Intaglio printing with a pasta machine

Following our trip , I decided to give engraving at home a whirl. Instead of buying a press and all the accoutrements associated, I thought I would give it a quick test to see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did in Amsterdam. A few years ago we used a pasta machine as a press for our Christmas cards. We only used it for embossing a design but it seemed to work OK. So I took a quick charcoal drawing and set about engraving it on acetate. The sheet seemed too thin (.01 inch) but it was all that was available easily. It does hold the engraving, but lacks stiffness so inking is hard. The print is approximately 4 1/2 X 6 inches.
Lessons learned on this attempt:
1. You need to have a good drawing to start and lots of practice handling the drypoint needle.
2. Pressure of the press is critical for a good image, and although the pasta machine can provide it, handling the plate pare and blankets on a vertical plane is clumsy and error prone.
3. Minimum thickness for acetate is probably .04″ or 440 microns . It may be possible to mount the plate on a rigid substrate but it would be easier to have it rigid from the get-go.
4. Inking is tricky, it helps to have the right instruments, cheescloth, inkers, etc. Due to the temporary nature of this experiment I used 2 layers of t-shirt fabric for blankets instead of good felt blankets, not recommended!
6. The paper I used is probably too hard and hard some laid texture.
5. Be gentle with the acetate, 5-6 impressions are probably about tops to keep the best quality of line. Take your time and get the inking correct.

Here is the source drawing, a charcoal, one minute gesture drawing, 18X24 on newsprint

Here is the source drawing, a charcoal, one minute gesture drawing, 18X24 on newsprint


First stage, not enough pressure

First stage, not enough pressure

Second state, pressure better but bad creasing!

Second state, pressure better but bad creasing!

Finally pressure is good, still some creasing

Finally pressure is good, still some creasing

Fourth state, made some corrections to the drawing, still some inking problems

Fourth state, made some corrections to the drawing, still some inking problems

Fifth state- some creasing and too much ink taken off

Fifth state- some creasing and too much ink taken off

Sixth state, inking is better, but the image is degrading due to the softness of acetate and the rough handling

Sixth state, inking is better, but the image is degrading due to the softness of acetate and the rough handling


As a critique, I like the pose of the model but in the drawing there is a problem around her mouth and the hatching is inconsistent. It will take a lot of practice, but it was fun. Anyone selling a used press?

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~ by scultore on October 28, 2014.

2 Responses to “Intaglio printing with a pasta machine”

  1. Really cool experiment and I love the original drawing. I use a mangle (£50 ebay) as a ‘cheap’ press and it works really well.

  2. Thanks! Very entertaining and inspiring.

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