Printmaking for Beginners

Over a series of Saturdays, myself and fellow attendees at the Leeds College of Art learnt the processes involved in printmaking. From scratching patterns into plastic and using rollers to apply inks of every colour, to wheeling ancient-looking printing presses with the eager anticipation of the outcome, this five-week course provided an introduction to some of the main forms of this craft.

For the first of our five sessions we tried monoprinting using paper stencils to make unique multi-coloured relief prints. Designs could range from bold abstract shapes to intricately cut creations; each had their own effect when printed with different inks using the school’s impressive print rollers. I loved experimenting with layers of pattern and colour to form striking collages as shown in the picture below.

Our second week introduced us to collograph learning both relief and intaglio printing. We created boards from layers of materials with different textures and depths to ink up and create relief prints (with the ink laying on the surface), then tackled the trickier task of intaglio (where the ink rests in the gaps and damp paper is used for the prints). The latter was a messy challenge but produced some interesting effects.

Many of us already had some experience of linocuts and it was a welcome change to try a very different printmaking method. Carving into a tile made of clay-like material, designs ranged from intricate florals to graphic shapes, each producing clean, crisp prints. Working with a smaller scale than previously, the card crafters among us had great fun creating colourful toppers for our collections.

Reduction lino in week four allowed us to develop our skills further with the more challenging task of working in stages to create prints of multiple components, carving away at the same tile to form each stage of one image. Understanding the results of our mark-making on the print could be quite confusing but the vivid images produced were really effective.

Our fifth and final week seemed to have come all too soon but there was still time to learn one last type of printmaking – drypoint, another form of intaglio printing. A favourite with those who enjoy illustration, we carved pictures into acetate boards before inking them up and printing onto damp paper. The combination of subtle colour with fine detailed drawings made for very unique prints.

Five weeks, five skills, and a folder-full of fascinating results to take home, this short course proved that the art of printmaking is one you could easily spend a lifetime honing. The method is repetitive yet each outcome is unique, and makers rely on luck as well as creativity in a process as engaging as it is meditative. So if you’re looking for an addictive new hobby, printmaking is well worth a try.

A big thank you to our tutors Alex and Mick for a fantastic course. Unfortunately, this course won’t be running in the near future at the Leeds College of Art but you can find similar classes at the Leeds Print Workshop.

rachel typing printmaking june17
Some of my attempts at monoprinting in week one.
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