Creating a Collograph

Collograph printing is a really fun technique - and you can create a collograph plate from discarded items you will have in the house - all that matters is that they have an interesting texture!  After a holiday in Portugal where there was a beautiful carp pond at the place we stayed, I felt inspired to make a print of carp.  I decided to create a collograph, as I wanted to capture the watery gloom of the pond and the fish swimming through these murky waters.  I used the collograph I created as a fabric design - Swimming Carp, available on Spoonflower.

Making a Collograph Plat
I started off by drawing carp in different poses to capture the amazing shapes they make.  I then made up plates of carp, using sheets of card, onto which I stuck pieces of bags that satsumas come in, and corrugated card.  I stuck some foil which had been crumpled up and flattened again onto a piece of mount card.  I then cut out the carp from the sheets of card and stuck them onto the foil in a pleasing arrangement.  I covered this with a layer of white gesso paint so that I'd be able to judge how much ink I'd put on - much easier on a white surface. This was followed by 2 layers of pva glue and a layer of varnish.  The plate was left to dry thoroughly.
How to ink a collograph plate
I inked the plate using a loose, gloopy oil based ink in grey to begin with.  I forced this into all the areas of the plate with an old paintbrush.  I wiped off the excess grey.  Using a roller, I rolled a bright orange ink onto the fish so that some of the detail of the fish was highlighted.  I rubbed a blue ink onto the rest of the plate using a cloth.  I put the inked plate through my press.  I have a relief press rather than an etching press, which is not ideal.  However, I still manage to get effective results by soaking thick heritage paper and then blotting it dry.  I also experiment to get the optimum degree of packing.   It's really good fun trying different combinations of colours.
Swimming Carp Fabric
Collograph prints do not come alive fully until you have coloured the background using a wash of water based inks.  Of course, when you put a layer of water based inks over oil based inks, the colours of the oil based inks shine through.  Here you can see my final print.  The collograph was inked up using pink on the fish and a blue background - I then used a wash of light pink on the fish and green on the water.  Have a look at the final fabric design on Spoonflower!

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