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Printmaking - Collagraphs


Collagraphs would have to be one of my favourite printmaking processes.  I think it is because it has such a craft-making feel about the process.  Who would expect that making a matrix to print from, that has been made from leftover cardboard or a cereal box using glue, tape, and scratch marks, could result in such a detailed and beautiful image?  


Collagraph Ideas


Making the Matrix

After scouring the internet for inspiration and using an offcut of mount board, I began by drawing the image onto the board.

I am not sure why, perhaps it is because I am moving house and have spent a lot of time on of late, but I chose to do a little streetscape of cute cottages and to combine it with some trees from the previous monoprint project.  


I used a range of tools and collaged items to achieve contrasting texture and lines.  I began by laying PVA glue onto several of the little house's walls knowing that this would make for a very light contrast.  I used tiny pieces of masking tape for windows and shutters and glued on textured wallpaper for some of the roofs.  Tarleton was used for one house and an onion bag for a roof.  There are pieces of glued on paper doilies and shiny adhesive tape. 

The remainder of the marks, particularly for some darker contrast, were made by cutting and peeling off sections of mount board and by making scratch marks on the surface and roughing it up. 


Shellac Coating

Once I was happy with the imagery, I cut the houses away from the unwanted background and sealed the matrix with several coats of shellac.  This protects the board and seals it from absorbing ink into the fibres. 

Additional Matrixes

I decided to also make some little trees with the idea that I could make a really long print that would fit the brief of creating a large-scale work.  I used some of the pressed leaves and English box that I had left over from my monoprint project. 

inking cropped.jpg

Inking the Matrix

With the collagraph matrixes ready to go, it was time to ink them up and print.  An oil based etching ink was used.  Fairly small amounts were applied using a toothbrush, ensuring all the crevasses and marks are sufficiently covered.  The trick being to apply enough ink but not too much.  

The beauty about using a toothbrush is that it makes it easy to apply different colours to different sections.  I chose an earthy colour palette, with reds, browns, yellow and greens.  After applying the ink, the excess needs to be removed.  I find old phone book paper works well to remove the bulk and then a piece of tarleton for the remaining excess. It is important to wipe clean any areas not to be inked.



For my first print, I chose some Fabriano paper that I had torn into long wide pieces to match the matrix shape.  Once soaked, it was ready to print.  A piece of cellophane (or similar) under the paper is recommended, and some butchers paper over for protection when printing. I was so pleased with how my little houses turned out.  

I decided to make some test prints of the trees and bushes, prior to incorporating them into the larger streetscape image.  I am so glad I did as I found that they needed to be cut out precisely without the surrounding mount board as part of the matrix.   For the larger matrix with three trees, it was difficult to achieve this, but the smaller English box was easy enough.


As an alternate option, I chose to create several cardboard trees without the use of real foliage.  These I thought would work well with the streetscape style.

This image is just a test on cartridge paper, but I found the trees worked quite well.  It was now time to add them to the streetscape image.  With some of the prints I printed the trees after the streetscape, with others, I printed them all together.

street & 2 trees.jpg

Above is an example where I added the trees in afterwards.  


Expanding further on the theme, I made a little church to add to the print.  

The Village.jpg

The above image is of the completed print with all the matrixes printed on Hahnemuhle paper, as it was the widest paper I could find at 106cm.

Monoprinting & Collagraphs

I decided to experiment and combine monoprints with collagraphs, using some monoprinting as a background.  I also chose to do this on quite a large scale.


It was a bit more challenging than I anticipated.  I cut out a stencil to mask where the collagraph would go and then printed the monoprint first and then the collagraph.  

The first collagraph print lacked ink and definition so I reprinted it.  The second print made the image too brown and without the required detail.  


The result was not quite what I was after.  The beauty about monoprinting, however, is that you can just print another layer.  


With some inspiration and guidance from a great printing teacher, the solution was to do another layer of monoprinting over the top, masking sections that would be worth keeping and inserting some trees, bushes, and leaves as a silhouette effect.  

Mono village 2.jpg

The end result being nothing like the original but creating a really interesting effect.  

Click on the link to see some of my finished collagraphs 

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