Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994
Submitted by: Bill Root
Grade Level: High school (may be adapted to middle school)
Awareness of non-toxic printmaking technique - learn an intaglio process
Thinking in terms of printmaking ("reverse" thinking, creating editions)
Reinforce and choose Principles of Design
Carborundum is a non-toxic method for producing a print. A mixture of Carborundum grits (abrasives composed of silicon carbide) of different textures is mixed with an adhesive and brushed onto a plate. (Bill has grits ranging from #50 to #200. He uses #120 a lot). The plate is then inked and wiped like an intaglio plate or it can be printed in relief. This can be used with classes from grades 9-12, but is especially effective with AP and Studio classes.
Plexiglas (Another option is the Paragona Craft Glass Palette)
Carborundum grit (if you can only afford one, select a medium fine like #120), Acrylic Gloss Medium, Brushes, rubber nibbed tools, Etching Inks* (water base Block Printing Inks works for younger students)
Cotton rag paper, pan for water, blotters
Cheese cloth, Tissue paper, Newsprint, Etching Press
Carborundum is a mineral, often found in powdered form, that is used as an abrasive in printmaking. When mixed into a paste with glue or acrylic medium it can be easily painted on a flat plate. When dry & hard, the paste will hold inks and can be printed many times in a standard etching press.
After a brief introduction to forms of printmaking, students learn about the range of hazardous substances used in many traditional methods, and the many choices available today for non-toxic printmaking techniques. Carborundum grits (silicon carbide in powdered form) are mixed with glue and applied to the surface of Plexiglas plates to produce rich tonal areas, often in a very painterly manner. The plates may also be incised, abraded, or attacked with various sharp hand and/or electric tools to create velvety linear marks, and/or combined with monotype. More advanced students will work with both single and multiple plate images, in b/w as well as layered color. Plates will be inked, wiped, and printed in the intaglio (etching) method. Printmaking experience is useful, but I have also used this technique as an introductory printmaking lesson.
MAKING THE PLATE:
1. Do a series of thumbnail drawings, using charcoal. Students experiment with both representational and non-representational imagery
2. Take an old zinc etching plate or sheet of Plexiglas as a base. We usually work on 9"X12" (23 x 30.5 cm) up to 12"X12" (30.5 x 30.5 cm) sheets. Thin plywood or other support structures could also be used.
3. Mix carborundum with acrylic medium or white glue and paint onto this base trying to ensure that the total depth isn’t more than twice the depth of the base material. Ideally, the lower the relief surface the better. (Note from Judy: Carborundum mix may also be put int squeeze bottle and drawn onto plate. Double ended rubber nibbed tools are helpful for moving mix around on plate).
Plates may also combine engraving and/or collagraph
INKING THE PLATE
An etching press is needed.
Place a piece of newsprint face up on the bed of the press to protect the bed of the press from ink on the back of the plate.
Place the inked plate face up on the newsprint.
Place the printing paper on top of the plate.
Place another piece of newsprint over the printing paper to protect the blankets.
Pull the blankets back over all the above.
Run the image through the press. I usually have students run it back through a second time to ensure a good impression.
Because of the pressure exerted by the press, and because of the rough surface of the plate, the printing paper needs to be softened to take the image. To achieve this, place the paper in the water bath to soak for an hour minimum (longer if it a heavy printing paper) withdraw from the bath and blot to remove surplus water (oil (ink) and water don’t mix). It is then ready to be used for printing.
DODEA Standards addressed (Studio Art 10-12 Advanced): These can be adapted to National Standards
VA1a: The student demonstrates control over various media, technological tools, techniques, and processes.
VA1c: The student evaluates the characteristics of traditional media, technological tools, techniques, and processes in the process of making art.
VA1d: The student uses materials and tools, including technology, in a safe and responsible manner.
VA2a: The student selects specific elements of art and principles of design to produce a desired effect in a variety of works of art of increasing complexity.
VA2b: The student analyzes and explains how elements of art and principles of design clarify an artwork’s role and purpose.
VA2c: The student selects elements of art and principles of design to communicate sophisticated ideas, solve complex visual problems, and further develop personal and independent solutions.
My middle school students made portrait prints using this method - just focusing on dark and light value. We did not have in between grits. I mixed a medium fine grit with acrylic gloss medium. I purchased the Carborundum from Daniel Smith. I put the mixture in small squeeze bottles and students drew onto the Plexiglas (with drawing taped under the plate). Mixture was moved around/scraped off when needed with rubber nibbed tools (with double end - one pointed end and the other a angle chisel tip). Brushes were also used to spread the mixture.
We did not have all of the official tools for inking the plates. We used old toothbrushes to spread the ink around - then wiped with folded cheese cloth - turned cheese cloth as they went to remove more ink. Newsprint and tissue paper was used to wipe the lighter areas. They printed with oil base etching ink at first - then we finished with regular water base block Block Printing Inks when the etching ink ran out. We got very good results with the water base ink.
Students also did some Chine Colle - inking the plate as above, them laying pieces of tissue paper over the plate and sprinkling with fine Wheat Paste. The damp paper and pressure of the press fused the tissue paper to to the printing paper. These prints came out very nice. Other options included monoprint over one of their prints using Createx paints and medium (this had to be one done with oil base inks). They could also hand color a print with watercolors if they wished (again, this had to be an oil base print). They also printed on their own hand made paper. Our prints were about 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.7 cm) - a nice size for this age group. All students made at least three prints, one was left black and white.