Inktense and Felt Tip Printing

I had planned to use my day at the open press doing back drawing and working textures onto rolled up plates for monoprinting. Unfortunately, the studio is currently being used for screenprinting hundreds of T-shirts and the air is full of fluffy lint. My plates were instantly covered in dust and produced hundreds of halos. This wasn’t a problem for back drawing, but made producing flat areas of ink impossible. A lesson in the importance of working in a low dust environment for some techniques.

Not wanting to waste my time at the press, or my damped paper, I decided to experiment with plates drawn in a watercolour medium. In my art bag I had felt tips and some Inktense pencils. I  took my felt tips and went and sat on the top of the boat and drew the canal on a small plate. The felt tip ink nearly disappeared on the plate, and it was really difficult to see what I had done. I ran the plate through the etching press with damped paper. I think this result is quite interesting, especially the water. You do need some clues that the red barge is nearly under a blue bridge, which I was looking under towards a lock in the distance! The felt tips really exploded with colour on the paper. Their colours are unsubtle, but I like the way they take on the damp paper.

Felt tip, 10cm x 15cm

Felt tip, 10cm x 15cm

I must try this again. I could:

  • use a slightly textured plate to hold the ink
  • use my finer felt tips with more colour choice
  • work back into the plate with water to mix and texture the ink.

I do like the idea of the spontaneous drawing.

I had some ideas in my sketchbook which had been working on for collagraphs and stencils, and I used these as references for a similar experiment using Inktense pencils drawn onto a plate. These were harder to get down onto the plastic. I made sure that I had completely degreased the plate. Some colours would draw on ok, but some pencil tips needed to be wet slightly with a brush. This made for an interesting mix of hard and soft marks. I worked the colour in places with a wet brush and a fine spray.

I ran my first plate through the etching press with damp paper. It picked up nearly no ink; it was all left on the plate.

inktense prints004

I worked back into the plate with more colour and spray and tried again. This time it was too wet and the ink was pushed to the edge of the plate – interesting though.

inktense prints003

My third and fourth attempts were much better. Each time some ink was left on the plate and I could rework it, developing the image.  Now this was fun!

10cm x 15cm Inktense pencils

10cm x 15cm
Inktense pencils. The line at the top is the plate mark.

Too much water again!

Too much water again!



I moved on from using my life drawings to some images I took in the British Museum. These are themes I enjoy visiting again and again.


7cm x 10 cm

7cm x 10 cm

I think this print of part of the parthenon frieze works particularly well because of the restrained colours, the way they have mingled and the mix of hard and soft marks. The colour sits nicely within the plate emboss.

Huaztec statue 7cm x 10cm

Huaztec statue
7cm x 10cm

This is another take on the statue I  based my collagraph plate on ( ).

I had been playing in my skecthbook about with the idea of a simple imagined landscape for a collagraph, before being dissuaded by the tutor and redirected to a simpler subject. It is great to be able to go back to an idea in a sketchbook and explore it in a new way. The actual print is much more subtle that than this scan. The speckles are where bits of pencil haven’t dissolved, adding extra texture.

back d 006

One interesting point of Inktense is that, once dry the ink is permanent, and therefore could be re-damped and overprinted. I have, in the past, used it for backgrounds, but this offers further possibilities.

Back home, I had another go at drawing with felt tips using a wider range of colours, finer tips and a much larger, textured plate (a frosted piece of brochure cover). I sat on the patio and sketched the courgette plant in a tub. I sprayed the drawing in places to make the ink move, then let the plate dry completely and ran it through my mangle with damp paper.

30cm x 30cm

30cm x 30cm

The result is full of different marks but I used too much water in places. I like the fact that printing brings a level of abstraction and happenstance to a drawing, which adds another layer of interest. I also like the idea that you could sketch en plein aire this way and safely carry your plate home to print.

All in all, a fun experiment, with some useful outcomes and routes for further exploration.

About SteveCussons

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts.
This entry was posted in Part 1 Monoprints, Printmaking 1, Project 1 - First Monoprints and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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