studio activity - collagraph print

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Summer evening

Recently I made a return to collagraph plate printing. I am in admiration of the works of a many print-makers that I view online. Through social media I have been able to converse with a few of them. Our exchange of info has renewed an enthusiasm for again experimenting with the medium in my studio.

                                The image shown at the top of this blog post (Summer Evening) is the result of the combination of two mediums, those being monoprint and collagraph. The past couple of days I have printed a range of images off plates (anywhere from one up to three plates). The first few have been mostly printed to test the image produced by alterations to the plate surfaces.

Let's start at the beginning. The print began by making a free hand sketch referring to a photo I had taken in the late summer of 2013 during an evening on the shores of a lake where I was staying. I had the photo displayed on my tablet and reversed it using mirror image in my photo editing app. The plate would require imagery to be in reverse so that during printing it would reverse to the original direction.

I drew the landscape and foliage in graphite onto a piece of smooth mat board that was trimmed to 11.5 x 11.5 cm (4.5 x 4.5 inches). I went over the graphite with permanent black fine line marker. Using a scalpel blade I scored into the outline of the distant hills and the silhouette of a rock outcrop that would protrude into the water just in front of this. I carefully removed the first surface layer of paper from the board by lifting and pulling it slowly back. The core layer of the mat was exposed and left a slightly rough surface (that I wanted). 
Then I sealed both the surface and the back of the plate with a thin even coating of clear shellac using a 3/4 inch wide soft taklon paint brush and also by wiping the wet shellac across the plate surface with a soft lint free cloth.

the plate with the landscape and foliage would print as the key or main definition image.
here the plate shows the area that was cut with scalpel and surface paper removed for the distant hills and the outcrop of rock into the water.


When the shellac was dry I worked into the surface of the coated plate where the foliage areas were drawn using an xacto knife tip and a diamond tip drypoint tool. I then wiped black oil based etching ink on the plate surface and into all the areas below the surface. I polished the plate surface with newsprint and set a soaked + blotted scrap piece of cotton rag over top. I ran this on the press bed under the tightly set roller of etching press to see how it would print and pick up the fine line detail in the foliage areas.


I then made a second plate (using same size scrap of mat board as the first). This would be to produce an interesting cloud formation in the upper area over the hills area. To achieve this I first placed a piece of thin tracing paper over the print I had made from the first plate. Using HB graphite I sketched shapes that would hopefully read as cloud formations when the plate was worked. I flipped the sketch over with 4B graphite traced the lines showing through. I reversed the paper once again and set this over the second plate surface. I retraced the lines with regular graphite pencil so the heavier graphite underneath transferred to the plate surface. I cut into the plate surface using scalpel again and created recessed areas to contain ink and print darker. Then using a surface application of pva glue and acrylic gel medium dabbed on using a finger tip or small brush tip I randomly worked the viscous mediums around and into the cut recessed areas. These were allowed to dry and then I lightly sanded them back using a fine grit sanding block. Two layers of shellac were applied to the front and back of the plate. Once dry I wiped a bit of thinned prussian blue oil based etching ink into the plate surface and printed it on a small scrap of cotton rag that had been soaked and blotted. 



2nd plate with cloud formation created using combination additive and subtractive processes to the plate surface
detail showing removed surface and addition of gel and pva medium to create low relief shapes

thinned prussian blue oil based etching ink was wiped on the plate. The resulting print on paper.

I then re-inked both plates and printed them one after another onto another scrap of cotton rag to produce a 2 colour print. 


two colour plate print - testing proof


Combining Monoprint and Collagraph plates


I thought that instead of introducing colour in the usual manner I had been using (hand colouring with watercolour or liquid acrylic inks) it might instead be worth trying the addition of a third plate. It took a bit of pre-planning plus the use of small brayers but I was able to succeed in blending etching inks on an acrylic plate as a monoprint element. Due to the small size of the plate it proved to be a challenge to roll colour into small sections.  It requires a great deal of patience and practice I very quickly learned.


The above print was created using Akua Intaglio inks on soaked and blotted Canson Edition cotton rag. The inked was rolled out to a very thin transparent state on a plate cut from 2 mm acrylic sheet (a non-glare type used as an alternative to glass as protective cover over artwork in framed work). In addition to roll blending areas of ink were also removed from the plate surface carefully with gentle dabbing of the tips of cotton swabs.



a slightly thicker layer of blended ink for the monoprint background influenced the way ink from the 2nd plate printed over it.  The result created whispy blue tinted cloud formations



The real challenge with combining plates is accurate registration of each plate. If it is off ever so much the result can be disastrous in success of the print image on paper. I chose to set each of my plates down over the monoprint on paper using careful & steady hand/eye co-ordination. Each plate would set into the slight embossed lower area of the first plate print then would have to be flipped over and set on the press bed with the rag paper over top. I found using a thin piece of bristol card (same size as the print paper) helped provide a firm support to set the inked plates and paper on and made the turning over process a little less stressful. I did have one image off register though, but it was part of the learning process.

Anyhow my plans are to keep going with the edition and see how many prints the plates might yield.

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