Photocopy Printmaking Collage

Create one-of-a-kind art pieces with a photocopy printmaking technique.


Materials and Tools:

watercolor paper
gum arabic
linseed oil
oil paint
spray bottle
palette paper
waxed paper
paper towels
small stretched canvas
various collage items - buttons, papers etc.




Photocopy Printmaking

1. Tear or cut around the photocopy image. Apply gum arabic to the back side of a piece of waxed palette paper and rub it around just enough to get the photocopy wet. Flip your copy over and apply gum arabic to the front side. This will allow the gum arabic on the back to soak in as you work the front. Be liberal with the gum arabic. You want to apply enough so it covers all the paper, but not so much that you have a giant puddle that takes a long time to dry.

2. Massage the gum arabic medium into every area of the paper. Work it until it almost feels dry and is no longer goopy-feeling or sticky. This could take a couple of minutes so be patient. Rub gently or you might tear the paper. Once the gum has fully soaked in, it might make a few "watermarks" or blotches on the copy.



3. Spray-mist your photocopy with water, then dampen a sponge and gently wipe it over the image. This step will remove the excess gum arabic from the toner areas of the copy. Be careful not to scruff the paper. Wipe back and forth gently a couple of times and that should do the trick.



4. Squeeze out a bit of oil paint onto the paper palette and add just a tiny drop of linseed oil. If the paint is very dry or clumpy you might need to add a little more linseed oil. The oil paint should be smooth and spread easily with a brayer.

5. Work the paint and the oil together with the brayer without mashing it into the paint. Let the brayer do the work and rub it gently through the paint and oil. Brayer through the paint five to eight times in different directions to get a nice even spread of paint on the brayer. The paint should have a suede-like texture.



6. Brayer the ink onto the prepped image. You should still be able to lightly see the copy. Don't put on so much ink that it completely obscures the image.



Using the spray bottle, spray the image, holding it over a plate or bowl to catch the run off. Continue spraying until all the oil paint is released from the white areas of the paper. This is the time to make sure everything is cleaned up and there is nothing on the paper that you won't want on your finished print. Continue spraying until all stray bits of oil paint are removed.



7. Place the inked copy face down onto your receiving surface. It's good to have the copy wet and drippy when you place it onto the paper.



8. Make sure your copy is flat with no wrinkles. Set a piece of palette paper (matte-side up) over the back of the copy and begin working the spoon over the image, pressing firmly in all directions.



9. The image should have transferred to the receiving surface. After it has dried (a few hours) you can use it in a collage.




1. Paint a stretched canvas with a background color.

2. Place a coordinating piece of paper on top.

3. Cut out your photocopy print and place onto the canvas.

4. Add buttons and other embellishments then glue all the items on using gel medium. Finish the edge of the canvas with ribbon if desired.


  • The gum arabic allows the paint to release from the print. If the paint is not releasing, it could be the gum arabic wasn't applied correctly.
  • To make sure you'll get great prints, start with a good Xerox plate. Check to be sure you are using regular black/white copies and not inkjet prints. You can use the self-service black-and-white copier at your local copy center.
  • During the printmaking process, values that are close together (shades of gray) tend to blend and become one big dark spot. An easy way to tell how your Xerox plate will print is to squint at it. By squinting, you'll be able to tell approximately how much the values will blend and if you will like the outcome of your print.
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