Playing Around with Collographs


A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to revisit making collographs. I made several in an undergraduate printmaking class. I like how easy it was to get texture. But to that end you have to sacrifice details….drawing detail. Taking a piece of book board (davey board) and covering it with cut outs of card stock for the tree trunks and then bits of rosemary for the leaves I tried to get the essence of what I saw out my studio doorway. There also is a stone pillar made with  card stock stones and daubs of garnet gesso for a “stoney” look. More bits of whatever made up the ground under the crepe myrtle trees.  I did not think it was too piled on. My teacher back then said, “Don’t be making it like a wedding cake. Keep it printable.”

So I put it together and shellacked both sides after coating it with gesso for additional textures.

I decided to just print it and see what would happen. Well the “wedding cake” aspect is certainly apparent because the abundance of white means there was little contact with the paper. I did not like how the stone pillar came out at all and thought before I try this again, I will just chop off that part. I also hammered down some of the high parts and really increased the pressure.

All said and done with this experiment, I like the plate better than the prints. AND I learned that whatever I learned in undergraduate school had been well and truly forgotten. So the next best thing is to go onto YouTube and watch some tutorials. My books from back then were very out dated compared with the internet innovations in printing collographs.

I don’t know why I wanted to use the dark umber ink instead of the black. It might be that the mistakes are less glaring in a color print.

So taking another board and only card stock paper from an old folder, I created a block image of a bird nest. Super simple. Finding the flaws in ones work is always easier if things are kept simple at first.


A collograph plate is only good for so many prints and then the build-up flattens and it is hard to get an image after about ten or so runs through the press. It took three to get the pressure and viscosity of the ink just right. The ink should be thinner than when covering an etching plate so it can seep into the cracks and of course in the long run, waste less ink. Here are the brown ones and then the black ones. The black ones definitely give me more information on what needs to be done or not done when printing. But by now I have used up almost all of my ten passes.




I will say that once they are matted and signed they do take on a more professional look. But it also seems that by the time you get the hang of it a lot of ink is wasted, not to mention time and paper. The end product could just as easily have been done by a ten year old. A ten year old with an etching press. I may go back to the dry point etching. At least there it is more about my ability to make marks, draw so to say.

But just to share I am going to show one more plate that I am working on. The subject matter is how it is for me sometimes…..feeling like hauling a expletive deleted camel up a hill. Here is the camel in an ill-fated vessel sailing over dangerous waters only to get to that blessed hill with a camel who is intent on carrying the same dilemma on his back as a reminder that even at the top of the hill, nothing is going to end… prepared to start again.


I will post a picture of this when I print it just so you can see. The pencil lines need to be carved out to allow me a fine line (like etching). The boat is using a textured paper. The house that is for me, the hidden passenger, needs to have a window cut out so I can see where I am going. And of course there is the huge rock for an anchor that might just leave me stranded out there among those awful sharks if the wave doesn’t put us all overboard.

I hate that camel. But the good thing is I think it’s some fairly rich territory for more to come. Plus I am learning loads about the techniques and knowledge required to make a decent collograph.