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Some General Tips on Printing

Claybord is a wonderful surface for printmaking. Claybord can be used for silk screening, intaglio, relief and monotype printing. This ultra smooth rigid panel will not stretch or change during the printing process ensuring perfect registration every time. Warping, tearing, and shrinking are virtually eliminated from the printing process. Claybord holds up to heavy saturations of transparent color and very wet applications. The smoothness of the board allows you achieve incredible detail. Claybord's unique clay coating also allows the artist to handwork each print and scratch back into the surface for unique prints or details not achievable on paper. Claybord accepts all types of printer’s inks. It is also much easier to handle than paper in terms of drying and storing. When finished, your prints are ready to frame without any additional work. Click here to see his article on “Tips for Screen Printing on Claybord”.

Serigraph on Claybord

"Mirame" Royo Serigraph printed on Claybord

Many publishers are using Claybord for silkscreening prints of original artworks. Other printmakers like Franz Spohn create amazing artwork using screen printing techniques. Franz has been experimenting with Ampersand’s Claybord for a number of years and has perfected his screen printing techniques on the surface.

You can also use Claybord as a plate similar to a linoleum block. Claybord is a good and inexpensive plate. You don't need to have equipment that is different than what you normally use in printmaking. Claybord offers consistent and smooth cutting and etching in any direction for crisp deep lines, making it easier to use than Plexiglas and linoleum. This section is full of techniques for using Claybord and Aquabord as a plate and a printing surface. Many of these processes are still in the experimental stage. Be sure to let us know if you come across some helpful tips when working on your printing projects.

When choosing your paper, try selecting many different weights and surfaces to print on because all papers have different absorbency rates and will react differently depending on which printing process you are using. Experimenting is the key.

Printing on Claybord and Aquabord

Printing Etchings on Claybord and Aquabord

Printing a zinc or copper plate etching (or drypoint) onto the clay surface of Claybord or Aquabord has three distinct advantages over printing on paper.

  • The permanence of the print: Claybord is an archival surface
  • The ability to rework prints with mistakes or add finishing details and colors
  • Glass free presentation

A matte acrylic varnish or spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) sprayed on the Claybord works well and seems to bring out the relief caused by the clay pressing into the etched lines of the plate. The following exercise is a great place to start.

1. Etch a zinc or copper plate as you would for printing on paper except for: a. Avoid deep wide lines as the clay pressing into the line cannot "reach" the ink in the bottom of the etched lines. b. Use as thin a metal plate as will take your depth of etching and bevel the edges. The thicker plates seem to be pushed by the press, digging into the clay surface.

2. Choose an appropriate Claybord size and determine the placement of the image. Sand the edges to prevent damage to the press blankets. If Aquabord is used, the surface should be lightly sanded.

3. Using mat board or thick paper (should be same or slightly thinner than the metal plate), cut a template with outside dimensions the same as the Claybord, with an opening the size of the plate cut into it for consistent positioning of the image during the edition. This also keeps the plate from moving on the clay surface.

4. Ink and wipe the plate as you would for a paper print.

5. Thoroughly wet and sponge dry each piece of Claybord before printing, removing all excess water with the sponge.

6. Place the damp Claybord, clay side up, on the bed of the press. Position the template on top and carefully drop the metal plate into the opening image side down.

7. Print with moderately-heavy pressure to force the softened clay into the etched lines to pick up the ink. Allow to dry thoroughly.

8. Any ink smudges around the image can be cleaned off with fine oil-free steel wool (0000). The image itself can be redefined or manipulated with scratching tools.

9. Varnish with spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) and frame without glass and matting if desired.

Relief Printing on Claybord and Aquabord

Relief printmaking is one of the earliest methods used for printmaking. It is a direct and a quick method for creating images. Whether you have a graphic style like Picasso's linocuts, or finely detailed work like Albrecht Durer, Claybord can be used successfully. Both Claybord and Aquabord can be used as relief plates. The thick clay coating allows the wood-cut artist exceptional control and ease of cutting in all directions to achieve uniquely detailed prints. To preserve the clarity of the cut edges, seal with spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) or an acrylic varnish. There are many ways to prepare Claybord for relief printmaking. The method below is a good exercise with which to start.

1. Cover the Claybord with a thin even coat of a dark colored ink or watercolor. Use either an airbrush, brayer(roller), or brush. Let dry. The paints or inks will dry very quickly.

2. Cut the image you want into the Claybord. Because cutting into the Claybord is so easy, many tools can be used to create an image. They include woodcarving tools, lino-tools, etching needles, scratchboard tools, craft knives, and engraving tools. Where the white of the board shows through, it is not going to print. Run a fingernail across the cut lines in the board. If the nail catches in the lines, the cuts are deep enough. When printing relief, the image will be in reverse. To see what the printed image will look like hold it up to a mirror.

3. When ready, prepare the ink. If using oil-based inks, add about 15-20% plate oil to the ink and mix well because Claybord will absorb the moisture from the ink. Roll the ink with a brayer onto the palette/Plexiglas until it looks like velvet . Make sure the ink leaves an even coat on the brayer. Roll the ink on the board until you have an even coat making sure the ink is not filling the cut grooves. Have the paper ready to place on top of print.

4. Use a press to print or hand rub the image onto the paper. When hand rubbing the image, oriental paper should be used because it is more flexible and thinner. Using a flat smooth piece of wood, rub over the back of the paper until the image is transferred. Lift just a corner of the paper and look at the image to determine if it is dark enough. If it is too light, roll more ink onto the Claybord before printing.

Intaglio Printing on Claybord and Aquabord

With intaglio prints, the etched lines on the plate are printed using an etching press. Try using Claybord as an intaglio plate because you can etch lines into the board without having to use acid. The printing process then becomes less toxic when using Claybord. This exercise will help get you started.

1. Draw the image you would like on the Claybord in pencil. Hold it up to a mirror to see what the printed image will look like. Erase and correct until you get the image desired.

2. Use the pencil drawing as a guide and scratch over the lines using an etching needle, burin or scratchboard tool.

3. After scratching the lines, make a trial proof. When getting ready to print the image, use ink that is thinner than usual or thin with an appropriate medium. If using the normal ink thickness, it will be very difficult to wipe. Apply the ink. Wipe off excess leaving the ink inside the cut grooves. Then begin your printing process.

Tips on Printing Serigraphs on Claybord

Claybord enables exceptional registration and overall superior reproduction, making the serigraph look like an original painting. A serigraph on Claybord can be framed without glass, giving the viewer the same intimacy of an original painting. They also command 40% more in the marketplace that those on paper framed under glass! Warping, tearing, and shrinking are virtually eliminated from the printing process, enabling improved reproduction performance. Claybord's unique coating allows the artist the handwork each serigraph if desired. Also, the luminosity of the panel provides a richness and depth to the serigraph, similar to the oil and egg tempera masterpieces of the Renaissance.