Project 11 – Making a Test Collage Block

To make a collagraph materials sampler, I:

  • decided that I would like my grid to have curvy outlines for a more organic feel
  • found a surplus piece of sturdy mountboard (Arcadia)
  • drew around it onto a piece of thin paper
  • drew outlines of the sample areas on this paper and traced them on to my board
  • numbered them on both board and paper to indicate order and right side, then cut them out of the paper
  • used some pieces as templates for cutting sheet materials such as fabric and wall paper and glued these to the board like a jigsaw
  • painted some remaining areas with PVA and stuck on loose material such as seeds, thread, sequins
  • filled other areas with material such as gesso, filler, acrylic pastes,  PVA and textured them in various ways
  • avoided  metal objects (to avoid damaging a press) or anything thicker than about 1mm
  • pressed the plate under large books and weights for 24 hours to fix everything flat
  • sealed the plate with button polish, rather than PVA which I have found can reactivate, with damp paper sticking to it.

w/p – wall paper

To print,  I lightly damped some paper and let it stand between damp tea towels for an hour to equalise the water content. I rolled the plate over thinly with quite loose ink, because I wanted a glaze of colour on the highpoints and I wanted to retain detail. I couldn’t resist adding a second colour. This was printed on a press.


This was more interesting than I had been expecting. I then cleaned the plate by running it through the press with newsprint and wiping it with a soft cloth and a little vegetable oil. The plate was reinked intaglio by brushing ink (mixed with a little linseed jelly) into the plate with a toothbrush. I wiped the plate with a big ball of cloth and then with torn yellow page sheet, and ran it through the press with damp paper.


The intaglio produces a much darker, almost negative image, the amount of ink retained depending on depressed texture holding the ink against wiping. The deep textures such as the lace retained a lot of ink which was very thick on the print, and I stripped this using tissue paper placed over the print, gently rubbed by hand on the back.

There was a lot of ink left on my plate so I rerolled the surface with my original relief colour to combine the effects.


I wiped my plate with an oily cloth again to clean the majority of my ink off and wrapped it in newsprint for a week until my next studio session. I didn’t clean it aggressively because of the deep textures and inherent fragility of some of the surfaces. The following week I wanted to try printing layers of relief inking. The plate was inked in two colours with small rollers. When printed, I got a pleasing slight ghost of the previous week’s intaglio ink.


I left my paper pinched and repeated the process with two more colours. I could place my block back in my marked position and reprint.


This has indeed produced a richness of colour and effect suggested in the course notes. However, although my registration is fine at one end it is completely out at the other.

P1040087-3 P1040087-2P1040087-4

This is because the plate was now by no means flat and therefore twisted as it went through the press. The warp is due to the number, variety and differing thicknesses of the materials used on the board and how they have reacted to inking and pressure.


I could minimise the risk of this by:

  • using more uniform materials
  • thicker board
  • uniform application of any wet material eg pva
  • using a smaller plate.

Other lessons learned:

  • if leaving paper pinched, allow lots of extra paper so that you don’t end up with your plate squeezed to one end
  • when selecting materials you need to consider depth, texture and wipability/absorbancy.

I like the:

  • rich textures available
  • detail which can be picked up
  • textures work differently intaglio or relief inked
  • effect is different with different amounts of ink
  • combination of ways of inking
  • colourful effect of layers of inking
  • element of surprise, you really don’t know how it is going to turn out each time
  • looks like a landscape of field from above.

Some textures were really disappointing:

  • crackle paste didn’t
  • fibre gel just crumbled off the plate
  • micaceous oxide (like fine carborundum) didn’t hold ink at all
  • thick lace held too much ink when printed intaglio
  • thinnest material with delicate but definite texture worked best
  • some textures worked better intaglio, some relief and some were either good or poor in both.

I am disappointed that the plate warped so much and I really couldn’t register it from one end to the other. I will try to design a plate specifically to be printed in multiple relief layers.


About starrybird

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts. My passion is printmaking.
This entry was posted in Part 4 Collagraphs, Printmaking 1, Project 11 - Making a Test Collage Block and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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