What is a collagraph you say? It’s a very fun and simple method of printmaking that involves adhering materials to a plate (board) to build up a surface that will then be rolled with ink and printed. Collagraphy is accessible to everyone and doesn’t involve using dangerous or sharp carving tools like many other printmaking techniques. In fact, collagraphy can be done with wee little ones with materials such as sticky-back foam sheets! Don’t get the wrong idea though, collagraph printmaking can be complex too and is a great project for high school students and adults as well. Let’s just say it is as diverse a medium as the materials you can think of using! It’s very creative, organic, meditative, and lots of fun! I think everyone should give it a try and I plan on posting some more advance collagraph projects soon!
For this project though, I have provided a process that is adapted for all ages. In my last post I explained how to make beautiful marbled papers with shaving cream (yes, shaving cream!), but to me they were not finished art works. I wanted to push the process a step further and use the marbled papers as a surface to build upon. I began brainstorming and realized that continuing with printmaking felt like the right direction. I looked at my marbled paper designs for inspiration and decided that a flower motif collagraph would be a beautiful printed second layer.
This lesson explores the art form of printmaking and encourages creative play and experimentation through the use of unconventional materials. Students are introduced to the definition of printmaking and the technique of collagraphy. Students also learn to combine processes and techniques to further develop a work of art by utilizing their previously made marbled papers.
- Shaving Cream Marbled Papers
- Sticky-Backed Foam Sheets and Texture Foam Sheets
- Mat Board/ Cardboard/ Chipboard (cut to be smaller than marbled paper size)
- Water Soluble Block Printing Ink (Speedball or Blick)
- Platen (piece of plexiglass to roll out ink)
Step One: Making a Collagraph Plate
Brainstorm designs ideas for the collagraph. I looked at my marbled papers for inspiration. The colors and swirls reminded me of an impressionist floral painting, so I decided to go with flowers (I love flowers, especially daisies). For younger kids, I would recommend doing some quick sketches first so that they feel comfortable with their design before cutting.
Once a decision has been made, either start by cutting shapes directly out of the foam sheets or by drawing the shapes onto the foam with a sharpie and then cutting them out. I prefer having a random assortment of shapes and then puzzle piecing them together to make my designs, so the process is a bit more free-flowing and organic. I also really recommend getting the textured foam sheets as well, because they create super duper cool printing designs!
***It should be notes that the print will be backwards, so if there are words or anything that needs to be facing a certain direction, make sure it is backwards on the plate so that when it is printed it is correct.
Begin constructing your plate. My marbled papers are 6×8, so I cut my scrap mat board (cardboard is fine) to be 5×7. Lay your design onto the board before adhering, to get an idea how everything will be composed. The textured foam sheets are not sticky-backed, so you will need to glue those pieces down. When ready, stick/ glue all the design elements into place. Let dry thoroughly if you used glue.
Step Two: Inking the Plate
Take a palette knife or a paint stir stick to scoop out some ink, if you have the jar kind like me, or if you have a squeeze bottle ink, just lay about a tablespoon in a horizontal line at the top of the platen (a piece of plexi glass works, or, take the glass out of an old picture frame and wrap masking tape or duct tape around the edges so it is not sharp).
Take the brayer and begin to pull the ink down onto the platen, always rolling in one direction (place brayer in ink-pull toward body-lift-place in ink-pull towards body) making sure that the entire roller of the brayer is coated evenly with ink. Keep rolling it out until it makes a “shh-shh-shh” sound, not a “slurp-slurp-slurp”sound. The ink should have lots of little peaks, like the fuzzy side of velcro, and not be too thick. This is important so that the plate doesn’t get over inked.
Take the brayer and roll it onto the surface of the collagraph, making sure to evenly cover all of the foam design. Try not to get it on the board itself, although this might happen. It is part of the printmaking process.
Step Three: Burnishing and Pulling the Print
When the plate is evenly inked, lift it up and carefully position it onto the marbled paper, face down. Then, carefully flip the paper and plate over so that they don’t move. Take the back of a wooden spoon, and applying a decent amount of pressure, rub the back of the paper in a circular motion to ensure that every inch is in contact with the inked plate below.
Once the paper has been sufficiently burnished (rubbed everywhere by the spoon–get the edges too!), carefully peel the paper off of the plate! “Ooh and Ahh” at the beautiful collagraph print you just made! Re-ink the plate and do it again!
*email me examples of your finished projects and I will post them to the gallery. I can’t wait to see your beautiful and creative collagraphs!