Brenda Harthill embossed print

Artists’ prints with blind embossing

If you Google ‘prints with blind embossing’ it throws up a lot of information about commercial printing and ready made embossing patterns for card making and crafts. Rather than mass produced images I am interested in original artists prints with blind embossing in them, once your printmaking radar is tuned in, these artworks jump out at you from the background noise. There are wonderfully varied examples made by artists all around the world, here is a small selection to whet your appetite.

Combining blind embossing with inked areas

I have chosen images of work work which I find inspiring; I particularly like the examples where artists combine inking with blind embossing in the same print. There are some clever ones from Brenda Harthill where the uninked embossed areas create snow, clean washing and white walls.

Shadows III, Embossed print by Brenda Harthill
Shadows III, Embossed print by Brenda Harthill

Blind embossing is deceptively simple

Sometimes blind embossing feels like a poor relation to conventional coloured (or monochrome) printmaking, it is subtle and quiet, requiring the viewer to make a bit more effort. Blind embossed prints may appear simple, however this is deceptive as you will discover if you try making one. In everyday printmaking your print is a mirror image of the original plate, with blind embossing you need to think harder about the levels which are reversed as well; recessed areas on the plate will be sticking out in the print.

String blind emboss 1 by Frances Kiernan
String blind emboss 1 by Frances Kiernan

See Frances Kiernan’s website here

Printmaking meets sculpture

Blind embossing is where printmaking meets sculpture; the prints change with the light and angle of view. The audience is able to be more interactive, engaging with the prints through touch as well as vision, and physically moving around to see the work in different ways.

Embossed print from carved wood by Rudolph Carl Gorman
Embossed print from carved wood by Rudolph Carl Gorman

Rudolph Carl Gorman (July 26, 1931- November 3, 2005) was a Native American Artist of the Navajo Nation. Referred to as “the Picasso of American Indian art” by the New York Times, his painting are primarily of Native American women and characterized by fluid forms and vibrant colors, though he also worked in sculpture, ceramics, and stone lithography. He was also an avid lover of cuisine, authoring four cookbooks, (with accompanying drawings) called Nudes and Food.

Sedna and the Fulmar, embossed book by Ron King
Sedna and the Fulmar, embossed book by Ron King

Sedna and the Fulmar is one of forty signed, limited-editions by artist Ron King at Circle Press in collaboration with Scottish poet Richard Price. The artist’s book recreates the story of the young woman Sedna who, deceived by her lover and then father, is transformed to a sea goddess now central to Inuit cultural belief. Both artist and poet evoke the darkly violent tale in a series of subtle yet distinctive images accompanied by written verse. King has used the printmaking technique of blind embossing to create bold lines and shadows on folded sheets of handmade paper, completely white except for the pale blue letterpress of Price’s poetry. The words set a rhythm to the embossed Inuktitut script native to Canada, where the artist spent a few formative years of his career and first learned of the myth. Presented in a solid, square blue box with eagle motif, the three-dimensional nature of the book is accentuated further by layers of embossed images on textured paper, delicately weighted like snow.

See the whole book here

Recoil 1 by Lesa Hepburn
Recoil 1 by Lesa Hepburn, hand coloured embossing on hand made paper

See information about Lesa Hepburn’s work here

Bill Worrell, Council at Rattlesnake Canyon
Council at Rattlesnake Canyon by Bill Worrell

An original blind embossing by artist Bill Worrell. This engraving is Worrell’s interpretation based on pictographic rock art done by the Native Americans of the Lower Pecos River around 3500 B.C.
See Bill Worrell’s website here

Citta ideale by Walter Valentini
Citta ideale by Walter Valentini

Allow yourself to be inspired

Putting this collection of examples together has filled my head with ideas for new prints, I hope it does the same for you. If you feel inspired to have a go yourself; see my post on blind embossing for instructions and ideas to get you started.

Many printmaking techniques create prints with blind embossing

The examples here show etching, collagraph and wood block as well as embossing directly from objects. I haven’t included any blind embossed lino prints but this is also very effective. More or less any firm textured surface that will go through the printing press can be embossed.

I hope the examples here inspire you to design prints without ink, and whether you make your own or discover good examples of other peoples’ prints please share them by leaving a comment  with a link to a picture of the work. (Don’t forget to credit yourself or the artist)

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7 thoughts on “Artists’ prints with blind embossing

  1. Pingback: Blind Embossing, or printing without ink - The Curious Printmaker

  2. Tracy Fisher

    How do you combine colour and white embossed areas in a collagraph? Do you print it blind first and then ink up the plate and print the coloured sections ? Just trying to get my head around it , thanks Tracy F

    1. Emily Harvey Post author

      Good question Tracy! As with many print techniques there are several ways to do it – you can design the plate so areas to be inked are raised highest which makes it easy to roll over them and avoid the unlinked areas. You can also mask the areas to be left white when you are inking the plate and/or mask the plate with thin paper before printing.
      Another way is to make sure the areas to be embossed are smooth enough to wipe all the ink off the plate (cotton buds and solvent help).
      I have made plates that are ‘jigsawed’ together so specific pieces can either be inked or left uninked, the plate is then reassembled on the press.
      If you go down the overprinting route as you suggest the embossing can get squashed in the press so its best to do that last.
      I hope this doesn’t sound too complex – I hadn’t realised there were so many different approaches till I started thinking about your question!

  3. Joanna Waring

    Fabulous work and great ideas for me to practise.
    Currently working on eggshell prints giving glorious textures. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Pingback: Blind Embossing, or printing without ink - The Curious Printmaker

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