Library Cat

Library Cat 4×4 silk aquatint with colored pencil (available in my etsy shop)

Silk Aquatint Portrait

Here is another silk aquatint , with colored pencil, based on a quick cell phone snapshot of my trusty studio assistant, Scout.  

He’s all about being helpful, especially if you need things like fur in the paint, shoe laces untied while carving details on a block, paint brushes scattered to the floor, or a lap warmer.

He’s house-renowned as an expert in his field of Bothersome-but-Cute. Do you have a studio assistant?

sigining small editions - a hand holding the print after it's been signed and numbered
Signing a small edition of ten silk aquatint prints
Applying printmaking ink to the plate with scrap mat board to get ready to print a small edition of silk aquatints

How do you Make a Silk Aquatint?

If you’re unfamiliar with silk aquatint, visit this post to read an explanation of the process and the concept.

After you read about how a silk aquatint is made, come back here, and let’s look at this version of a silk aquatint, made from a sheet of mat board and synthetic silk.

This was an experiment in plate-making; I wanted to see if the plate substrate could be made from mat board (also called press board or gray board, depending on the continent you live on). For flexibility, I wanted to understand if the plate material would work best when made from mat board, masonite or plexiglass.

You can see in the post I referred to above that I made quite a few test plates on different surfaces, with different forms of silk. I’ll go into more details on that in a video later, to help demystify this beautiful process.

Pushing ink into the silk adhered to a sealed mat board plate, and painted with acrylic and medium gloss gel
Wiping ink away from the plate with tarlatan (starched cheesecloth)
After a trip through the press, where the paper was pressed into the ink-holding mesh of the silk, the print is pulled

No Press, No Problem

Silk Aquatint is a beautiful option for detailed, and subtly shaded printmaking. It does require a press, but don’t let that stop you.

For the first decade or two after my introduction to printmaking, I continued to make blocks and plates, and then begged and borrowed time on other people’s presses everywhere I went.

Search your town for printmakers, printing labs, print workshops, junior colleges and Universities with print programs till you find resources. Access to print labs will also acquaint you with various presses.

Your hands-on experiences will inform your decision later, if you plan to buy a press of your own.

And if you enjoy working small, research the movement of altering embossing machines and pasta makers to print intaglio style printmaking (drypoint, silk aquatint, collagraph) at home.

a small aquatint of a cat's face getting a little colored pencil tinting, next to a sleeping cat with his back to the artwork
The model, napping through his modeling session for added color and detail, as usual.
a computer screen with an image of the cat portrait art, and the cat who posed for the art in front of the monitor, looking at the viewer.
After scrutinizing the aquatint he “modeled” for (slept through), he’s contemplating a request for higher wages, more petting time, and an increase in cat-treats.
a tuxedo cat portrait in aquatint, matted and framed in black, narrow profile wood
Library Cat all framed and ready for a wall

Are You New Here?

Over the years, I’ve shared hundreds of How-To articles on this blog. The posts are related to watercolor painting and printmaking methods in a variety of formats. Some of the more “delicate” methods, like collagraph printmaking, silk aquatints, glazing in watercolor and reduction printing in relief – require a bit more detail than a still image can convey. I really want to help you learn these amazing painting and printmaking methods. The process is as enjoyable as the finished results.

Weigh in on This

I’m filming and editing process videos for my youtube channel and my online course site to help you understand the nuances that can make or break your results. Please understand that the job of making the blocks, filming all the steps, editing hours of footage down to a bite sized length, creating title slates and narrating the content in a clear and concise way is a Herculean effort. I do plan to share steps on silk aquatint, but my list is looooong, and I have paintings to finish for upcoming events, so please be patient. You are invited to leave a comment on the particular tutorials you’d find most helpful. Your input helps guide my planning, every year, so don’t be shy. What would you like to learn?

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


P.S. You can subscribe to get each new post via email as soon as it’s published – sign up here.

a tuxedo cat with a watercolor brush in his paws, chewing on the bristles
A cat in the Art Studio – chewing paint brushes ?

Art Quote

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
Steven Pressfield

Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

7 thoughts on “Silk Aquatint Printmaking: Library Cat”

  1. Pingback: Making a Silk Aquatint: The Captain's Cabin - Belinda Del Pesco

  2. Hi Belinda, I am very interested in this type of printmaking. My question is, how do you clean the mat board plate between printings or at the end of the run? Is the cleaning process different from when you use plexi glass? Thanks! Adrienne in Minnesota

  3. Mary Barousse

    I receive your emails and enjoyed reading up on silk aquatint today. Your information was so helpful. I can’t wait to experiment in the future!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. I have a studio dog, Border Terrier Tessa, 4 years old and very impatient. 18 lbs of mischief. I enjoy your posts and thank you for sharing your techniques. Great blog.

    1. Hi Jan, 18 pounds of mischief gave me pause! Now THAT would be a studio-interruption! But I bet your Tessa is cute enough to make each visitor to your studio empty their pockets of all treats for her! Thanks so much for your visit, and compliments! Happy creating!

  5. Hi Sue, My studio cat Scout sends a hello to your studio cat Pipkin. Paw-High-Five. I’m glad Susan is teaching silk aquatint – it’s a beautiful and painterly printmaking method more people should know about. I do have the Library Cat print – it’s an edition of 10. I’ll have to add one to my Etsy Shop. Thanks for your interest. 🙂

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....