This activity provides ideas for making a collagraph.
A collagraph is a type of relief print made by applying ink to collaged materials. It is an ideal relief printing technique for younger students as it doesn't involve using sharp tools for cutting into the surface of a plate as with lino or woodcut relief printing.
The activity is inspired by British-Indian artist Lancelot Ribeiro's drawings and paintings of abstract towns and cityscapes. Many of these were created from his imagination and are a mix of his impressions, experiences and memories.
Find out more about Lancelot Ribeiro and explore more ideas for exploring towns and cities in this lesson plan resource.
You will need:
thick card (for the back of the collagraph – this should be sturdy enough to have collage materials stuck onto it)
a range of collage materials with different textures such as corrugated cardboard, smooth cardboard, bubble wrap, woven or textured fabric scraps such as hessian or lace (anything with an interesting texture!)
relief printing ink (or thick paint) an ink roller and a paint tray (or piece of foil to roll out the ink on)
glue stick or PVA glue
paper for printing on such as sugar paper or cartridge paper
a photograph of a townscape (optional)
Step 1: Plan your townscape
Draw a townscape using only simple 2D shapes (such as triangles, squares, rectangles and circles).
You could draw a simple townscape from your imagination.
Or it might help to use a photograph. (There are lots of townscape photographs that can be freely downloaded from websites such as Pixaby.) Select a section of the photograph that you find interesting and draw the shapes that you see
Step 2: Cut out shapes from collage materials
Using your drawing as a guide, cut out the shapes for your townscape from collage materials.
The shapes could be cut from a mix of flat card and textured materials.
Think about what texture you could use to suggest a tiled roof or the rough walls of a building.
Mix up your textures by putting smooth materials next to bumpy materials next to roughly textured materials.
Step 3: Glue and stick your shapes
Glue the back of the shapes and stick them onto the thick backing card to create a collaged relief. (You may need to wait for the glue to set before printing from it.)
Top tip! If you want to make lots of prints from your collagraph relief, brush a thin layer of waterproof PVA glue over your collage relief. This will help it to last longer.
Step 4: Ink and roll!
Roll out the printing ink onto a paint tray. If you don't have a tray, wrap kitchen foil around an old book to create a smooth surface for rolling out your ink.
You may need to roll your roller back and forward a few times. The ink should be thin and flat and not gloopy.
Then roll the ink over your collaged townscape.
Step 5: Make your print
Place a piece of paper over the inked surface.
To press the paper down and ensure the ink is transferred, roll a clean roller across the back of the paper a few times. If you don't have a second roller, use a rolling pin or empty bottle to roll on the back of the paper instead, or gently rub the back of the paper with the back of a spoon.
Remove the inked paper and leave it to dry. Your print will be a mirror image of your collagraph design.
Variations and development ideas
Print onto a collaged background
To make a colourful collagraph, instead of printing onto plain paper, create a collaged background from scrap paper. (I have used scraps of tissue left over from other craft projects to make this background.)
Then follow the printing steps above to ink and print your textured relief collage onto your collaged paper.
Make a collagraph rubbing
Don't have printing ink or a roller (or you'd rather try a less messy activity)? Instead of printing from your textured collage, make a rubbing from it using crayons. Place a sheet of paper on top of your textured relief and gently scribble across the paper with a wax crayon.
The textures of your collage townscape will emerge through the paper.
Be inspired by...
Explore collagraphs on Art UK and get ideas for your next project!
New Beginning 1997
Gayle Robinson (b.1973)
Phoenix Saguaro by Way of the Painted Desert 1985
William Tillyer (b.1938)