A collagraph print is created by printing a plate possessing the inked matrix of collaged, relatively flat materials, which allow the replication of a variety of lines, textures and images. This is achieved by building up layers of low-relief patterns through a mix of modeling media, found, flat objects and exposed photopolymer emulsion. Once sealed and dry, the plate surface can be inked and the image transferred to paper.
The basic methods used to make a collagraph print plate may be described as additive and subtractive processes. The primary additive method, where this processes receives its namesake, involves creating a collage by gluing thin, found objects of various shapes, sizes, and textures to a base plate. Lines and textures may be created by painting a plate surface with modeling material such as acrylic gel, white glue, modeling paste, gesso, or adhering a grit with these materials. The subtractive collagraph process involves adhering a fine fabric like silk to the plate then subtracting the areas that will hold ink by painting out the “light” areas with acrylic medium.
Materials & Tools
Basic materials for collagraph are modeling and adhesive mediums, found 2-d textures and lines, a plate of solid cardboard, matboard, thin hardboard (such as Masonite), or plywood for additional support. Other materials like sheet plastic or metal can be used as a plate. Whatever is used, make certain that the chosen plate material will allow materials to adhere to its surface.
Basic tools include those used for cutting and carving materials, scoring lines, and cutting outlines of shapes. Synthetic brushes and palette knives are needed to spread and/or build lines and textures from the chosen medium upon the collagraph plate. Sandpaper is also useful in reducing and altering the dry plate surface.
To Print Intaglio
To Print Relief
*For printing by hand, place paper onto the plate and burnish from the back with a barren, wooden spoon, or other burnishing tool as in printing a linocut.
When you make your collagraph plate it will have to be constructed so that it is very thin, even when materials are glued onto it. Really thin kinds of material are, for example, sifted sand, leaves, fabric and rags, thread, torn papers and tin foil. It is very important to limit the thickness of the textures on the collagraph plate, especially if you intend to print them as relief prints. Seeds, beans and sticks, for example, will cause printing problems, as the press will have to accommodate this thickness yet still force the paper down into the grooves of the texture to connect the ink.
A plate may be constructed entirely of collagraph paste. Even finger textures translate into fascinating impasto effects.
If your class is working with time constraints (and if you want to eliminate one messy step from the process) you can cut down on the drying time of the plates by covering them with thin tin foil instead of varnish. Simply spread contact adhesive in a thin layer over the plate as well as on the matt side of the foil. Allow to dry for a while. Place the foil on the plate with the glue sides together and wrap the foil over the edges of the plate. Then run this through the etching press so that the foil moulds itself around the texture of the plate. This process is recommended for heavily textured plates especially.
You can use fine sifted sand very effectively to simulate intaglio aquatint effects. Spread wood glue wherever you want shadow in the image. Then sprinkle the sand over this area. When the glue is dry, shake away the excess sand. It is recommended that you use the varnish sealing method on these plates, rather than the tin foil method described above.
When printing a collagraph as an intaglio print make sure that the ink is soft enough. It should be considerably runnier than for intaglio and linocut printing.
In order to print a thick plate through the press you may need to run it through a few times.
.After a few runs collagraph plates are permanently flatter, so you should tighten the press pressure at this stage.
1. Avoid using substances which are intrinsically absorbent. These will hold ink which will then bleed under pressure.
2. Wiping scrim or tarlatan, as used in etching, is not really suitable for wiping collagraphs, as the heavily textured surface of the plate may prove too rugged for the soft wiping material. Absorbent cotton rags are more appropriate.
3. Make sure that all objects and surfaces on the plate are thoroughly adhered and sealed with a coat of well diluted P.V.A.
4. Give a sealing coat of spray lacquer or varnish, otherwise the paper can stick to the plate.
5. Mix white spirit with the ink to thin it. The heavy texture of the plate can mean difficulties in efficient wiping, and the most suitable ink is of a reasonably runny consistency. The ink should brush onto the plate and into the intaglio with ease.
Embossment and Negative Cast Relief Prints
Collagraph plate can also be used to produce embossed prints on dry paper from the un-inked plate, and plaster prints (inked plate) or negative plaster embossments from the un-inked plate.
Once all tools and materials are gathered, work can begin in whatever style you prefer. For example, if you wanted to create abstract shapes and textures, you might try stamping a sponge into gesso and then applying various relief textures on the plate surface. For a more patterned work, try using a paper or crocheted doily dipped in media and then transfer the image to the plate. The types of objects you can find, alter, and use are infinite and are limited only by the imagination.
By using found objects this way, images can either be transferred to a plate or the actual object itself can be glued to the plate and left to dry. These types of objects are also
abundant and include fabrics, pressed leaves and flowers, torn paper, and the like. The only criteria to adhering an object to a plate is that it must be extremely thin–typically less than 1/8th of an inch thick.
Each level of applied material should also be kept within this same height limit or undue stress may be placed upon the print paper. If necessary, you can create deeper embossments by incrementally building up layers, much like a staircase. Once the objects or other relief impressions dry and become part of the plate surface, they can be coated with a layer of acrylic gesso or medium to seal and protect the surface.
What remains is a low-relief image that can be inked and transferred to paper. Keep in mind that all plate images will print an inverse (or mirror) image, so this should be accounted for in the design phase. Another bonus is that a plate may be multiply printed in different colors and orientations to create a series of works after it has been cleaned and new ink (or paint) applied.
For more structured works, such as an interior or a landscape, print material or media can be carefully applied to a plate to represent specific shapes and compositions. To create an
illusion of depth, thicker layers can be built up and exact details can be applied by either painting medium on the areas required or by carving away low-lying areas.
Variations include carving into metal plates with power tools or using molten (or a fast-drying chemical) solder to build up relief textures or details. Another is adhering crumpled aluminum foil to the plate surface to create texture. If you try this, be certain to fill the backside of the foil so that it will not collapse under the pressure of the press.
It often takes several proof trials to get the desired effect from a print plate, so prepare for experimentation. For relief works, the plate can be inked and the image transferred to
paper by using a roller. For plates with incised lines and recessed textures, try applying ink, wiping the surface, and then transferring the remaining pigment just like an intaglio
print. You can either uniformly wipe pigment across a plate or paint specific areas as the image requires. As mentioned, be prepared to experiment with different techniques.