Egg Shells and Inky Fingers – Intaglio Collagraph Printing

June 16, 2017 , In: General, Inspiration, Mixed Media, Printing

I have spent the past two Saturdays at the Artisan Community Arts Studio I told you about in my last post taking workshops in Intaglio Collograph printing with Genevieve Lavers. Collograph printing is a method whereby textural materials are applied to a rigid board to create a printing plate and Intaglio means the image is impressed into the surface and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. Since the aim of the workshop was to Introduce us to ways of creating texture, tone and line all the work was abstract in nature and while I can’t claim to have created any great masterpieces I do think the results were pretty good for a first attempt and it was a hugely enjoyable and I suspect, rather addictive.

The first day was spent preparing a set of individual plates to illustrate texture, tone and line and then a final plate where we could either combine techniques or play around with the one we most enjoyed. First up was the texture plate which basically involves creating a collage of texture materials, much like we did all those years ago at school. All sorts of textured materials can be used to great effect and are simply applied to mount board with PVA glue. My first plate included wallpaper, scrunched tissue paper, eggshell, oats and a paper doily. 

For the second plate we experimented with tone by creating random patterns on the plates with PVA glue and then sprinkling carborundum grit over certain areas – the heavier the grit on the plate the darker the area will be on the final print. Areas where the PVA is left untouched will act as as resist to create light tones and the plate itself will give mid-tones.

For the final plates we were concerned with mark making and used craft knives to create zentangles and simple line images and created some additional tone by lifting areas of the paper surface to make it more porous and ink absorbent. I seem to have forgotten to take pictures of these at this point but have them at a later stage so never fear. At the end of the day we had a chance to do one more plate and I went back to the texture plate as thats the technique that appealed to me most.

Before the plates can be used for printing they have to be sealed with Shelac or varnish and because our plates were still tacky Genevieve took them away and did them for us in preparation for day two of the workshop. When we arrived on day two we all had a little parcel waiting for us and here you can see my line plates with all the others…even at this stage there is a certain artistic quality to them.

So now for the really exciting bit…we get to make prints from our plates and that involves the very messy process of inking up. 

We used oil based inks which were applied with card spreaders and tooth brushes for the heavily textured pieces where you really need to work the ink into the plate. This is one of my plates half inked.

Once the plate is completely covered the excess ink is removed in stages using cotton scrim, newsprint and finally tissue paper.

My first plate ready to print and again it’s quite attractive in it’s own right.

Intaglio printing is done on paper with a heavy cotton content that has been soaked in water and blotted to aid ink adherence. This is the fabulous brand new press we were using to print. The plates are laid face up on paper on the bed of the press and the print paper carefully positioned over the top. Three blankets of varying thicknesses are then laid over the top and the prints are run through the press using the wheel – very simple and very satisfying. 

Then comes the excitement of the reveal – drum roll please…my very first print!

It’s really interesting to see how the different materials work and I particularly liked the effect of the egg shells and the crumpled tissue paper. Collagraph plates can be used multiple times and are re-inked each time. I took a second print from this plate but when I re-inked it I left the heavier areas untouched and I also used a second colour applied in a thin layer with a roller. I was a bit heavy handed with the roller so the edges are a bit hard but the the effect is really interesting and I like that the blue ink is lighter than the first attempt.

Before printing the tonal plates we went over the glue areas with cotton buds to clean away any excess grit and then went through the same press process.

With our second tonal print we had a go at a technique called Chine Colle which involves adding layers of coloured tissue to the plate. The tissue has to be glued on one side and then placed on the plate glue side up (no easy feat) so that it sticks to the paper as it goes trough the press. It’s a great way of adding a pop of colour to the print.

These are the prints made from my line work plates and you can see how the ink seeps into the cuts to give a sharp line. The lighter tonal effects were achieved by going over certain sections of the plate with a cotton bud after wiping them off.

My last prints comes from the second texture plate I did at the end of the day and this one was a little disappointing. I used a section of lace as part of my textures and It was to closely woven to give much detail and looks very heavy. I was also trying to do a fine spiral with some PVA to create a resist section but it was a bit thick and gloopy and didn’t do what I wanted. But that’s all part of the learning experience and you can always crop sections you do like from your plates.

I did a second ‘ghost’ print from this plate which means I didn’t re-ink it with the blue but I did add some other colours and I think this one worked much better – I still don’t like the lace but it does have a slightly softer feel.

These are some of the fabulous prints produced by my class mates published with their permission….

And of course when you look at what can be done by a talented and experienced print maker like Genevieve you can see why I found this workshop so inspiring…

I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop and have already signed up for a Monotype workshop with Genevieve later this year…hopefully more collograph workshops are in the pipeline too. If you would like to find out more about Genevieve you can visit her website or facebook page and information about Artisan Community Art Studio can be found here.


Lesley Watt

Lesley Watt started making jewellery in 2009 with a handful of hobby store beads but quickly discovered art beads and became completely smitten. Taking courses in metal clay, metal smithing, enamelling and etching she began making her own components in 2011 and has never looked back. Always looking to try new things she has branched out into ceramics, bead embroidery, mixed media and textiles.
    • jewelsofsayuri
    • June 16, 2017

    It sounds like a fabulous workshop where you learned an array of new skills. I have never heard of printing through this roller press process. So I learned a lot from your post

  1. Reply

    That looks like brilliant fun, thanks for sharing how you did it… the results are beautiful!!!

  2. Reply

    Okay… I really, really need a printing press! My favorite texture is from the crushed egg shell pieces!

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