Project 11: Making a Test block Revisited

Further to the first failed attempt at this I needed to rethink my strategy. Due to illness and financial limitations I am not able to get to a print workshop or access to a press. Luckily my friend has lent me her ‘cuttlebug’ embossing machine which although small has the ability to produce drypoints (See here), so therefore I though it must have enough pressure to produce collagraphs.

I was limited with the plate size – to a maximum of 14 x 18cm which my tutor said was acceptable.

I made 3 plates: 2 more structured as per the instructions and one more organic and free flowing.

Whilst making these I was mindful of using materials that weren’t as dense as my initial trials so used: textured wallpaper; paper; clingfilm; plastic wrap; tin foil; sandpaper; tissue; netting; muslin; fabric; wood glue; feather (imprinted into modelling paste); sand; plaster engraved and scraped; parcel tape; masking tape; sellotape; pressed dried leaves & flower petals; fine fishing wire; embroidery thread; plus cut & tore the surface of the board in places. For the backing I used the back of an old notebook; foam board and canvas board.

It took a few goes and using various different pieces of funky foam to create the correct pressure on the embossing machine. I first inked blocks in relief then played around with viscosity printing using a few different colours of inks with differing consistencies.


These provided an interesting set of results. For future projects though I didn’t want to  be limited to a smaller Exif_JPEG_PICTUREsize as I thought it would be too restrictive. I had watched a Youtube video on printing a collagraph by hand. The artist recommended using dampened thinner paper. I decided to go back to using my Japanese Simili paper and was pleasantly surprised by the result.

The first I printed in one colour using a medium firm roller.

Then I decided to use the viscosity method again using 2 different colours with different types of roller: one soft one firm. The results were quite pleasing and effective:

This gave me encouragement that if I used the right materials and thinner paper I could work bigger for the next part of the course.


What went well?

  • Using 2 different types of roller to produced a multicolour print.
  • Certain textures printed particularly well: different types of tape; embroidery thread, wood glue, plaster, sand & sand paper plus cutting into the surface – creating additive and subtractive surfaces on one plate.

What was challenging / didn’t go so well?

  • Initially issues with using thicker paper when printing by hand did not work.
  • The initial plates using thicker organic materials were a huge problem. This meant I needed to redo this project and make new plates which unfortunately ate into my time. At least I now have a better understanding of the process and what will work well for future prints going forward.
  • I struggled with the intaglio inking and process with the ‘press’ at the moment I am unsure whether this is because there is not enough pressure (although it does create a good embossment)


  • I want to spend some time really getting to grips with the intaglio method of inking at some point in the next project.
  • Having read about using carborundum to create dark tones on the plate I would like to see if that is a possibility with the little cuttlebug machine.

Project 11: Making a Test Block (Part One)

Initially I decided to make two large c. A3 size test blocks using various organic and man-made materials. I used: sticks, dried leaves, ferns, grasses, feathers, tissue paper, fabric, cotton wool,  fishing wire, thread, tissue paper, and masking tape. I used modelling paste to stick these onto a piece of mountboard.

Referring to the notes in the course handbook I dampened paper and made a print via hand burnishing, unfortunately the results were extremely disappointing.

Learning points:

  • I was unable to produce enough pressure to force the paper down between the materials.
  • I need to use lower level materials to get a better result.
  • There needs to be more structure to the plate. Too much texture is overwhelming: it seems that less is certainly more with collagraph.

I need to revisit this exercise in order to try to improve my results.