Foiled Printmaking

This video demonstrates how to combine the art of collagraph printmaking with hot and cold stamped foiling. Collagraph printmaking uses a Plexiglas plate with a collage of paper, cardboard, string, plastic and other found objects glued to its surface. This collage of objects creates an irregular surface that is then inked in various methods and run through the etching press or printed by hand to create our image. The resulting image can either make a negative impression of the objects if the plate is inked like an intaglio plate or a positive image if printed in a relief printing process. Different colors of ink can be used with each of the printing methods to build a multi-color image. The added twist is to combine hot stamping to the mix. Polymer gels can be applied to your print through the printing process. Hot stamped foil is then bonded to the polymers in your print. The combination of colored ink and foil can create amazing results.

  • Step 1) The collagraph plate. We start with a clear Plexiglas base. Being able to see through the Plexiglas can help with registration of the image during the multiple stages of printing. Paper card stock or poster board can be cut with a frisket knife or scissors to form your image. We can print an image onto the card stock to be used as a guide. Then, card stock can be cut to create the outline of your image. Remember that the image must be horizontally flipped on your plate to appear correctly in the final print. Elmer’s glue is used to adhere the cut pieces to the plexiglas plate. After the glue dries interior lines can be cut into the card stock to add detail. Other types of cardboard and plastic can also be cut out and glued to the plate surface along with string and crepe paper. The surface texture of these materials will produce interesting effects. Keep the build-up of materials from getting too thick because too great a variation can cause the paper to rip and cause problems when passed through the etching press. About ⅛” is a maximum thickness to go through the etching press. Thicker plates will need to be hand printed. Once the plate is assembled a coat of acrylic gloss medium is applied to the whole surface to seal and bond the collage of objects and paper to the Plexiglas. Avoid having the acrylic gloss medium fill in your incised lines by brushing out the medium. Do not let it pool up. If the objects are not securely attached to the plexiglas your printing plate can fall apart during the printing process. Sealing your plate with acrylic gloss medium allows it to be washed after printing. Check your plate after use and make repairs if needed. 
  • Step 2) Intaglio printing. Prepare your paper by soaking it in a tray of water while inking your plate. Ink is first spread over the plate with a dabber or stencil brush. Work the ink into the creases and grooves of your plate. Use a tarlatan to wipe the ink from the plate surface. Newspaper can also be used to clean up the surface. This part of your image will come from the ink in the lower indentations of the plate being drawn out by pressing the damp paper onto your plate with the etching press. 
  • Step 3) Relief printing. Use an ink brayer to roll out the ink that will be applied to the upper surfaces of your plate. This ink can be a different color than the ink used in the intaglio inking of the plate. Place a small dab of ink on the inking slab. Touch the ink with the brayer and roll it out onto the slab. Repeat by touching the brayer at a different point and roll it out again. Repeat until a smooth film of ink has been created on the slab. Carefully apply the ink to your plate with the brayer. This may require several passes. Press lightly so that the ink is applied only to the upper surface of your plate. 
  • Step 4) Printing the plate. Lay your inked plate on the etching press inked side up. Use the template as a guide. Clean your hands and remove your paper from the water. Blot it to remove all of the surface water. Carefully place your paper on your printing plate in the etching press using the template as a guide. Place a piece of paper over top followed by the press blankets. Be careful not to shift your plate and paper with the placement of the blankets. Turn the gear wheel on the etching press to feed the press bed under the pressure roller. Do not stop until the plate is completely through. Carefully lift the blankets and cover paper to reveal your print. Use strips of gummed tape to attach your print to the drying board. Apply the tape first to the top, then bottom and finally sides of your print. Clean your plate and inking tools with soap and water. Allow your print to dry. 
  • Step 5) Printing Polymer. Basically, the hot stamped foil will adhere to any acrylic gel that has been applied to the surface of the print. The acrylic gel will be applied by hand printing the collagraphic plate as a relief plate. Place your print face up on a felt backer. Put a small dab of acrylic gel on the inking slab and roll with a brayer until it is evenly distributed on the brayer similar to inking the plate in step 3. Carefully roll the acrylic gel onto the raised portion of your collagraphic plate. Turn your plate facedown and align it upon your print. Press your plate onto the print and apply pressure to the back to transfer the acrylic gel from your plate to the print. Lift the plate off of your print. The clear acrylic gel should be transferred onto your print in a pattern of your relief plate. Allow to dry. 
  • Step 6) Foil the image. Select a foil to apply to your print. Remember that the side of the foil that is to the outside of the roll goes up. The side of the foil that is to the inside of the roll will be in contact with the acrylic gel on your print. Place a silicone sheet on the foil printer to protect the hotplate from getting foil transfered onto it. Place your print on the hotplate face up and the foil in position on top. Cover the print and foil with a silicone sheet to protect the heated roller from getting foil adhered to it. Place the heated roller on the center of the the print and press down. Slowly push the roller away then toward you. Keep the roller unit vertical so only the heated roller is in contact with the foil and your print which is between the silicone sheets. Move the roller back and forth to cover the entire area of the foil. Set the heated roller aside so it rests on its metal feet and the heated roller is not in contact with anything. Remove your print and foil from the hotplate and allow it to cool. Remove the plastic carrier sheet from your print and the foil should be adhered to your print. If the foil did not transfer then the foil may have been placed wrong side up. Flip the foil over and try again. The foil also needs enough heat and pressure to transfer it to the acrylic gel. The result should be a print with the intaglio inked areas showing and the foil adhered to the relief printed acrylic gel. Ink that was printed in the relief method of step 3 may show through the foiled areas depending on the coverage of the acrylic gel and the transparency of the foil. Different foils can be applied selectively to areas of the acrylic gel by creating stencils cut out of silicone paper. Openings cut into the stencil allow to foil to adhere in those areas and block adherence in others. 
  • Step 7) Continued additions. Foil can be added to other areas of your print by coating that area with acrylic gloss medium diluted 80/20 with water. Use stencil techniques to apply foil to those areas. Acrylic paints can also be brushed onto your print. In general, once acrylic paint and mediums are applied to your print the soy and oil based printing ink products cannot be added. They dry by absorption into the paper and the acrylic paint and mediums block that adsorption resulting in inks that do not dry. Other variations can be achieved by printing multiple plates onto the same sheet of paper in the printing ink stage or relief stamping of acrylic gel. Your collagraphic plate can be printed multiple times in a variety of color combinations and foil applications. Exploring these different combinations is the fun of making foiled paperworks.