Making a Collograph Print

Finished print produced from a collograph plate

Very few tools are needed to make a collographic print like this one. This is an abstract design made from the collograph plate shown later in the article. Unlike woodblock printing, collography is not a reduction process and could be considered the exact opposite because you add material rather than take it away from the piece (or plate).

Press use

This image was created without the assistance of a press but if you have the use of a press it just makes things easier (especially if you wish to run a dozen of more prints from the plate).

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Collograph Printing Guide

Basics of collography

Start off with a base of cardboard. It should be thin enough to go through a press but if it is to be hand pressed you will find a thinner plate to be less cumbersome to work with. The ideal base card is mount board which can be got from any art and hobby shop. The mountboard is used in picture framing and is the strong card that you will see around the edges of a framed photograph. The beauty of this card is that it is similar to blotting paper and will absorb glue and paint and other materials that you apply to it in the course of making the plate. It will also allow you to cut shavings from its surface without going through the card.

Collograph Print making

Once you have the base ready you can sketch in a general outline of the image you want.  You can use a pencil, marker, pen or any other means to draw the rough image as these lines will be completely obliterated when the glue and other materials are added to the plate. Anyone can make a collograph as you just glue material onto the base mount.

Collograph Print Materials

Collograph plate prepared for image makingThese are the materials I used to make this plate opposite but you can use a lot more beside these. The world is your oyster, so to speak. I used feathers, fine lace scraps, leaves, thread, doilies, wallpaper, tissue paper and thin card scraps. Each piece or item is glued in place using ordinary white glue or wood glue (PVA). They must be well adhered to the surface as the pressing will be unforgiving or loose material and will ruin the print or prevent you doing multiple prints. When you have finished you then coat the entire surface with a hardener. I used shellac on this plate and after coating it should be allowed to dry thoroughly. When the plate is dry you apply another layer of shellac and let this dry too. If you intend using the plate for a run of 20 or more prints you should coat the plate more than twice with shellac, leaving it to dry between coatings. I used just 2 coatings for this piece.

Easy Collograph prints

The plate making is the difficult stage. All you have to do now is coat the plate with paint and press paper against it. If you do not have access to a press you must ensure that every part of the paper is pressed onto the plate by hand. The best way to do this (if you are working at home, perhaps) is to use the back of a spoon to press the paper onto the plate. This image is unique to the collographic method and the print would be difficult to make by other means. Other techniques rather than Collograph can be considered for similar style artistic pieces. These are the relief Woodblock Printing or Dry Point Etching methods but the finished works produced are uniquely related to each style. Art experts will be able to tell each technique used from the finished print. As an art hobby, I find collography to be the most fun and the easiest to do. 

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