How to make a Collagraph plate | Printmaking at Home
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
*Pssst! If you'd like a more in-depth look at Collagraph, check out my Skillshare classes!
Printmaking is one of the most exciting and forgiving of mediums to create art with, allowing you to experiment with one piece multiple times, while providing surprises in the results at every turn.
One of my favourite printmaking methods is Collagraph. Collagraph is a relief print, created from various textures. Essentially, we create a collage and then print from it.
So how to start?
The first task is to create a “plate”. This is the term used to describe your finished collage that you’ll be inking up and printing from. Your plate, once finished, can be used multiple times, and can be as large or small as you wish.
Collect your collage materials together
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You need a flat sturdy surface to create your collage on. I use a piece of thickish Greyboard, but you can use any thick card or board you can find that is the right size for your design.
Grab some PVA Glue and a brush or spatula to apply it with.
Then you can get creative! As you will be creating a collage, there are very few rules about what materials you should use. Here are some ideas for things to look out for:
Wool and String
Lace and other textured fabrics
Rice or lentils
The list could go on and on! Essentially, you are looking for items which have an interesting texture, but that can take pressure without crushing.
*Things to avoid*
The only types of things not recommended to use in a collagraph are:
Sharp metals or objects
Things that will squash, squish or crush
This is particularly important if you are using a printing press later. Sharp edges on a plate could tear through not only your paper but also the blankets on the press bed, harming your press. If things are not dried and are therefore squishable they could also seep through to stain the blankets.
Tip: Try to use materials which have similar heights to each other, so that everything has an even chance of pressing well later.
Creating your Collage
Now is the fun bit! For your first design, pick something simple - and remember, the end print will be reversed, so if it needs to be a certain way around, mirror your design from the outset.
Collagraphs can be abstract or figurative. You can sketch out a design on your board to give you a template to work on, or you can go with the flow and just see what happens.
Take your time and think about the textures you’d like to create in any given section. At this point, it will be a guessing game, because you don’t know how anything will print later. So just try to feel it out.
Tip: You can always create a mini test plate first, with a bunch of different materials on, which you can use to see how well things work print-wise.
My favourite material to use at the moment is tissue paper, because it can be scrunched into all sorts of shapes. I also enjoy scrunched up flattened tin foil (which doesn’t look like much on the plate but creates a great texture in the print) and wool and string for it’s fluid, bendy possibilities. Play around with the things you find - you’ll soon discover your own favourites!
Use the PVA glue to stick your materials to the plate securely. You can even use the glue itself to create extra textures on the surface too.
Once you have covered your plate with textures, and the glue is all dry, you can seal it…
Sealing the Plate
Before you put ink onto your plate, you need to seal it. Technically, there’s nothing stopping you from inking immediately and printing, but if you do, that will be the only time you’ll use that plate. Without sealing, the ink will soak into your plate and won’t be removed, so is also unlikely to print very well, as the ink won’t transfer from the plate to the paper as easily.
So let’s give our plate the best chance at a long life and seal it!
I currently use Rustins Button Polish to seal my plates. Anything with shellac in it, like Button or French Polish, will create a good seal. Alternatively you can use an artist’s gloss varnish if you have it. It’s important to use a gloss version and not a matt, because the gloss finish allows the ink to be removed easier.
Grab a brush and apply your sealant over the whole plate. Make sure you get sealant into all the crevices, and, for extra longevity, make sure to seal the back of the plate soo. You’ll need a good few coats of this, so no rushing allowed! By doing this part properly you are setting yourself up for much printing joy later.
And that’s it! Leave it to fully dry and then you are ready to print!
In my next blog I’ll show you how to print your beautiful new plate. Hurrah!
Keep Making To Make Happy,
Love Gem x
Materials to prep for the next stage:
For the next stage:
A Metal Spoon
A rolling pin and a non slip mat (or a block print roller/brayer)
Mulberry Paper (or another thin strong paper)
Any other papers you'd like to experiment printing onto
Small sponge and water