6 Tips for Best Printmaking Results

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gelatin monoprints
Gelatin monoprints.

I have always loved printmaking. I still have a framed intaglio print I made in high school, and lately I’ve been experimenting with screen printing and gelatin monoprinting.

There are so many different kinds of printmaking techniques that I find myself hopping from one to another, with yet another waiting in the wings.

But I’ve learned that whether you’re making monoprints or screen prints, lino printing or block printing, there are a few tips and guidelines you should follow—or at least be aware of—to make the most of your creative impulses and avoid frustrating mistakes.

I adapted these tips from one of my favorite books, Printmaking & Mixed Media: Simple Techniques for Paper and Fabric, by one of my favorite artists, Dorit Elisha.

6 Printmaking Tips

1. Set up your workspace with a protected working area and a protected drying area. You don’t want to happily start printing only to realize you have no place to set down your wet prints. Not that this has ever happened to me.

2. Safety first. Many printing processes use rather benign paints and inks, but even those can be hazardous if they come in contact with food storage and prep areas. Always protect your surfaces, don’t reuse containers for food after they have been used for art (in fact, don’t eat and drink in your printmaking area), protect eyes and skin from chemicals or solvents, and always wash your hands well after your printing session. (Note: these are minimum safety requirements. Be sure to read all labels and follow safety instructions for your printing method.)

3. Go in reverse. Remember that with many printing methods, the printed image will be the reverse of what is on the screen or block. To avoid ending up with backwards words and images (again, not that this has ever happened to me…), Dorit suggests you go through the motions of the whole process first, without using ink.

printmaking mixed media
Mixed-media prints by Dorit Elisha.

4. Steady and even. Those are your watchwords for laying the substrate on the plate, burnishing the image, and removing the substrate from the plate. Anything else can blur the image. Unless you want a slightly blurred image. In which case, go for it!

5. Have a fine-tip brush handy. Imperfections happen. That can be a wonderful thing, or not. When it’s not, use a brush with a bit of ink on it to touch up small, imperfect spots. Colored pencils work well, too.

6. Always print extras. It’s all set up—why not print more? This way, you’ll be sure to have exactly what you need when you start your mixed-media artwork or to use for another project later on.

I have learned so much from Dorit. Printmaking & Mixed Media is the perfect book for someone who wants to get their feet wet in a variety of printmaking techniques or someone who knows the basics and wants guidance and inspiration for mixing prints up with collage, book making, and stitch.

Right now, Printmaking & Mixed Media is one of the books featured in our Hurt Book and Overstock Sale, which means it and hundreds of other titles are deeply discounted, even though the books are perfectly usable. These books go fast, so don't miss out.

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