An early birthday present: a day of working with Solarplates


Last Sunday, I was invited to spend the day printing with Solarplates at Equinox Press in Carmel Valley. Owner and Master Printer, Evelyn Klein, guided and helped me through each stage of the process. A Solarplate is light-sensitive steel backed with a polymer material. It is a wonderful alternative to more toxic printing techniques, which I’m all too familiar with, as well as a relatively fast way to make a beautiful print. These plates can be used to make an edition of prints, collage materials or they can be mounted on panels.

The first thing I did was to make a series of drawings with India ink and other mark-making media on clear acetate.

The Solarplate is exposed to a UV source (light box or direct sun) and is developed in tap water, until the gel-like emulsion dissolves the unexposed portion of the plate.

The Solarplate is inked with etching ink and is wiped using the same method one would use to wipe and intaglio plate. The plate is on the press waiting to be printed.

I wasn’t totally pleased with my first print as the darkest blacks appeared as gray, mid-tones. I learned we needed to expose the plate for a shorter amount of time to increase the saturation of the darkest tones.

This is my second drawing on acetate before the plate was exposed to light, developed, inked and printed.

The first inking with black ink produced pleasing results!

This is the plate with black ink in the incised lines and a viscosity roll of green ink (much thinner), rolled on top. The orange areas are where I wanted the white paper to show so I didn’t ink those areas.

This is the final print with another viscosity roll of green ink over the entire plate this time. I decided I preferred to have the entire plate covered as I found the white areas distracting. This is an exciting way to print safely, one that produces fabulous results. I hope I have the opportunity to try this again!