Project 12 – Collotype Collage Prints

The remit:

  • a series of representational images
  • simplified design
  • choose a subject where the amount of visual detail can be reduced
  • use varied materials for texture.

My design for this project was developed from a door seen in Portugal, at Easter, years ago. It stuck in my memory because of the fabulous blue of the door and ceramics, against white-washed walls, and the huge bowl of arum lilies. As I watched, a lady came out of the door, dressed for church, cut every single lily and went off with them in her arms.

Developing the idea

Developing the idea

My objectives for the plate were:

  • simple and without huge amounts of wet glue to minimise warping and twisting
  • use a variety of materials for texture (but not too many): string and lace for my tree, card and wall paper for the stone and door, and card, cumin seeds and lining fabric for the plant, muslin for the door mat
  • keep a lot of the print white to imply the bright Mediterranean sun
  • local inking with small rollers in a limited palette
  • use blind emboss for the white lily flowers – purity
  • have the edge of the plate echo the shapes of the stones in the walls
  • leave one square corner for registration.

The plate was inked and printed at an open press. They have some used and abused small rollers with very uneven surfaces, and these were invaluable for creating texture.

First proof

First proof

My first proof was too pale and the emboss of the lilies not strong enough.


My second print had a better emboss but was still too pale.


The plate got better as I printed. I didn’t wipe my plate between prints, just developed the ink. I also wanted to keep my whites really crisp and clean. I managed about 8 prints on heavy cartridge, and then watercolour paper, until my ink build up too much and I had to clean the plate.

On reflection I didn’t like the highlight I had cut into the plant pot, so I chipped this off and replaced it. I also wanted to see if I could print the plate twice with overlayed relief colours, so I reprinted a few days later in a different studio. I didn’t have access to the same inks, and the colours weren’t so good. Also, the pristine rollers didn’t work as well as lumpy old ones!

P1040197 P1040196

Good points:

  • simple, bold elements
  • I like the emboss of the lilies
  • clean, restrained colour
  • great texture in the door surround
  • wall paper worked well for paving slabs
  • non rectangular plate
  • texture of planks worked well (scribed with tapestry needle)


  • foliage and trunk of vine not bold enough
  • crude highlight on pot
  • number plaque crude
  • roller catching edge of plate around door number
  • does all that white make the image too weak?
  • I quite liked the effect of the over-printed relief colours, although I didn’t think it added to this plate  – design a plate to explore this.

My next plate was designed to explore these layers of different coloured inks. I wanted a very simple shape which could be read very easily, so I based it on the human form. I thought basing it on a statue would provide a route to simplification and abstraction. I used a photo I had taken of ‘Mankind’ by Eric Gill in the sculpture gallery of The V&A.

gill sketches (1 of 1)

To create my design and plate, I:

  • mapped the shadow areas and created a background shadow
  • drew the mapped figure onto card
  • cut out this shape with a scalpel and glued it to mount board
  • cut out the surrounding shadow in wall paper, selecting something with a small, fairly random pattern
  • glued everything down and left it under weights overnight
  • varnished with shellac for maximum wipability.

The torso cut really cleanly from my card, so I made a further plate from this negative piece. I also cut an identical sized piece of mount card for each plate and created a texture on it so that I could explore layering this up too. For the larger plate, I used pva under clingfilm, and for the smaller, a piece of net curtain stuck down.

Left, statue plate, right textured plate.

Left, statue plate, right textured plate.

Left, textured plate, right, negative torso plate.

Left, textured plate, right, negative torso plate.

To print, I:

  • inked very lightly using a range of different sized rollers
  • printed on damp paper
  • registered using registration blocks
  • tried printing on an Albion press and an etching press
  • tried printing by hand on delicate Hosho tissue
  • layered ghosts
  • printed upwards of five layers on some prints
  • developed the layers depending on the previous layer
  • added relief inked strips of fabric
  • abandonned the larger background as too busy.


P1040039 P1040034

On my larger plate, I like:

  • I really enjoyed building up the colours and seeing where the layers took me
  • registration was exacting and I didn’t get it perfect on so many layers, but I was pleased with what I achieved
  • the variety of colours and effects
  • balance of tones from dark shadows, through background to highlights.


  • my proportions aren’t right – she is too long and slender with weird hips
  • I like the texture of the background but it is very wallpaper; I should have made my own texture
  • there are some obvious roller marks, but it is what it is….

Second plate:

Small plate layered over clingfilm texture with fabric strip

Small plate layered over clingfilm texture with fabric strip

Second plate layered with net texture plate and fabric

Second plate layered with net texture plate and fabric

Second plate (threelayers) and layered with net texture plate and fabric

Second plate (threelayers) and layered with net texture plate and fabric

Second plate layered many times, on tissue

Second plate layered many times, on tissue


  • the large, flat areas of this plate have layered up well
  • just the torso desexualises the image
  • the second textured plate worked well here
  • I like the fabric strips, breaking the image out of the rectangular
  • lovely textures and colours built up with multiple layers
  • minimal ink works best.


  • the image doesn’t read so easily
  • I used paper too small for effective placement of fabric strips
  • pale colour doesn’t work as well as strong colour on this plate
  • textured background plates add little, if anything.

About SteveCussons

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts.
This entry was posted in Part 4 Collagraphs, Printmaking 1, Project 12 - Collotype Collage Prints and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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