Aluminium tape is such a wonderfully versatile material for printing plates. The previous post described making plates with raised textures by encapsulating things underneath the tape. This one explains how to make embossed plates by pressing textures into the tape.
The soft aluminium surface will take beautiful detailed impressions of all sorts of textures and shapes, which can then be inked up as intaglio or relief.
These elegant plates have delicate and surprising surface textures, some similar to soft ground etchings, others producing effects like aquatint.
You can emboss all sorts of textures into the aluminium tape, including things that are difficult to print from directly, like twigs and keys. The suggestions here are just to get you started – I expect you will quickly develop this lovely technique and make it your own.
Start a collection
Before you start experimenting, raid your sewing box, the back of kitchen cupboards, desk drawers, the bin, the bottom of the kids toy box – you are looking for things that are flat (about 3mm max) and fairly hard, with interesting shapes and textures.
Your embossing collection can include plastic, card, metal, wire, bits of twig…. These are some of the things I used to experiment with; no doubt you will discover more treasure in the forgotten corners of your home or studio.
Self adhesive Aluminium foil
If you have read the previous post I assume you already have aluminium tape in your kit box, (I hope you haven’t used it all up already in your excitement!) That post has information about what it is and where to get it.
For these examples I used 10cm wide tape, however if you want a bigger surface with no joins the foil does come in sheet form. This is used to stick under kitchen worktops as heat protection.
The sheet is 100cm x 60cm, so will go a long way. It cost about £5 from gasnpow3r
Four steps to make your embossed aluminium plates
1. Stick your tape on to a piece of mount board or thick card.
2. Arrange some of your scavenged treasure on it, in this example I used a birch twig.
3. Cover with another piece of flat cardboard. (This is to protect the press blankets from damage in case your objects are sharp).
4. Run this ‘sandwich‘ through the press with the pressure as high as you can make it. This forces the objects into the plate’s surface creating a distinct impression.
When you actually print it you will loosen the pressure on the press so as not to flatten the textures too much.
Experiment by embossing with different objects
It is fun to use familiar everyday objects
I love these jigsaw ‘people’. I buy old jigsaws from charity shops and pick out all the people shaped pieces to use in printmaking!
The stiff card makes a good embossed impression in the aluminium.
I uncoiled a metal pan scourer to make this plate. Much more fun than washing up.
Print your embossed aluminium plates
Ink the plates up using intaglio method; paint ink into all the textures then rub it off the surface.
You will find this is perfect for many of the plates, showing up the fine details.
Notice how the writing on the keys comes out really clearly.
To make this plate I ran the cogs through the press, then moved them and ran it through again to get overlapping shapes.
Intaglio with relief printing
If you want to add more colour roll ink over the surface as well, adding a smooth layer of colour over the intaglio inking.
I added the dots and lines to this plate by pressing into it with a biro before inking up. You can add all sorts of extra detail to your plates like this.
Would you guess this plate was made from an unravelled pan scourer?
The twig was surprisingly effective, and looks almost photographic with the ‘blue sky’ behind it.
Create areas of tone
Collect sandpaper in a range of different grades; this will emboss a rough texture into the aluminium foil.
The rougher textures will hold more ink; you can use this to add tonal areas to your prints.
Think of it as cowboy aquatint!
I know a lot of people have had fun with encapsulating textures under aluminium tape and I hope that this embossing technique will also inspire you to experiment. You might even want to combine encapsulating textures and embossing in one plate!
Let me know what you come up with……
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