The Natural Collection Through Collagraph Printmaking: Part 2

Reader Contribution by Barbara Hengstenberg
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If you’ve followed along with the idea of collecting from nature in Part 1 of this post, I hope you enjoyed your time spent contemplating the natural world. Now it’s time to affix the bits and pieces of treasures you’ve found onto your plate, and then we can start printing.


First, decide how large you’d like your design to be. Are you making small notecards? Framed art prints? Cut your cardboard to whatever size you desire. Any creases or other protruding parts will most likely appear in your final print, so notice them as you design your plate. Next, lay out your leaves, grasses, etc. onto your plate — keep in mind that the design will be a mirror image once it’s printed on paper. I affix my materials to the cardboard plate using a paint-on adhesive. Once the materials are pretty well affixed, I brush the adhesive over the entire exposed area of the plate. If stems stick up too much, I’ll staple them to the plate. Leave the plate to dry. This sometimes takes 24 hours, depending on how thick the adhesive is applied.

Paper Choice

Another important material in collagraph printmaking is the choice of paper. There are times that I’ll use watercolor paper, which provides a more feathered look to my paint and allows the paint to bleed a bit. Other times, I’ll want a crisper image. In that case, I’ll choose printmaking paper. It’s fun to experiment with both, as well as other types of paper, using the same plate.

Using a brayer, roll a dab of printmaking ink onto a separate smooth, thick paper. Cover the surface of your brayer entirely. Then roll the brayer all over your plate. You’ll soon find that the thicker materials will take on more paint. That’s okay!

The first example below is on watercolor paper; the second piece was printed on printmaking paper:


Quickly soak your watercolor or printmaking paper in a shallow bin of clean water, allowing the excess to drip off as you remove the sheet. Carefully place the paper atop the plate, without shifting. Place a clean piece of paper over your art paper and, using a second CLEAN brayer, roll all over your paper. I also use a wooden spoon to gently push the paper into the deeper pockets on my plate. Keep in mind that the harder you push on your paper with either the clean brayer or the wooden spoon, the more texture you’ll get in your finished print.

Slowly, remove your art paper from the plate, trying not to slide the paper as you’re lifting it. Voila! Are you surprised by the artwork you’ve created? Hopefully, the textures have transferred visually and texturally onto your paper. Place your creation in a safe location to dry. Then try a second print using the same plate. Print it without adding more ink for a lighter, more defined image, or add in a new color. That’s the joy of collagraphy: you can experiment and be surprised by the results.

Once your printed piece has dried, sign it in pencil and add “EV1, EV2,” etc. for each subsequent print from the same plate. EV = Edition Verite.

Enjoy the surprise of creating art from nature. I’m writing this from my front porch overlooking my garden. As I look out, the possibilities of more bits of flora to use in my printmaking seem endless!

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