Printmaking 101: Paper Lithography

The following introduction to paper lithography is taken from an article written by Martha Oatway, in our Winter 2012-13 Newsletter just published today!  You can read more about lithography and all other happenings at WPG in the newsletter, at the link above.

"Branches" by Martha Oatway

“Branches” by Martha Oatway

Paper lithography is the process of inking a toner based photo copy (the plate) and printing it onto printmaking paper. I first learned of this process when I took a workshop at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, Connecticut in the late 1990s.

The workshop instructor told us the method was invented for woodcut and linoleum printmakers to transfer their images onto wood and linoleum blocks. At some point a printmaker discovered it to be a method in its own right.

The method is simple but technique driven. A high contrast drawing or  photograph is photocopied onto paper. Alternatively, a hand drawing in grease pencil or oil pastel can be used. The toner, grease pencil or oil pastel is the vehicle for the ink.

Etching or litho ink is modified with plate oil to reduce tack. The paper plate is saturated with a 50/50% ratio of gum Arabic to water to protect the paper fibers. The grease pencil and oil pastel marks or copy toner does not absorb
the gum mixture. The plate is inked with a brayer and wiped with gum mixture repeatedly until the grease or toner image is completely covered. This part is tricky as darker inks can’t be seen as well on the toner. Over working the plate is very easy as the paper fibers wear down and the toner can rip up if the ink is not modified correctly.

The fully inked plate is placed on the print paper and run through the press. The plate is thrown away. Images can be enlarged or reduced according to the need of the printmaker.

There are many advantages to using paper lithography. It can be used as a one-off, in multiple layers to build up imagery or to add an element to another printing technique such as etching, collagraph or drypoint.


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