Solar Plate: Trial prints 01

Very late, but this is a quick post about my first, post-course, attempt at solar plate printmaking. Along the way, I made a lot of mistakes – expensive mistakes since each A4 plate costs about £11 – so I’ll list them up here at the top to help others who check this post.

  1. First up, I prepared too many images. My thinking was that I would make a lot of images, expose them two-up on the A4 plates, and that would allow me to see how a range of exposure and contrast options worked as prints. This idea would be fine if I had the technique down pat. I didn’t. I should have exposed just two images on one plate and learned the technical skills from that plate.
  2. This mistake is one that needs to be addressed on the LPW technical sheet for Solar Plate. In fact, it needs to be written in bold at the top of the sheet: Peel off the protective sheet. Each plate comes with a piece of clear plastic covering the photosensitive layer and this needs to be removed before exposing the sheet. I forgot and wasted £11!
  3. I took the plates home after developing them as I didn’t have time to print the same day. I had exposed two images per A4 plate. On the course we had exposed more and cut out the images on the plate using studio scissors. I tried to do the same thing at home and had bought a pair of strong scissors to cut through the steel and resin. Unfortunately, this approach lifted the resin from the steel around the edge. I tried scoring through the resin to the steel first but this didn’t help. No idea how to fix this unless it was the fact that my scissors were slightly serrated with short jaws while the studio ones were long and smooth.
  4. After exposing the plates and developing them in water, the plate is blotted dry with newsprint. This needs to be a very quick down and up blotting. Don’t rub too hard or for too long or bits of paper will end up on the plate and prove awkward to get off. There really needs to be a better way of blotting the plates. I’m going to email other exponents of the technique and see what they do.
    • I had lots of bits of paper stuck to the plates so, at home, I tried to get rid of them. I soaked the plates in water again, brushed over them with a soft brush and then dried the plates with a hair dryer while brushing with a dry brush. I figured this would spread the water around so no water marks where left while drying. WRONG. The plates had huge water streaks down them.
    • Repeated inking, printing and cleaning back the plates with white spirit seemed to get rid of the streaks on the least damaged plates. On my next visit to the studio, I’ll try more repeats with the more damaged ones to see if the damage can be removed entirely.
  5. This is pretty much covered above but is also missed off the tech sheets: cleaning the plates is done with White Spirit.
  6. Related to 3 above: the plates sucked up ink into the lifted portion of the resin creating a sometimes ugly black edge around the image when printed. Haven’t yet figured out how to fix that: will try sealing the gap with PVC glue or taking special care to clean out the ink. I think in future, for images that I intend to edition, I’ll print only one on each A4 plate so there’s a clean edge around the image.

Those are the main mistakes I made. I had four plates with two images on each but only had time to print half of these.

First up were a couple of images from the series taken of the beach pyre (like the one from the course).

beach pyre 01 p01 beach pyre 01 p02


beach pyre 02 p01 beach pyre 02 p02

The water streaking is less on each subsequent print but is still there. It was only on the next two prints, each printed three time, that I realised that cleaning, re-inking and printing reduced the streaking each time.

These next two images were ones I considered for the 20:20 Print Exchange.

beach path p01 beach path p02

beach path p03

I think the second of these, even with still a bit of water streaking, looks better. I think I over-wiped the plate on the third. This image will need careful preparation.

I might try printing this in a sepia colour to invoke an antique-ish feel to the image.

skull p01 skull p02

skull p03

Must remember to keep my thumb out of the way when wiping down!

Might try printing this in a dark, dried-blood colour.

I’m drawn to the ‘skull in the grass’ image but the faded quality of the beach path one also appeals. I’ll play with both over the next few weeks to decide which to go for or whether to drop both and go with another. Whatever I decide, I’ll create a new plate with just that image on it to print from to avoid the spoiled border where the resin lifted: should be able to get the 20cm x 20cm paper wholly on the A4 plate.

Posted on July 29, 2015, in Art, Printmaking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Tony. i logged on to follow your linocut blog and have become totally distracted by your solar plate blog. Some tips which may help
    i usually use Solarplate (usa) but have just tried Toyobo – it smells eh? but the edges were cut very badly and i did them again with a guillotine . the line you get round the outside is because of this even if you file .if you do guillotine you have to do it on the reverse too as it curls sometimes and stops the plate lying flat. I find using a magnetic mat -with a piece of newsprint to catch the smears is good(from Intaglio) i also ink up with a toothbrush as you use less ink and have less to take away. heat the stem of the brush with a lighter and when it softens hold it at the angle you want until it cools. really easy to ink up then. finish off with tissue when you’ve removed the excess. i use telephone pages to dry ,3 in all ,very quick blotting.i find i don’t need to hair dry. I think toyobo is more gooey but if you’re really quick it shouldn’t stick. i think telephone pages are less fibrous than newsprint .. you don’t mention post exposure? did you expose the plates in the unit to harden them? or you can just leave them in the sunshine on a window sill. if its dull i’d leave them a couple of hours but i found toyobo inclined to go sticky again when i inked it up unless i did this. I loved both your images, they turned out really well. what were your exposure times for the aquatint and plate? Have you done any relief print – they are less dependent on exposure timing and if you don’t wash down to the plate and leave some goo there you can press fabric there and get texture, its possible to ink up intaglio and relief on the same plate!! anyway, I’m sorry to go on and hope bits of this are useful. its all fun -until it goes wrong. kind regards Susie
    Dan Welden is interesting to watch if you haven’t come across him.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Susie. I agree about the cutting problems: a guillotine is definitely best. I ended up using one too. Good to hear about the magnetic mat; I’ve often wondered if that’d be worth the investment. This blog post is quite old and I’ve done a lot of solar plate printmaking since then. I did try yellow pages – they were better than newsprint but I still had problems – I must be too heavy handed or something. I also tried a lint-free cloth but that still left some residue and water marks. Best I found was a soft squeegee: quick wipe across then hairdryer.

      I also agree about the softness of the Toyobo emulsion. I prefer not to harden them in the exposure unit as whatever I rest them on tends to leave a sticky mark on the plate. I just leave them sitting out in my studio for a day or two and find they’re quite hard enough after that. Where do you get your Solarplate from? Is it more expensive than Toyobo, and how does it compare?

      I printed up the skull image as an edition for 20:20 with a tint over it and that turned out quite well (see on my LPW page at

      And I printed several more plates for an exhibition. Images at

      I have to admit that after preparing for that exhibition, I went off solar plate and have been doing more etching and drypoint lately.

      All the best, Tony.

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