Adventures in the New Language of Chine Collé

I have been toying with some ideas for a few months. I have visions of layering and new materials. Of well, something different. But something too different can be scary or frustrating, so perhaps something somewhat different would be a good place to start. This was the conversation I had with myself this morning. When you work alone, you have to be your own motivator and artistic therapist.

Pine Cone on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.

Indiana University has a terrific Fine Arts Library in a building designed by I. M. Pei. The university allows me to borrow books for a month as a state resident. I recently brought home a book by Brian Shure called Magical Secrets about Chine Collé. Chine collé is a printmaking process where a thin paper is printed on, while being simultaneously (usually) adhered to a stronger paper. It is most commonly used with etchings. It is rarely used with relief printmaking. But I was fascinated by the possibilities…

Shure is the expert on this technique and his book comes with a DVD in which you can watch him do some amazing processes. Amazing, and dreadfully complicated. Etching uses dampened paper, and the chine collé needs this as well. I am simply not set up for wet printing, and frankly didn’t want to deal with this. Surely there is another method, I thought.

Ginkgo leaf on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.

An extensive internet search led to some very interesting information, but really no guidance on how to do chine collé with dry paper and a relief block. I’ve been listening to Seth Godin talks recently, and in one, he advised that at some point you have to close the search windows and just get on with it. So I did.

A quick search of my studio yielded some scraps of thin Asian paper, plus lots of old maps. I had some square four inch blocks that I had created for demonstrations during the past year. The blocks were perfect because much of the block had not been carved away. This is important, because the technique relies on the pressure of the plate (or block) to stick the thin paper to the thick.

I used some leftover green ink to do some tests. I have had trouble in the past using any kind of water-based adhesives on Rives BFK. When gluing down items, the paper immediately rippled. I chose acrylic matte medium as my adhesive. After inking the block and placing it on the press bed, I quickly applied the medium to the back side of the thin Asian paper. The non-gluey side of the Asian paper was then placed on the inky block, and a piece of Rives BFK placed on top of the gluey paper completing the sandwich.

I used only regular pressure, and didn’t have any trouble with the printed paper releasing from the block.  One attempt had too much medium, which was forced through the thin paper and stuck to the block. I tried the technique with old maps, but the result was confusing. Thicker handmade papers didn’t give me the cohesive look I wanted.

My various experiments with Chine Collé. Some day I will find
a use for these maps!

The best result came from thin cream Asian paper. It was just different enough from the warm white of Rives BFK to give the block printing some depth. Eureka! Something new and different,  but also somewhat familiar. I will have to ask forgiveness from the chine collé purists, or maybe not!

What rules have you broken lately?

P.S. A check on the prints after 24 hours shows that the chine collé is holding well. A trip to my local art store yielded both natural and green Kitikata paper. Perhaps I’ll try some gold ink…


11 Replies to “Adventures in the New Language of Chine Collé”

  1. I love the chine collé process so it's exciting to see you learning the process and finding success. Nice prints by the way. I had never thought of using mat medium to glue the chine collé to the paper; how I learned and primarily use is spay adhesive. A medium spay adhesive, I don't use the "super adhesive" or what ever but a light even mist on the back usually does the trick and it also is a dry chine collé process. Just a suggestion if you wanted to try something else.

    1. Hi Chip
      Thanks for the tip about spray adhesive. I use the super adhesive for cementing my lino onto MDF, but I would image a lighter spray adhesive would work. My only hesitation is that it might not be archival, but if it is just for cards for my collectors, does it really matter? 🙂
      I visited your website and loved seeing your jigsaw process on your hikers print. (I'm married to a hiker from western Montana, so the scene really resonated with me.) I use the reduction method, and I'm not sure you could get all of those vibrant colors anyway. For an entirely different method, check out Annie Bissett's website and blog. She's been working with white line printmaking. Admittedly a very different process. Happy printing!

  2. I love these! Chip, above, references "finding success," but I know it is not as simple as that sounds…. oxox MKP

    1. (Sigh — I'm never sure if my replies reach people, so I'll reply this way as well…)
      Hi Rachel,
      You should definitely give chine colle a try! Your norwegian style sweaters would have a completely different look with a paper underneath. My only advice is to keep the shape of the thin paper as simple as you can, because it will start to curl when you put the glue on. Happy experimenting!

  3. Hi Rachel,
    You should definitely give chine colle a try! Your norwegian style sweaters would have a completely different look with a paper underneath. My only advice is to keep the shape of the thin paper as simple as you can, because it will start to curl when you put the glue on. Happy experimenting!

  4. Elizabeth~ I have recently been working with the papier applique process using Liquitex slow dry acrylic blending medium applying various Asian papers onto Arturo Cover (watercolor paper). This works really well by just brushing the medium across the top surface of the tissue. The medium bleeds through onto the wc paper and dries in a few hours. The thin papers can be lifted off carefully and repositioned shortly after brushing if desired. I then overprint using linocut designs. This all seems to work nicely. I have also been working on cardboard collagraphs which I gesso, lay on the press bed and cover with dampened Arturo watercolor paper and apply pressure. Results are stunning. I get beautifully embossed designs. Very easy process. I've combined embossing and offset linocut printing. Again, stunning results. Try it! My third project is a huge copper plate floral etching using true chine colle. I've been experimenting with wheat paste with really poor results although I did not do the double boiler method because it is a complicated procedure. Very frustrating. A lithographer I work with at the Indianapolis Art Center suggested I use Scotch Acid free photo mount. I had tried this on an earlier white line linocut and it worked but is VERY labor intensive and time consuming if you plan on an edition. You'll need to hold the cut tissue down with a toothpick or skewer so you don't spray your fingers and transfer adhesive to a place you do not want it. Happy printmaking! Love your works! James @

  5. Hi James,
    What interesting new projects you have! Thanks for the tip about the Liquitex medium. The medium used was a bit thick for my purposes, and I did have a few that needed a bit more glue at the top. I also love your idea for embossing. I have been trying that with a block from a very old series that is still interesting (most of mine just get carved away.) My only hesitation is the damp paper part, but if I don't have many layers to register, then maybe it is not a concern.
    I read in your newsletter that you're finding spending lots of time at the press challenging. It sounds like you have found some new ways to be inspired and creative. I find that during the cold months I have to limit the time I ask my hands to carve and run the press. I'm now learning about encaustic monotypes. Printing with warm wax is completely different from what we do, but it is certainly much easier on my hands. I'm also learning to use gold leaf. Very sparkly.
    I so enjoy seeing your new creations. Very inspiring indeed.
    Wishing you a happy (and healthy) New Year!

  6. I really like your work and the idea of inter fusing the maps with your picture. I’m doing some genealogy work for my family and I have this picture in my head of doing something similar with a family chart I have made with a map in the background showing the paths of migration. So, hmmmm, would sure love to learn how you did this! :)))

    1. Hi Jackie,
      I do this by carving the image (backwards remember!) on linoleum, and then printing that block onto the map. This might not be the best technique for you however. I would guess it might better to do it all digitally, where you could scan in a map, and then add the layer of your genealogy work. This would let you lighten the map a bit as well, as they can be very visually busy otherwise. Good luck! Elizabeth

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