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Collograph Printing

What is Collograph printing?

It is a very simple form of printing using found materials that are arranged in a collage form. It is a great activity for children and adults and is especially great for those on a budget. Ages 7 or younger may need help.

Materials Needed:

Step One:

The first step is to decide what size you want your print to be. Then cut your chipboard or illustration board to that size suing sharp scissors or a ruler and X Acto knife. I like to keep the design small 10" x 10" or less as it is hard to keep the pressure even with a brayer or rolling pin. If you are using a school press then you can go as large as the press allows (I still would not go too large even on the school press). *I recommend cutting the printing paper to size after you have printed it.

Step Two:

The next step is to layout your design. There is a certain randomness in this type of printing (it is not an exact science that is part of the charm). You can choose to do precise designs, but each time you print it will be different. Some people choose to throw things together to create an abstract collage where others spend a lot of time laying out their designs. It is a personal choice.

Step Three:

Choose your materials and arrange them the way you want. Then glue them onto the illustration board. Make sure that everything is glued on very well. If you are using white glue then you will need to let it dry completely. If you are using hot glue then you will only have to wait a minute or so.

Step Four:

When you are happy with your design (and it is well glued) you can begin to apply the ink or inks. You should dab the ink (or paint) on with a brush. Do not brush it on as you may damage the collage. Cover the entire surface thoroughly, but don't allow the ink to pool or become too thick. If this happens you will not have a clear print. Ink dries fairly slowly so take the time so you can take the time to make sure that the surface is well covered. If you are using paint then you will probably have to work a bit faster.

Step Five:

You are now ready to print. You can use a rolling pin, brayer or school press.

The first method is with a rolling pin: This type of "press" works pretty well. First lay a piece of test paper on top of your inked design. With even pressure roll the pin across the backside of the paper. Just make one or two passes but do not roll the pin back and forth as it can get blurred. Peel the paper off the design and look at it. If it looks muddy then you probably have too much ink. It is possible that if you were to immediately do a print using the good paper you might get the results you are looking for (the test paper having pulled the excess ink off). You can also try wiping some of the ink off carefully. If the print is too faint you may have to apply more ink or paint. In this type of printing you will usually have to apply ink after every print (or every other print). *You will probably not get more than 10-20 prints off your design as it is fragile.

The second method is with a brayer: Do all the steps I just mentioned but instead of using a rolling pin you will be using a brayer. Some brayers are not very wide and will require you to make a couple of passes in order to get the whole design. If this is the case be very careful to get the pressure even. Do not make more than one or two passes (same reason applies here as with the rolling pin). *The brayer can be better as they are often softer which will capture more detail than a hard rolling pin.

The third method is with a school press: If you have a school press you are in good shape and your prints will turn out looking very nice. When you use the press be certain that you have the pressure adjusted correctly and do a test using the same paper as your final print. *Using a school press is the best method but unfortunately not everyone has access to one.

Step Six:

Allow the print to dry thoroughly and then trim it to the size you want.

Tips On Paper: You can use any variety of papers for this type of printing. You may want to print on a variety of papers and see which print you like best. I like to print on stationery weight papers or cardstocks (t\not too thick 80lb or less). I have had great success with parchment paper, recycled papers, watercolor paper, craft paper and assorted colored bond papers. I like the project as you rally can print on anything.


Try putting a light coating of water on some watercolor paper. Allow the paper a minute to soak the water up and get soft. Then place it on your un-inked/un-painted design and run it through the press. If you have the pressure correct you will have a design embossed into your paper. It is subtle and usually very interesting.

Finished Collograph Projects

Final Note:

These prints can be framed, used as postcards, greeting cards, stationery or book covers. This is a very good project for beginning printmakers. See below for samples of Collograph prints.

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