Printing from Eggshells

broken eggshells
printing from eggshells involves lots of baking!

Since I started experimenting with printing from eggshells, meringues, omelettes and cakes have been top of the menu, and no shells made it into the bin!

The idea came from Kate (#Katespapers) and it is one of the many interesting ways to use aluminium foil in plate making.

Rocky landscapes

spot the eggshells

Eggshells produce a lovely organic crackled rocky texture. You could incorporate it into a range of landscapes, as it looks like rock, alternatively printed in blues it becomes an ice floe, or broken glass; crushed smaller the eggshells make rough ground or paths. The textures are similar to the crackle texture made with cement and old T-shirts however it has its own unique qualities and is much quicker to do.

Create different atmospheres

blue fragments, eggshell print
blue fragments, eggshell print

The angular shapes lend themselves to a variety of designs. They can tessellate or be separated, or layered up in a jumble to suggest different moods.

If you want to create a tense atmosphere try a random scattering of broken eggshell pieces. Arranging the fragments with a particular direction can resemble an explosion or a fire.

Preparing eggshells for printing

Wash the shells to remove any egg white left inside. If you can use them almost straight away the membrane inside the egg will still be fresh and flexible. This will help to hold the shell together after it is broken so the fractured pieces will tessellate.

broken egg shell with membrane
broken egg shell with membrane

If the shells have dried out they are more brittle and will separate into lots of small pieces when you crush them (you can soak them in water to re-hydrate the membrane but it is never as good as a really fresh one.) The shells must be dry or the tape won’t stick very well.

Crushing the eggshells

Lay half an eggshell on a piece of mount board or stiff card. You will get a slightly different effect depending on whether it is laid down with the convex or concave side up.

Gently press down on it with another sheet of stiff card to crush the eggshell till it is fairly flat.

Arranging the eggshell fragments

Arrange the pieces however you want to – a kebab stick is handy for this, a pair of tweezers is also a useful tool. You may like the shape the eggshell gets itself into as it is, alternatively you can manipulate it to form a more intentional design

Press again with the card, a bit harder this time, to create more cracks.

Glue everything down

Cut or tear pieces of aluminium tape and carefully lay these over the broken eggshells. The torn edges of the tape will show in your print and add another element to it. You could also deliberately crinkle the tape to make wrinkles in the surface.

aluminium tape over the broken shells
tape over the broken shells

At this stage you may think it isn’t working, the tape just looks lumpy! Don’t worry: once all the eggshells are covered with tape run the whole printing plate through the etching press.

eggshell plate after pressing
eggshell plate after pressing

Your plate will be transformed – the pressure squashes the tape tightly round all the eggshells revealing all the tiny details.

Sealing the plate with aluminium tape is very quick and easy, so you will be able to create plates and print them immediately, there’s no waiting around for glue or varnish to dry. If you don’t have any aluminium tape continue with cooking theme and use kitchen foil to make the plate.

Warning – broken eggshells can be sharp, some pieces can cut through the tape and catch your fingers. Patch up any areas where it has torn with more aluminium tape.

Ink up your eggshell plates

a print from piles of eggshells
print from piles of eggshells

The examples in this post show a plate inked up as intaglio as well as plates inked as intaglio and then rolled over with a relief layer, some of these examples are also inked up using the viscosity method.

Don’t be surprised if you find that your plates look better than the prints! The shiny aluminium foil reflects light back through the layer of coloured ink and looking rather wonderful – why not frame these too?

an inky plate
an inky plate

Keep on sticking

Once you have tried printing from eggshells, look around to discover what else could you cover with aluminium tape and then print!

Please let me know what you try, and how it worked for you.


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