Non traditional techniques for areas of flat color

Hi all, first I’d like to say it’s a delight to be a part of this helpful and knowledgeable community. I just got my first press - a 10×15 C&P New Style - and I’m in the process of getting my studio built and equipped.

Anyways, I need a cost-effective way to print single colors like background/fill color for a photopolymer plate. The cost of a plate of line art plus a second plate for a basic flat area of color that doesn’t require extreme detail or precise registration would be hard for me to justify. After all, I am on a tight budget as I make all the initial investments in supplies and such.

I saw a video about a poster artist Dirk Fowler who uses rubber sheets ordinarily used to cut gaskets. It works like a rubber stamp essentially. Anyone have any experience with this? I sent him an email and am waiting for a reply, but I don’t know what sort of material is well suited to printing, and the kind of base and adhesive. Figured someone here might have some insight into this technique or other budget techniques for basic flat color printing.

Link to the part of the video for anyone interested:

Log in to reply   19 replies so far

I do that sort of printing all the time…. printing fill-in colors, background tones and all sorts of things.

I use linoleum blocks, available at any art-supply house. The material comes mounted on wood blocks, is very easy to mount in your chase, and if your inking is good it prints a very nice image. It’s easy to carve, and Speedball tools are very cheap.

Polk, who wrote the classic book on letterpress “The Practice of Printing” also wrote a great little book named “Linoleum Block Printing” If you can find a copy, I’d recommend the chapter on using linoleum for just what you are asking about.

I’ve tried a LOT of alternative processes, as most here can attest…… including rubber sheets. Rubber or other soft materials don’t print as well on a press.

The other material that works great is wood. 3/4” or type high wood blocks can be carved into fill-in blocks, OR into designs, do-dads, or even ornate letters.

Gotta say I’m still really curious about that rubber gasket material as the artist has some excellent results from it and it’s his go-to for poster designs now. I imagine he must have found a good rigid variety.

Gasket material, sheets of craft foam (EVA), cork, window screen, place mats, plastic, plexiglass, bisque clay, etc. will all print nicely as area fills. Mount on 1/2” or 3/4” MDF with plastic backed carpet tape and shim up to type height. Any texture in the material used will show up in the image, so if you want a smooth image, use a smooth material. Some materials, like bisque may need some makeready if not perfectly flat. So far glass is the only material that hasn’t worked well. It’s no fun digging glass slivers out of inky rollers. I’ve printed with all of these and more on my 8x12 C&P with runs up to 600. If you can live with a short run of 10 or so, chipboard prints well. If you seal it with something like polyurethane to prevent the ink from soaking in, it’ll probably last much longer.

Arie, Thank you! Never would have though of half of those. Can you recommend a gasket material that has worked for you previously?

Excited to put my press to use experimenting with materials! And yes, I do know that using hard materials runs the risk of damaging the press.

The gasket material I use is a mixture of cork and rubber with a definite pattern to it. I just went to the auto parts store and looked over what they had. Comes in a small roll and as I recall, cheap enough for even me. 1/16th” EVA foam sheets are even cheaper and you can buy those at any craft store (and many department stores like Target and Walmart). It can be cut into any shape and drawing onto it with a dull pencil will leave clear, permanent lines.

I wouldn’t worry about hard materials damaging your press. Copper and Magnesium plates are plenty hard and are frequently used. The key is keeping whatever you print with exactly at type height. I usually avoid mixing metal type and my home-made concoctions in the same form to keep make-ready to a minimum, but then it is a hobby for me and speed and efficiency are relatively unimportant. Time at the press is fun, so I tend to maximize that some.

Have fun with your experiments.

I’ve used the craft foam option to get solid colors. Look at the surface to see if there are any holes first. You can use it plain, which sucks up a lot of ink, or what I’ve done is paint on a artists gel medium. You can be careful of the brushstrokes or not. I wanted a painterly texture so I loaded on the strokes. You can also build “darker” areas this way increasing the relief. Be sure to let it dry for a day or so. It might be a one time run for it, depends how carefully you peel it up from a base. Lino is always good to reuse. Have fun experimenting.

Dig around on this site,
I have to much on my plate right now to do it for you.
But than, the chase is half the fun.

I got a reply from Dirk about this very question. He said:

” My design is on paper which I adhere to the rubber surface before cutting. I use a gasket rubber called “red rubber”.”

Thanks simontee, this is very helpful. Now I just need to figure out what thickness would work best on a boxcar base.

I have useď 5mm perspex mounted on 18mm ply with double sided adhesive tape and made up to type height. Bonus with perspex it can be cut and shaped.

I have a large sheet of offset blanket material.
Has anyone tried this before?

2001fred- we use offset blanket mounted on MDF to type high for printing rectangular flats on posters. It works great.


I second that. Rubber blanket gives a much smoother coverage than any hard material, no matter what the texture of the stock is.

PfP, if you or anyone else here would like to try these offset rubber blankets I would be happy to send a few sheets at cost.
Text me @ 612-270-6449 and I’ll make it happen.
Jon D

I’ve also seen people have good results with this flexi-cut stuff!

It will stick to your printing base like a polymer plate. It is soft enough to cut with scissors or a knife and can be cut to whatever shape.

Ok, here is few other crazy suggestions.

In the attached photos you will see that I used a number of different techniques just to experiment with my Vandy.
Coupled with the cut-out stencil pressure printing I used a piece of self stick vinyl floor tile that had a slight texture to create the solid area. In this case I cut it like you would a linoleum block and had it print against the cut out stencil on my packing.

Here is a link to some pix.

You’ll also notice I used a piece of vinyl rope that was glued to a piece of plexiglass as boarder, and a frisket cut from a press sheet of the job to have only half the lobster cut show up on the actual press sheet. The lobster was printed once up right and one upside down. With only half printing through the frisket in each case.

image: Lobster Bisque.JPG

Lobster Bisque.JPG

Holy smokes! So many great ideas in that post, Steve.

Oh, I forgot, the word LOBSTER were 59 cent wooden letters purchased in a craft store glued to the plexiglass.

I’ve also glued sheets of floor tiles, (circles and hexagons) to plywood and printed from them.

Another good material is “Sintra”. It’s a 1/8” foam board that’s easy to carve and hold ink well. I learned about it in a Hatch workshop. 3/4” (nominal) plywood with Sintra glued top and bottom comes damn close to .918.