Carborundum Print

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Carborundum Print

A couple of months ago, I wrote about some experimentation I had done with collagraphic media. Subsequently, I used the technique in a print that I have not editioned yet, and I am just finishing the editioning of a new work executed completely as a carborundum print.

The process is relatively straight forward. I used Golden Heavy Acrylic Gel Medium and mixed some 100 grit Carborundum powder (silicon carbide) with it. I then used a brush to paint the material on a 1/8″ acrylic plate (Plexiglas). The edges of the plate were beveled with a file and polished before painting on the grit. I manipulated the amount of grit that I mixed in and also used some acrylic glazing medium to alter the viscosity and flow characteristics at times during the process.

The print uses four colors, each color isolated on its own plate. Since the plates are clear, it is relatively easy to get the image registered on the plates.

Once the medium has dried overnight, the plate is inked, wiped and printed like most any intaglio plate. In this case, much of the ink is captured around the grains of abrasive, so the character of the mark resembles a drypoint and the same care must be taken to ensure that the plate is not over wiped. Because the medium is built up on the surface of the plate, the paper is heavily embossed, which adds to the character of the print.

The plate before inking

In this photo, you can see the carborundum grit on the surface of the plate. The grit is dark grey, so it shows clearly, however the gel that holds it is clear, so it does not show well in the photo.

The plate inked, wiped and ready to print

Here is the same plate after inking and wiping. The grit holds a tremendous amount of ink yielding a velvety solid and the brushmarks in the gel catch ink and wipe clean on the ridges, leaving some truly lovely marks.

I inked and wiped each plate and then I printed all four plates in succession, wet in wet. I stopped the press short leaving the paper was trapped under the blankets after printing the first plate. I then switched out the plate and reversed the press direction, again stopping before the paper was released to change plates. The plate position was marked on a piece of mylar taped to the bed of the press, so each plate can be positioned exactly.

Three colors down with the last plate in position

Printing wet in wet like this causes quite a bit of ink to offset from the print back onto subsequent plates, but this doesn’t bother the image. The more transparent inks blend and merge, making it difficult to determine the print order in the final proof. You do have to clean the plates (other than the first) before inking for the next proof.
When printing wet in wet, you also need to consider the ink consistency of each layer if the image areas overlap. The degree to which the subsequent layers trap is dependent on the relative amount of tack in the two layers. This is the same concern that you need to watch in viscosity printing. In this case I started with stiffer, tackier ink on the first plate and loosened the ink in subsequent layers to ensure that everything trapped properly.

The carborundum grit is murder on your tarlatan as you wipe. It makes sense, as you are essentially wiping sandpaper. I have to refold the tarlatan several times for each plate, as it quickly gets shredded. It also leaves lots of little inky fabric crumbs behind. These come off fairly easily in the final hand wiping, but you need to look at the plate carefully (especially in the non-image areas) to make sure that they are all wiped away. I ruined a couple of proofs this way before I learned my lesson!

Exit 9
Carborundum Print
11 1/4″ x 23″
2009
Copyright 2009, Dean Russell Thompson

About the Author:

Dean Russell Thompson is an Artist and Printmaker working in Loveland, CO.

6 Comments

  1. Koek Sista October 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I want to try printing with carborundum and I found this post really helpful. Now all I have to do is get some carborundum in Cape Town and this isn’t proving to be at all easy!!!

  2. Dean Russell Thompson October 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    You can usually find carborundum powder from an art supplier that carries lithographic supplies. Daniel Smith in the US is one source.

    Carborundum is actually a trade name for Silicon Carbide. This is sometimes used as a sandblasting medium, so you may have luck with auto body suppliers or metal finishers.

  3. poetsandpainters October 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I get my carborundum from Hawthorn Inks in UK. They may be able send to S.A. http://www.hawthornprintmaker.co.uk/

    Mike Glanville

  4. poetsandpainters October 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I get my carborundum in UK from http://www.hawthornprintmaker.co.uk/ who are very helpful and may be able to send to Cape Town. They have 3 grades and I find the fine and medium most useful.
    mike glanville

  5. Koek Sista October 29, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Thanks Dean and Mike for the feedback. This has worked out! It was going to be pretty pricey to bring the grit from the UK but once I discovered that silicon Carbide was the same it turned out that a gemstone factory a mere 5 minutes away from my studio could supply me.
    Now to learn how to use it; is wood glue best or acrylic medium? should i work on a metal plate or cardboard?
    Colleen Ross

  6. Dean Russell Thompson October 30, 2010 at 2:09 am

    I would use acrylic gel medium. On a metal or acrylic (plexiglas, perspex) plate.

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