Skip to main content

On how to make extremely inexpensive drypoints & collagraphs

Definition of a drypoint: intaglio printmaking method where you scratch lines directly into the surface of a metal/plexiglass plate. So no need to cover the plate with an acid-resistant ground, draw into the ground, then etch the plate in acid. You just scratch, ink, wipe away excess ink, then print. 

Definition of a collagraph: materials glued to a surface (metal, plexiglass, matboard), sealed with acrylic medium, then inked and printed. 

In teaching a printmaking class at the end of last year in rural Illinois, I had to get creative in finding inexpensive materials. I stumbled upon aluminum (=aluminium where I come from) flashing tiles at Home Depot. They are 5” x 7”, and you can get a hundred of them for around $20. There are several advantages to this:

1. The aluminum tiles are a lot cheaper than copper, zinc, and steel, which are the traditional metals used for drypoint. For example: a 5” x 7” economy copper plate goes for around $5 per plate (so $500 for a hundred of those).

2. It’s even cheaper than plexiglass, which would be about $1 per 5” x 7” plate, or $100 for 100 plates.

3. Because the aluminum flashing tiles are so thin, you don’t have to file the edges down before you run them through the printing press. 

    The disadvantage is that because they are so thin, you can’t get many impressions from them. I’ve got maybe four out of a single plate, as opposed to twenty or more from a steel plate. 

    But if you’re looking for a very cheap way to produce a couple of decent-looking drypoint prints – and especially if you want to teach the technique to beginners – then aluminum flashing tiles are an excellent alternative to the traditional materials. 

    I also used the tiles to make carborundum collagraphs: 

    Here are some quick instructions (you need access to a printing press for this): 

    1. Handle the edges carefully: they are sharp!

    2. Take some steel wool and rub it in a circular motion over the entire surface of the plate. This removes the pre-coating from the plate, and provides a nice ‘tooth’ for the carborundum mixture.

    3. In a jar, make up a mixture of 40% acrylic gloss medium, and 60% carborundum grit (or silicone carbide). This is like a very hard sand, and when dry the particles hold a lot of ink.

    4. Use a small brush to paint an image on the plate with the carborundum mixture.

    5. When the image is dry (about 2 hours), seal the image with a layer of acrylic gloss medium.

    6. Ink, wipe, and print.

    Here is an image I created by combining three aluminum flashing tiles, using drypoint and carborundum collagraph, each one inked with a different color (=colour where I come from):

     Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


    Popular posts from this blog

    Brancusi in Plastic

    Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

    Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

    How to etch a linoleum block

    Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

    A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

    Artist-Writer-Artist: Gerard Woodward

    I am extremely pleased that poet and author Gerard Woodward agreed to be interviewed for this series. Gerard and my wife, Patty, were colleagues for a short while at the end of 2008, when Patty taught for one semester at Bath Spa University, where Gerard is a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. Gerard spent the spring semester of 2011 in Chicago on a reciprocal visit. Gerard has published poetry, short-stories, and novels. "Householder", his 1991 collection of poetry, won the Somerset Maugham Award in the UK, and his novel "I'll Go to bed at Noon" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Of his most recent novel, "Nourishment", The Daily Telegraph reviewer wrote: "It is a novel to be savoured, and Woodward is a novelist to be treasured." It turns out that in addition to his success as a writer, Gerard started his adult life in art college, and still draws and paints when he can. So here, from a writer's point of view…