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Tactile Art: How To Create A Collagraph Matrix

Collagraphs are a crafty fun way of creating a matrix to print from and can be used for both Intaglio and Relief printmaking. While this technique is relatively cheap and easy to create, you might need a printing press to really get deep into the grooves (Intaglio).

Collagraphs aren't usually revealed by printmakers because we're notorious for pretending we can do magic 😆

Here's a step by step guide to help you create your very own collagraph matrix! Whether you print from it or not, please show it off because they're beautiful, and deserve to be seen and felt by everyone. Enjoy the process!

Step #1 Supplies

  • Elmers Glue

  • Acrylic Matte medium

  • Water

  • Old synthetic or foam paint brushes

  • Scissors

  • Box cutter

  • Matte Board

  • *Random supplies to glue together for texture

*Random supplies to glue together can be almost anything. I suggest staying away from squishy things that absorb liquids. But you can use twine, rice, leaves, dirt, textured paper, ripped up cardboard ect...

keep in mind that the matrix should be no thicker than 1/4"

egg shells and coffee grinds
collagraph supplies

Here's what I glued together:

  • Broken eggshells (tiny!)

  • Used coffee grinds

Step #2 Cut your shape

matte board, scissors and box cutter
"Dead Man's Fingers"

Cut your shape out of a matte board for your matrix. You can use geometric shapes such as a square, rectangle, triangle etc. or you can keep it organic. My shape here was inspired by a mushroom known as "Dead Man's Fingers".

Step #3 - Glue on your textures

egg shells, coffee grinds, matte board, paint brush and shop towel

I found using Elmers glue mixed with water gave the best results. In this picture, I just blobbed some glue on the matte board and spread it around with a wet brush for a thin layer.

After I applied the thin layer of glue, I sprinkled my matrix with broken egg shells and coffee grinds.

egg shells, coffee grinds, and matte board

Let the matrix sit for a couple minutes before you lift it up and let the excess fall off.

Remember* collagraph matrices need a thin layer of texture!

Helpful tip: run your hand gently over the texture to make sure there aren't any loose pieces.

Be careful when using broken eggshell, they can be sharp. Also, you don't want anything sharp sticking out for obvious reasons but also because it might rip your paper if you decide to print from your matrix.

Step #4 - Seal your matrix for longevity

Liqutex acrylic matte medium for collagraph sealing
diluted acrylic matte medium

Use an acrylic matte medium diluted with a little water. You want kind of a whipping cream consistency.

egg shells, coffee grinds, matte board, paint brush, diluted acrylic matte medium

Apply 2 layers of the diluted medium over the top of the textured matrix. Make sure you cover the entire surface and into the grooves. Wait about 2 hours in between layers so that each layer has a chance to dry. Then turn it over and do the same thing on the back side.

You can also speed up the process by using a hair dryer.

Step #5 - Done and done

Wait at least 24-48 hours before using this matrix for printmaking.

egg shells, coffee grinds, matte board, paint brush, diluted acrylic matte medium, collagraph matrix
"Dead Man's Fingers" collagraph matrix

Enjoy your collagraph matrix!

Collagraph matrices are wonderful to use in printmaking of because the ink really emphasizes it's texture. Due to the nature of the materials used to create the matrix, the life span of a collagraph matrix is not indefinite, especially if you print from it (wear and tear).

Not a printmaker? You can also just enjoy the matrix as a tactile piece of art.

Currently working on my honors thesis exhibition (upcoming in Spring 2023), I am creating a print installation called Dead Man's Fingers. Follow me on instagram @hmbergerson to see updates of my honor thesis progress.

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