Collograph Printing on Fabric 5 Tips for Great Results

Monoprinting techniques make me feel like a kid in art class: most are easy, fun, and a little messy. But making collograph prints has to be the most fun of all.

You start by gathering found objects, gluing them collage-fashion onto a stiff substrate like a canvas board. Varnish over the whole thing to make the collagraph plate waterproof, let dry, and then break out the paint and fabric or paper and start making monoprints. Depending on the colors and types of paint you use, you can create a variety of looks from one plate.

collograph plate
Make sure your collage items are about the same height when
placed on the collorgraph plate for better printing.

As simple as this method of printing on fabric is, there are a few tricks to getting a well-defined print. I picked up a few tips by watching Sue Reno making collographs on her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt: Thermofax®, Cyanotype, Heliograph and Collagraph Printmaking Techniques.

1. Make sure your found objects are about the same height when on the plate. You can use anything from beads, to yarn, to a cut-up bamboo place mat, but if the heights are too varied, the lower textures may be lost when printing.

2. To keep the plate flat while the glue is drying, place a piece of baking parchment over the found objects and top that with a flat object, like a book, that will apply light, even pressure. It's best to let your plate dry overnight.

3. Waterproof your plate by spreading liquid or spray varnish over the surface. This will prevent any porous found objects from soaking up paint and also preserve the plate for more uses.

collograph monoprinting plate varnished
A collograph plate that has been sealed with varnish
and used to make a monoprint.

4. Use fabric paint, or mix fabric medium into acrylic paint to make your prints. Fabric paint adheres better to fabric and also yields a softer hand, or feel, to the printed fabric. Also, be sure to use fabric that is prepared for dyeing or washed to remove sizing or other coatings.

5. Spread paint a little more thickly on your palette than you would for printing on paper, to be sure you get a good impression on your fabric. A gelatin plate makes a good palette as it has some give that will also help transfer the paint onto the fabric as you press down.

collograph collagraph prints on fabric
A positive (right) and negative (left) collograph print from the same plate.
By Sue Reno. You can stitch the prints to add detail and texture.

These tips will help you create more well-defined collograph monoprints. But even less than perfect prints aren't a waste, says Sue. She cuts them up and uses them in the patchwork areas of her quilts.

Collograph printing is easy to do on your own. But with Sue's expertise and guidance in Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt, you can create one-of-a-kind pieces of fabric to create beautiful fiber art unique to you.

P.S. Have you tried collography? Share your tips below.

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Monoprinting & Screenprinting, Quilting Daily Blog

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