Aluminium Foil Tape Printing

Aluminium Foil Tape is a fantastic material to add to your printmaking kit. Use it to make speedy collagraph plates to print through an etching press.
Take a look at The Curious Printmaker for some
beautiful examples of how this tape can be used. We’ve used foil tape in two different ways to create prints. Read on to see how:

We will be using mount board to make our plates.

Before you get into any of the messy parts, make a registration sheet. This is easily done by placing the printing paper onto a blank sheet of paper and
drawing around the edge.

Remove the printing paper and place the blank mount board plate into the centre. Decide where the image is to be printed and draw around the plate.
This way, we will be able to easily position the print and paper on the print bed. 

To make an embossed plate:

Cut a piece of tape a little longer than the plate. If the tape is narrower than the board, consider which direction would be best for the join lines
in the design. Carefully peel back the backing at one corner and stick it to the board. Peeling the backing as you go, smooth the tape down to cover
the plate.

Continue to cut and stick pieces of tape until the plate is covered. Trim the edges of the tape or fold around the edges of the plate. 

To emboss the plate, place the plate face up on the bed of an etching press. Position low relief objects on top of the plate. We do not want the objects
to be so high so that they damage the press. We have used dressmakers’ pins, string, thread and two different grades of sandpaper cut into strips. 

Carefully place a wad of newsprint on top of the plate and then cover with a board. We want to protect our blankets. We used an old cutting board that
is past its best. Remember that the indentations from the objects are likely to come out in the board too.

Cover with press blankets and put through the etching press. The sandwich of plate, boards and paper are quite high so you may need to relieve the pressure
a little here. 

Remove the objects to reveal the plate.

Hard objects like these pins will press deeply into the plate. Soft objects like this string will gently sculpt the surface of the foil. 

Sandpaper gives us varying textures. 

Before we begin inking we must soak our paper. Place the printing paper into a tray of water. We are using Snowdon 300gsm which soaks well and prints beautifully through the etching press. 

Scoop a little ink onto an inking plate. We are using Hawthorn Stay Open Inks in Turquoise mixed with a little Hawthorn Linseed Reducing Jelly.

Using a soft brush such as a child’s toothbrush, gently ink up the plate. 


Use a wad of scrim to polish the plate; working the ink into the embossed textures and wiping the excess ink from the surface.

Clean your hands. Use paper fingers (or folded pieces of card) to pick the soaking paper. Blot with blotting paper to remove excess water. 

Place the registration sheet onto the print bed. Place the plate on top and then the damp paper using the marks as a guide. 

Roll through the etching press on a fairly tight pressure. The heavily embossed areas have printed with a dark layer of ink. Any areas that are embossed
more heavily may print as a white shape as the paper will not be able to press into very deep areas. Experiment with different depths to produce varying

To make a raised plate:

 Layer low relief objects onto a piece of mount board. We are using thread and shapes cut from thin card. 

Cut pieces of foil tape a little longer than the plate. Carefully peel the backing off one corner and stick to the board. Peeling off the backing as you
go, press the tape down onto the plate. The tape should capture the objects beneath. Experiment with crumpling the tape as you go for even more texture.

Cover the whole board in tape and either trim the edges or fold them around the edges of the board. Use your fingers to press the tape tightly around the

We also used an etching needle to score lines into the plate. 

Once again, before we begin inking we must soak our paper.

Ink up the plate using a soft toothbrush…

…and wipe the plate with scrim. If we are not too careful, all of the foil will wipe clean so it is important not to be too vigorous here.

To make the most of our raised textures we can combine intaglio and relief inking. Now that our plate has been inked up intaglio, we can roll out a thin
layer of Hawthorn Stay Open Ink in Ultramarine (we have not added any Linseed Reducing Jelly).

Gently roll over the top of the plate. The raised areas will pick up the ink – this is a little like viscosity inking. 

Use a cloth or cotton bud to polish clean any areas that you wish to remain white. 

Place the plate on the print bed on top of the registration sheet. Place the blotted paper on top. 

Run the plate through the press to take a print. 


Here is our print without wiping the sky clean. 

We tried combining or intaglio inking with relief inking on our embossed plate. 

For this project you will need: