Glue Prints, Tar Gel, Pressless Etching

This is a simple process to print an etching or collagraph without a press. Since the Tar Gel flows into every groove, the impression is actually better then a “pressed” print.

Materials needed are as follows:

  • An etching or collagraph plate
  • Clear Tar Gel, a Golden Acrylic product (available by the gallon from Dick Blick)
  • Oil based ink or oil paint
  • Brayer
  • Tarlatan
  • Old phone book
  • Small pieces of matte board cut up


  1. Ink the plate as you would normally for an etching or collagraph.
  2. Roll surface with a second color of ink
  3. Dribble Tar Gel over the surface and, with a card, spread without touching the inked
    surface of the plate. It should be  about 1/8 inch thick and fairly even. Don’t
    worry if it is not perfect, Tar Gel tends to be somewhat self leveling. Set on a flat
    surface to dry.
  4. Let dry over night. A fan in the room but not directly on the piece helps.
  5. When tar gel is clear, loosen around plate edges first.
  6. Pull off  image in a slow steady manner without stopping.
  7. Let dry over night image side up.



  • The surface roll is necessary to assure that there is an oil barrier between plate and Tar Gel. Without that barrier the Tar Gel will bond to the plate. This is particularly critical with collagraph since the plate is usually something acrylic likes to bond to; for example, other forms of acrylic. If no relief top color is desired try a very thin coat of tint base.
  • The process relies on the oil based ink taking longer to dry then the Tar Gel. I have waited a couple days to lift a print and been fine since while drying the Tar Gel protects the ink from drying.
  • Sometimes the Tar Gel dries too fast, or is a little too thick and cracks will appear in the surface when dry. This isn’t a big problem. Just card across some Tar Gel to fill the cracks and let it dry. Lift as usual.
  • In general the thinner the tar Gel the more stretchy it is for gluing on a form.
    The smooth side of the print will stick to glass for indefinite periods of time.
  • The water based Tar Gel can react with copper turning the dry acrylic slightly blue. To avoid this patina, generously spray clear acrylic after the relief roll step. Either matte or gloss work depending on the desired surface of the print.

Akua and Tar Gel Etching

It is possible to use Akua for Tar Gel etching. Ink up as normal for a Tar Gel etching. You need to be extra careful when coating the plate with Tar Gel as it will blend with the Akua. Once coated you need to increase drying time before lifting the print. Generally leave the drying plates with Tar Gel an extra day before pulling the print. The print itself will also take extra time to dry before the Akua will not come off on your hands.




Skip to comment form

  1. PSS shaft seals

    Dye-based inks are generally much stronger than pigment-based inks and can produce much more color of a given density per unit of mass.

  2. mcraig

    But they leave halos and bleed unlike pigment inks, and therefore are not as good for some of the transfer processes I talk about.

  3. waterbury

    I think that your perspective is deep, it’s just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well. Nice post.

  4. translator

    Great information… thanks for sharing..

  5. Jerry Robinson

    Your post is really good to read. Excellent!!
    Thank you for sharing, could I post it on my Facebook to share to my families?

  6. Johnd903

    I really enjoy the blog post. Great.

  7. 德州撲克

    Great website, thank You !!

  8. Arthur Falcone

    Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my
    new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog
    and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

  9. gospel online

    But wanna say that this is handy , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>