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Ladysmith Arts Printmaking

The Ladysmith Print Studio, part of the Arts Council of Ladysmith, is a non-toxic print studio. Akua inks, made of soy oil, are the main inks used in the studio. Printmaking workshops are offered as part of the Arts Council programming.

How a print is made.

Printmaking techniques are based on the type of surface used to develop an image that is then transferred to another form of surface, commonly paper. The term “plate” is used for the initial surface. How it is prepared determines the inking method and printing process and thus, the outcome of the final print. Each technique has distinct characteristics that are used by the printmaker to create the desired final image. The two categories of printmaking are relief and intaglio.


  • Relief printing is a method where the image sits “on top” of the plate’s surface. The ink is applied to the surface of the plate or block using a brayer (a roller) or other means of application. The print is then made by the transfer of the inked surface onto paper, either by a pass through an etching press, or by hand pressure.

  •  Intaglio printing is the opposite of relief printing: traditionally, the image sits below the plate’s surface. The plate has been incised by various tools, or etching techniques have been used, to create the desired image: these marks hold any ink that is applied to the plate. The waste ink sitting on any flat, smooth surface of the plate is wiped away before the plate is put to the paper and run through a press. Collagraph printmaking uses the intaglio method: sometimes, the image is created by applying texture above the plate surface but the inking and wiping process of intaglio is employed to transfer the image to paper.

The methods of printmaking described below are those commonly used in the eco-friendly studios of Printmakers of the Salish Sea, though the printmakers have been known to break traditional rules, combine methods, and explore new techniques. Other methods also exist but often require the use of chemicals, acids, and liquids that are not used in the local non-toxic studios such as the Ladysmith Print Studio (part of Arts Council of Ladysmith). 

Monotypes are created with the transfer of ink from a plate (a flat surface) to another surface, usually paper, using pressure (with an etching press or by hand). The image is created directly on the plate in numerous ways using various tools to make marks, or by using a variety of materials, or with different viscosities of ink: there are many possible ways to create the image. Since there are no permanent marks on the plate, the resulting print cannot be exactly repeated: it is unique, one-of-a-kind, commonly numbered 1/1. Monotypes are in the relief category of printmaking.

Monoprints are created using at least one plate that has fixed elements on its surface: when inked, it creates marks that appear in any print produced using the plate. The plate may be inked with different colour or used with other plates to create a unique print, however, the marks from the fixed elements will be present in each resulting image. A monoprint might only be one print or it may be part of a varied series. Monoprints may be created using relief and/or intaglio printmaking technique.


Collagraph method
Collagraph prints are created using textured plates: the texture may be above or below the surface of the plate, or a combination. The design is created on the plate surface using a variety of techniques and material: gels, glues, fabrics and fibres, papers and card, carborundum and other grits; texture into the plate can be created by carving lines, cutting, sanding, etc. Each element creates opportunity to hold ink.

The plate is inked using the intaglio method and can be used multiple times; when inked in the same way, an edition of prints results with a consistent image present in each print (numbered 1/10 for example); if inked differently each time, the print will be unique and numbered 1/1 or as a ‘monoprint’.

Drypoint method
Prints created using the drypoint method result from an image that has been ‘drawn’ onto the surface by making marks into a plastic plate. Simple tools such as a sharp needle or sandpaper can be used to create areas of tone and texture, allowing the elegance of ‘the line’ and softness in image to shine. Drypoint prints are in the category of intaglio printmaking. The plates can be printed multiple times as the image is permanently in the plate. Prints can be unique or of an edition. Drypoint can be combined with other techniques such as chine colle to create a complex print.

Linoleum block printmaking
Linoleum block printing is a relief process where the flat surface (the relief surface) of the block carries the ink which is then transferred to paper or other flat material using pressure (etching press). Any part of this surface that is removed with carving tools will not receive ink and therefore not print. There are several methods for creating linoleum prints such as the reduction process and multi-plate lino prints.

Linoleum reduction method
In a linoleum reduction print, the image is created colour layer by colour layer, requiring multiple passes through the press as each spot for the desired colour is carved away (taken out of the block). The process: carve, ink colour 1, print; carve again, ink colour 2, print; and so on, until the desired image has been created. Colours are usually added lightest to darkest.
The number in the edition is decided in advance as slowly by slowly, the linoleum is reduced: once printing is completed, no further prints can be produced as the block is destroyed through the process. Every print completed in this way has been individually made by hand, making it an original work of art. These are not to be confused with so called ‘Limited Edition Prints’ which are photographic reproductions of paintings or other artwork, digitally captured and printed.

Linoleum multi-block method
Prints can be created using multiple linoleum blocks, from 2 to any number, determined by the printmaker to create the desired image. Each block is used for one colour or colour set and carved to keep only the flat surface where that colour will be placed. As each plate can be carved in advance, and there is no further change to the plate, the final print can be created all at once, with all the desired colours added as each plate is inked and printed on the same paper. Another print could be made in a separate session and added to the edition.

An edition results when the prints are in the same palette, the end number or prints determined in advance, even if not printed all at once. The plates can be reused as they have not been destroyed, however, a different set of colours is used: this becomes a new and different edition.

This information has been provided by Printmakers of the Salish Sea, a collective of printmakers with a focus on non-toxic printmaking. More information on printmaking and the work of the local printmakers is available on the website:

Upcoming Events

  • Introduction to Printmaking June
    Introduction to Printmaking June
    Sun, Jun 09
    Jun 09, 2024, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. PDT
    Ladysmith, 444 Parkhill Terrace, Ladysmith, BC V9G 1V6, Canada
    Sample a variety of printmaking techniques including monotype, collagraph, drypoint and working with carborundum. This course is a prerequisite for those wishing to join our open studio printmakers.

Printmaking/Classroom Availabity

The calendar is for current Ladysmith Arts Printmakers to see studio availability. For new printmakers please see our events listed above for registration information.


If you have questions or need more info please email us at

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