Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 1

Ox-Bow Print Studio signIn this afternoon’s session with Sarah Bryant, we started with an introduction to pressure printing. Barbara Tetenbaum is considered an innovator in printing this method.

Creating  printing plates is easy – attach layers of thin and/or thick material to a sheet of paper. The point is to create variable points of pressure.

You can use a glue stick or spray mount to attach the material. If your plate is tacky when completed, you can sprinkle on baby powder to remove the stickiness.

A boxcar base is usually used for polymer plates to keep the work at type height. If you’ve got one, you can use one of these for pressure printing. If you don’t have a boxcar chase, then you can use plywood with a layer of packing tape as an alternative base. To verify that the makeshift plate is type high, check it against capital M type.

Boxcar base with Speedball plate

Boxcar base with Speedball plate

In a nutshell, here’s how the printing process works:

  1. Attach your material to a piece of paper to create a plate.
  2. Mount a Speedball flexible printing plate (1/16” thick, flexible vinyl printmaking mat) to your base.
  3. Lock the base in your press.
  4. Add layers of paper behind your plate (packing) so that pressure comes from two directions. With packing material, less is more when you start out.
  5. Lay your printing paper on top of your plate.
  6. Lock the paper in the press and print!
Sarah Bryant demonstrating pressure printing

Sarah showing how it’s done

We experimented with differing amounts of packing as we printed and also printed a ghost image of our plates.

One of the great things about pressure printing is that you don’t have to deal with left/right reversal issues. The way you arrange your plate is how your print will come out of the press. This makes it a great method for printing words.

Sarah told us that you can cut up the flexible plates into shapes and stick them on to the boxcar chase as a way to add complexity to your image.

You ink the plate pieces using a brayer. To add ink to the brayer, spread some out on a piece of plexiglass and pick it up as your roll over it. Try to avoid getting stripes of ink on the brayer or they could transfer to your plates.

Here are the plates I made today with their resulting prints:

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #1 – layers of old piano rolls

Pressure prints

1st two prints

Pressure prints

The print on the right is a ghost print

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #2 – layers of cut up catalogs & paper bags

Pressure prints

1st two prints

Pressure prints

The print on the right is a ghost print

I’m really enjoying this class and I can totally see myself continuing work with the process after I return home. I’m hoping I can replicate it successfully on my tabletop press.

And Sarah is freaking hilarious. You absolutely have to go read her blog. Now.

As I’ve done in previous workshops, I’ll be letting you in on any juicy quotes that tickle my fancy during class. Fun quotes from Sarah:

“Oh, I’ll show you a ghost like you’ve never seen.”

“We’re doing this crazy kind of wackadoo printing thing.”

“Hot damn, this is awesome!”

“Only jerks do that.” (referring to printing on the press cylinder)

“I totally ran outta blobs.”

“Nobody can stop me!” (referring to adding more packing material)

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

4 Responses to “Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 1”

By velma - 16 May 2013 Reply

elissa, i have total and absolute pbi envy. i’m here reading this and totally jonesing (isn’t that the term?) anyway, thank you for helping alleviate my need to know. enjoy and the qoutes, well they just make it better!

By Elissa - 16 May 2013 Reply

Velma –

One of my favorite things is being able to get embarrassing quotes from instructors. I guess I should think that’s mean, but I really don’t. 🙂

We had our last class for session 1 today and I’m looking forward to having a day off. I need to re-juice.


By Janetlee Sellers - 22 March 2018 Reply

This sounds like what we used to call a collograph. We put various paper or card shapes on a card backing and with ink or plain, ran it through the press for an embossing effect with or without ink.

By Elissa - 30 March 2018 Reply

Janetlee –

Absolutely! The only difference I can see is that pressure printing puts the plate behind the paper before printing.


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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