IF Kids Project :: Collagraphy with File Folders


if kids collagraphy2

Collagraphy is a printmaking process.  There are a variety of ways to do it, but I love using the simple material of an old file folder for the print plate.  The image is from a art class I taught this summer and was made by a 9 year old. The results can be spectacular.

To get started you will need:
–   an old file folder
–   liquid glue (such as Elmer’s)
–   scissors
–   water-soluble printing ink
–   printing brayer
–   old plastic tray
–   paper for printing (Black construction paper was used in the example.)
–   paper for sketching
–   pencil
–   paper (brown paper, newspaper) to cover work table
–   apron


Let’s create!

1.   Prepare your work surface.
Cover your table with newspaper or brown paper to protect it. This process is slightly messy, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution.  Don’t forget to put on your apron!

2.  Sketch out your idea.
Sketch out your idea on a sheet of paper the size of your file folder.  Do you want to create a clown? A landscape?  The trick to a great collagraph is to make the image with plenty of negative space.  To make this clown, each distinct feature of the face and costume were drawn, but not the base of the head.  There is space between the lips and the bow tie, the nose and the lips etc.  The second trick is to make your image big, bold and simplistic.  A tiny clown face with lots of details just won’t print as well.

3.  Make your printing plate.
Cut the file folder in half along the fold line.  Use one side as print base and the other to cut out your shapes.  Draw your shapes, cut them out and arrange them on the print base.  Once you have an image you like, glue the pieces into place. Make sure you get the edges of each piece!  You don’t want any to curl up when the glue has dried.  Allow the glue to thoroughly dry before proceeding.

4.   Ink your tray.
Squeeze a small amount of ink onto the center of the plastic tray.  Smooth out the ink with a brayer.  Don’t have too much fun squishing it around!  The ink dries quickly.

5.   Ink your printing plate.
Roll the ink across the surface of your printing plate.  Move your brayer in different directions to get the best coverage possible.

6.   Make the print.
Center your paper over the printing plate and press into place.  Run your hands across the surface of the paper adding pressure.  If you have another brayer you can roll it over the surface or use the back of an old wooden spoon. Once you’ve pressed the paper all across the printing plate, peel it back to see your print.

if kids collagraphy

7.  Make several prints.
Use a paper towel to wipe off any globs of ink that remains on your print plate. You will be able to make 4-5 prints before the plate is worn out.  Let your prints dry and arrange them in a collage like this example or use them to make cards, posters or covers for your journal.

8.   Clean up.
Place your art aside to dry.  Use warm, sudsy water to wash your tray and brayer. Allow to air dry.  Recycle the newsprint.


This project is suitable for ages 5 – 99.

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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 01/04/13 under artists
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