Saturday, November 7, 2009

Experimenting with Collagraphs

Celtic Horse
acrylic on computer paper
8.50” x 11”

Have you ever tried making a collagraph? It is a type of printmaking where you build up the surface, rather than subtracting (as in making a stamp). You can use any kind of firm material for the base (cardboard, mat board scraps, canvas board, etc.) with various glued down flat objects (leaves, fabric, coins, etc.). With such a range of ingredients, it can be very creative.

Long wanting to make a collagraph, I could not settle down and decide on a premeditated design so I looked on my shelves, thinking about what size to use and found an unfinished painting on Gessobord. It had been an experiment—the first time I had tried using an acrylic medium called string gel. Dipping a palette knife in the jar, I then lifted it and swirled it over a section of the rigid surface.

Now, I was curious—would it make a good collagraph? Since it already had a raised design on the surface, I wouldn’t have to wait for everything to dry overnight (or longer). Bonus--I could play now!

Trying various papers and full-body acrylic paints on hand, I first tried rolling paint on a brayer and transferring it to the raised design. It didn’t work very well, so I switched, using a brush to put paint on the hardened string gel. This yielded much better results.

Limiting myself to just three colors (blue, teal, brown), I began to see a horse’s eye, a muzzle, and then an abstract body. The swirls reminded me of Celtic knots and spirals. Cool!

I tried other variations, using Cotman 140 lb. w/c paper, inkjet translucent vellum, and beige cardstock. Surprisingly, the plain computer paper showed the most details.


  1. Very cool! I'm supposing you press the paper down onto the design and not the other way around as with stamping.

  2. Yes, indeed Robyn. I watched a YouTube demo but skipped a waxed paper layer above the printing paper. And I don’t have a big printing press—that’s another way to do it. Have you ever tried it?

  3. Yes.... this is very cool Gina! I've never tried this but i'd like to! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Gina, I so enjoy your explorations into techniques and projects. I have wanted to try all the various printmaking projects I have heard about, and you have inspired me. I also appreciate the links on the Texas librarians website. I now know about Googledocs. Thanks.

  5. Do try it sometime, Manon—it’s very interesting and fun!

    Thanks very much, Mary. Experiments don’t always turn out beauties but there’s always something to learn, which I love. Glad you’ve learned from the interesting TX librarian site, too.

  6. This Collagraph idea sounds like a great one - I've been thinking about trying it for a long time. I've been looking for some ways to make art that would go together pretty quickly as Christmas gifts. Our family doesn't do commercial gifting - but this year my energy level is low, and don't have the stamina to produce my usual gallery size array of art to give away - so thank you for reminding me of the old fashioned collagrah. This gives me hope I can create some worthwhile and finished gifts this year!

  7. And ‘twas fun as well, Chris!

    Best of luck making some collagraphs for Yule, 4roomsandthemoon (what a great name). By varying how much pressure you use and which paint colors you select, you can get some interesting results. You can add a background, too. Let me know how yours turn out.

  8. Gina, I'm going to go looking for the YouTube demo. Have never done these without a big printing press, and of course I don't have one of those! What fun!