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scratch print

A straight forward adaption of engraving or drypoint... a drawing is made on stiff card and coated several times with gloss acrylic medium as smoothly as possible (maybe a foam brush rather than bristle).

Once the acrylic has dried an x-acto knife is used to score over the image creating an ink holding scratch in the dry acrylic medium. Some plate tint can be obtained by painting in areas with matte medium.

When the drawing is scratched into the plate, use a rolled up stump of felt to force oil based ink (I use water miscible oil paints) into the drawing. Then wipe the plate with sheets of newsprint or office bond wrapped over a block (I twist paper from an old phone book over a tomato sauce bottle lid).

Now place inked and wiped plate face up on work surface (spray adhesive can be used to hold plate down)... cover with lightly dampened printing paper. Place plastic coated freezer paper or some other protection over back of damp paper and print by leaning in hard with a wooden spoon or baren.

Check on print by peeking under a corner. If you intend to do multiplate color printing make registration marks for the plate placement and paper placement on work surface with masking tape.

jack press

I print these scratch prints using a press I made out of plywood and a 4-ton automotive bottle jack... my design is based on the presses used in papermaking.

The simplest design is three thick frames cut out of 3/4 inch plywood (exterior dimension 24 inches square and interior dimension 18 inches square). These frames are laminated together with glue and given a 2x4 foot attached to each outer bottom edge. An 18 inch square platform is cut and glued on top of the bottom of the frame opening. A metal plate if possible, otherwise a 2.25 inch square piece of plywood, is attached at center of the upper edge of frame opening. Preferably the platen is a flat 18 inch square piece of scrap iron but quarter inch masonite may be used.

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For use the inked plate is set face up on bottom platform and covered with dampened paper to be printed, the back of this paper is covered with a felt and then the platen board. The bottle jack is placed centered on the board and pumped up against the plate at the top edge of the frame opening... pump until wood creeks and makes scary noises... release pressure by opening valve on bottle jack, pull jack up to force piston back down, and remove jack and platen. You should have the ink from the palette transferred to your paper now.

blake print

This is a form of waterbased monoprint developed by the artist and writer William Blake. He used egg tempera colors or pigment mixed into carpenters glue (i've been told the latter are in bad shape now). I use watercolors or gouache for my colors.

Blake would make a drawing in India ink on millboard (the equivalent of Masonite in his day) and seal it with shellac. He would then make watercolor monoprint multiples by going over the lines with his waterbased ink or paint followed by laying in areas of color over this. He printed offset onto dampened paper. He would refresh the paint on the plate and print again.

I make my drawing on card or take my scratch print plate and seal it with acrylic matte medium. I paint over this with watercolor or gouache and let dry. If the plate doesn't take the paint nicely without beading I buff it first with a layer of gum arabic, let that dry, and then paint in my colors.

The dry paint is then transferred to dampened paper by spoon or press.


I was taught to make monoprints on zinc and copper plates but it took me the longest while to realize I would have more control and be able to produce multiples if I used a Plexiglas plate. A sketch is taped to the table and a large sheet of plexi is placed over it, if you don't want the image reversed do it on tracing paper and set it face down so the image is visible through the back under the plexi.

The printing paper is hinged to the plexi with masking tape and flipped over to one side clear of the image. I can then paint onto the plexi with oil paints, retracing the drawing if I like, the paint can be thinned with salad oil (sunflower seed or safflower seed only since they do dry eventually) for fluid lines. Whenever the painting is built up it is transferred to the paper by flipping the paper down over the paint on its hinge and burnishing the back of the paper (I prefer using my hands to rub). The plate can be wiped down, additional paint placed and the paper again flipped down to take the offset.

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silkscreen monoprint

A waterbased technique of monoprint is so-called open screen, a conventionally stretched silk-screen is painted somewhat thinly from the back in watercolor or opaque gouache (aquarelle pencils can also be used and even soft graphite) and permitted to dry... clear silk-screen extender base is then squeegeed through the screen while it is in contact with the paper to be printed on... this method can be tricky because you must use just the right amount of extender-base, the results, however, are gorgeous... and often enough of a ghost remains in the screen for it to be as a guide in creating a variation.

collagraph rubbing

Strangely, collographs are relatively new in printmaking. The standard method is to create a design by gluing card, paper, and various shallow textures such as crinkled foil or lace on board. The collage is sealed with a layer of gloss medium, shellac, or diluted white glue and used as an intaglio plate, that is, tacky ink is worked into the plate where it is held in the transitions of relief when the plate is wiped. The plate is then printed under high pressure on the press and the ink as well as texture (in negative) of the plate are transferred to printing paper. I have used my jack press to print collagraphs in intaglio but really a proper roller press is called for. There is a beautiful technique wherein a coarse muslin in glued down to the board creating an area that will hold a solid black film of ink like a fresh mezzotint plate, lights are built up by building up layers of diluted medium or glue to progressively fill the interstice of the fabric creating a lighter and lighter tone with the qualities of an aquatint. This method doesn't work at all without a real press though.

The lazier alternative is Relief Collagraph printing, take a stiff ink roller (brayer) charged up evenly with ink and roll it over the sealed collograph plate so that ink covers the top surfaces of each area of the print but the lower edges of texture transitions and places where collaged paper cross each other are left open and free of ink... the result is a black or color image with shapes and lines set of by a sort of light halo of ink free paper. Some people do quite elaborate drawings and glue string over them meticulously to create black line drawing rather than the negative image produced by conventional relief collagraph.

The really down and dirty method of printing that has worked well for me is to take rubbing on tableux paper from the collagraph plate using white candle wax or crayon and then dropping dark watercolor into the open areas of the print giving me a black line image rather than a white line image. I have had prints that looked like they were run through a press half a dozen times by rubbing different elements of the plate with light colored crayons or combinations of crayons and then dropping various dark colors into the open areas of the paper. I prefer Praga Crayons from the grocery store to Crayolla since they are a soft soy based wax rather than paraffin... they can more easily fill-in and be layered.

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cliché verre

Some nineteenth century artists, notably Corrot, as a means of printing without a press. At that time commercial printing paper was salt/silver printing out paper that gave quite print like images. The problem now is that commercial silver papers are so glossy and usually bear a manufactures imprint on the back making them impossible to use for internegatives... still there are some options available such as Art RC or surface "s" from Kodak. Even if you have no experience with photography you will have no trouble getting the hang of it... all you need is a package of paper, a hobby kit of black and white chemistry, a red light bulb and four plastic or glass trays (I have used tupperware) and a sheet of glass... I have printed while flipping on the bathroom lights counting my exposure time out loud.

In the old days a glass plate would be rolled up with black ink and either drawn into while still wet with the back of a paintbrush handle or scratched into once it was dry using a three-penny nail or a drypoint stylus. The result was a white and black drawing that could be used as a photographic negative. The photo paper was exposed under the plate with the dried inked surface in contact with it for a sharp effect or with the inked side away from it for a softer look. Rather than using glass you could draw on acetate overhead transparency sheets with a stiff brown gouache... when you are done you can coat this overall with black water-proof India ink, when the ink is dry the sheet can be placed under running water to remove the gouache resist of the drawing along with that black ink that rests over it... the result would be an image with clear lines on a black field that could be used as the negative in photographic printing. Also, you could just take a conventional drawing so long as the verso of the paper was blank, and contact print that onto photo paper which would serve as the internegative

blueprint & toning

As mentioned above, the problem with cliché is the undesirable quality of contemporary photographic paper... the answer is to make your own. The cheapest and easiest homemade printing paper is cyanotype. You will need the following:

  1. Potassium Ferricyanide (an extremely poisonous photographic bleach
  2. Ferric Ammonium Citrate (a dietary supplement available from chemical suppliers.
For toning the prints brown you will also need household ammonia and tannic acid used by wine makers (strong black tea may be substituted).

In one jar mix 1/2 cup Ferric Ammonium Citrate in a cup of distilled water... in another small jar mix 1/4 cup Potassium Ferricyanide with a cup of distilled water. Wear a dust mask while handling the powders, work on a paper surface that can be rolled up and tossed, dedicate your plastic measuring cups to blueprinting and never use them for anything else. Label the jars of solution and put big safety warnings on them... lock them up somewhere when not in use, even if you don't have any kids around.

For printing, mix equal parts of the two solutions together in a disposable dixie cup and paint on to printmaking paper or starched cloth in a room illuminated by a yellow bug light or red party light. You will need to tip the paper to see from the glare that it is evenly coated since the yellow/orange solution will be hard to see under the colored light. Keep any metal away from the solution and coat the paper with a foam brush or sponge wearing rubber gloves dedicated to blueprinting. Let the paper dry in the darkened room.

when the paper is dry it can be stored for a short time in a black plastic bag you can buy at the photography store. The printing setup is a board with one surface covered in felt upon which the coated paper is placed face up... the drawing used as a negative is placed over this and taped down at three corners... this is set out in the sun with a sheet of glass over it for between say four and fourteen minutes... the exposure is checked by carefully sliding the class back and pealing up the un-fixed corner of the drawing... when the image is properly exposed it will appear as a murky coppery olive image visible through the original yellow of the coating. Some people place tabs of sensitized paper under the glass with a dime placed over it and one end protruding... every few minutes they pull out one of these slips and rinse it under running water to see if a clear blue with white dot appears on it. Anyhow, when your exposure is complete take the print to a basement sink and rinse under running water for twenty minutes... on drying you should have a blue image on paper cleared of any yellow stain. Pouring hydrogen peroxide over the image can intensify it but it should again be rinsed and permitted to dry.

In lieu of sunlight I have printed small images with four to eight minute exposures on the stage of an overhead projector or with the light of a slide projector.

If you want to tone the image brown you first bleach it yellow in a tray of diluted household ammonia, rinse and stain in a couple table spoons tannic acid in a quart of water, or a quart of water in which ten tea bags have been brewed. Let the image darken and again rinse.

photocopy print

Since getting out of school I haven't had much access to a press so I've turned to simulating traditional print media on an office copier. I often reduce the size of my images and put them on artsy paper trimmed down to non- standard sizes after the copy is put on it.

photocopy etching

I draw with fine mechanical pencil on drafting film (aka matt acetate sheets)... this gives a fine controlled line that resembles etching especially when the image is slightly reduced. I add cutouts of tissue paper to the master to simulate flat areas of aquatint... yellow copies as light gray, orange as medium, and red as dark gray. I emboss a false plate mark when the image is completed using a piece of card board cut to size and under the image face down... I trace the border with a fingernail and i'm sure to cut the corners of the board as I would a real plate so as not to cut the blankets.

photocopy drypoint

I make a key drawing which I place under a sheet of overhead transparency film (acetate sheet). I scratch the image into the acetate by tracing it with a drypoint needle or potter's needle tool. I ink and wipe the plate with black water-miscible oil paint and back it with a sheet of white paper for copying. Gives a decent simulation of drypoint.To make the sample image here I taped a pushpin to the flat end of a pencil to use as a stylus and inked with blue gouache which is all I had at hand.

photocopy lithograph

I draw with china markers and paint with a grainy black watercolor on laid style paper to simulate tusche. If the first generation photocopy isn't grainy enough a copy of the copy usually is.

photocopy woodcut

I take a key drawing... cover it with tracing paper and paint in the highlights with chinese white watercolor or gouache. I can work in smaller marks of black over this with a nylon tip writing pen. I place a sheet of black paper behind the tracing paper and photocopy. The first copy is white on gray but a second generation copy from it is white on black. To make the final copy on rice paper you can iron rice paper onto the plastic coated surface of plastic coated freezer paper from the grocery store, after the print is completed you can remove the freezer paper backing by reheating.

Woodcut goes nicely with chine collé: this is done by placing your print paper over the master and placing cut sheets of non-fading tissue paper down with rice or flour paste... the photocopy image printed over this looks great and the copier machine fuser really flattens that tissue paper flat... I have used glue stick in place of proper paste.

photocopy transfer

The toner image of a black and white or color photocopy can be transfered to a fresh support such as canvas or artists' paper by using a solvent. I used to use paint/laquer thinner but it is highly flamable and has very toxic fumes. Now I use so-called Oil of Wintergreen, it is a synthetic methyl esther chemical related to asprin and the main ingredient in BenGay Muscle Rub. It can be purchased by special order at independent pharmacies but not through the big chains... indepent pharmacies can also order oil of clove and Zinc Oxide (a white pigment). In any case, the solvent is brushed carefully on the face of the photocopy which is then placed face down on the surface to which you wish to transfer, and preasure is applied by completely scribling over the back of the photocopy with a drawing pencil... it takes experimentation to find the correct amount of solvent for your particular copier images and it is certainly best to use the freshest copies possible. If you do not want your image reversed you should first copy on to overhead transpareency film, face that with a blank sheet and photocopy copy throught the back for a copy to lift from.

photocopy peel

Here you place sticky side up a sheet of clear self adhesive con-tac shelving paper (sold from the roll in independent hardware stores and in packaged rolls at discount pharmacy and grocery stores). Carefully lay the color or black and white photocopy down smothly on the sticky surface and burnish from back so that the image blacks apear dark rather than gray when viewed through the plastic film. Soak the con-tac paper and photocopy sandwhich in a tub of hot water until the paper is fully saturated. Now the paper fiber can be removed by rubbing with the palms and fingers (or a sponge) until the paper is completely removed from the adhesive film which now also holds the toner image... so long as the adhesive film is kept wet the abrasion will not damage it or the image it holds. Let dry adhesive surface up... if paper fibers remain scrub off with a wet finger. When sheet is fully clear of paper fibers and dry it can be glued or simply ironed onto fabric, wood or paper... when ironing use a sheet of clean paper to seperate the plastic sheet from the iron or it will melt and stick to the surface of the iron. If you want to paint over one of these peels you must prepare the surface with mat acrylic medium so it will take your paint.

photocopy lift

Here a photocopy of an image is coated with washable fabric glue from the craft store. This is place face down on fabric, wood, or even artists' paper, rubbed down for close contact and left to dry over night. The paper of the copy is then dampened until it becomes transparent, and the paper is peeled away from the final support and the remaining paper fibers rubbed off with a wet sponge. If you do not want your image reversed you should first copy on to overhead transpareency film, face that with a blank sheet and photocopy copy throught the back for a copy to lift from.