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Making collagraphs with UHT packaging

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Collagraphs are, literally, printing from a collage. They are super simple to make and with a little practise and a LOT of ink, can produce beautiful textural results.

I don't make these very often and I really don't know why not, they are such a fun way of making imagery, they help me to see things purely in terms of composition and texture. There are several ways of making a colloagraph plate and I have made separate posts for the other methods.

UHT packaging... yep that's right, save all your old milk cartons and juice boxes, they're invaluable printing material!

  • Wash out the packaging and cut it open carefully along one of the seams to give yourself the largest area to work with. On the inside of the package you'll see that is has a silvery plasticised lining.

  • You can draw your design straight onto the packaging using a ball point pen, or you can transfer your design using carbon paper.

  • Decide which areas are to be dark and which light, mark them onto your design.

  • Cut lightly into the surface of the packaging with a scalpel or sharp craft knife, be careful not to cut all the way through, you are aiming to cut away the plasticky layer and the silver paper only to reveal the cardboard underneath.

  • When you have cut away everything you want to be dark, you might choose to cut the whole image out, or leave it as a regular shape.

I paint clear varnish over the bare cardboard areas, this makes the plate a little more hard wearing. I paint some marks onto the silvery areas with the varnish to create a slightly different texture when printing. Leave it to dry completely.

While it is drying, you need to soak some paper, (this is an 'intaglio' print process, meaning the ink sits in the textures created on the plate and so the paper needs to be soft and damp in order to pull the ink out of those textures.)

Use decent heavy weight paper of at least 250gsm, something like a Fabriano Rosapina is good. Cut it to the size you want and soak it in water for approx 30 mins.

Now you are ready to ink the plate. Ink can be added to the plate directly from the tube, don't add too much to begin with as you will waste a lot of ink, if you want to add different colours to the same plate, add little blobs of ink in different areas and work them in to the surface carefully.

Spread the ink across the surface using an old store card or something similar.

Work the ink into all the areas of the plate

Wipe the excess ink off the plate using balled up scrim

Polish the plate with piece of newsprint or tissue paper, be careful not to overwipe

Touch up areas you want to be really white with a cotton bud.

Set up your press to a high pressure using two or three blankets.

Remove the paper from the water, blot it on blotting paper, or I sometimes use a clean old towel that has no fluff or lint on it.

Run the print through with the damp paper on high pressure on the press.

You can watch my process of printing the collagraph, here:

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