Carborundum plate after printing.

A small description.  

Carborundum is a grit that is used in Lithography to help ground the stones down so that the surface of the stone is perfect to draw and print from. There are three different kinds of Carborundum grit used – Rough, medium and fine, which slowly but surely creates a fine beautiful surface to work and print from.

When combining this Carborundum grit with glue to make printmaking plates, the results you get are fantastic! You can get detailed works if you spend time working in the medium and the contrasts between the blacks and whites are very good.


Materials Needed

For Making the Plate

  • Metal plate, plastic plate or mount board of your choice including,

Aluminium, Zinc or Copper and for plastic use Styrene 1mm thick.

For printing The Plate

  • Mount board corners
  • Newspaper
  • Oil or water-based printmaking inks – Intaglio and Relief
  • Printing papers such as Somerset or Bread and Butter Fabiano or your choice of paper.
  • Tissue paper
  • Scrim for printing if you like to use it
  • Inking Rollers either spindle or hand rollers
  • Etching Printing Press 

    Etching printing press No 2. Gunning Arts press



Choosing your image

When working with Carborundum, it will not give you as fine results as you would get from making a dry-point or etching plate. It is more abstract, and you can create some dramatic tones and shapes and forms with Carborundum, and if your patient and take your time you will get detailed results.

1. Find your drawing, design or photograph that you would like to make a plate of. Use Photoshop and rotate it horizontally it so its backwards (when you print the plate the image will print backwards) either use carbon paper or scribble on the back of the paper so that you can draw and transfer the lead across onto the metal or mountboard plate. If you are using plastic, it is see through so you will be able to trace your original drawing, photograph or design.

2.If you are tracing your image from your own drawing it is simple to retrace onto the plate by turning the tracing paper upside down so you’re ready to inscribe it into the plate. If you are tracing a photograph the same applies unless you are using the see-through plastic.

3. Clean your edges of your plate by filing them so they are not sharp, and make sure the metal or plastic you are using is clean with no blemishes, as these will hold ink when you print your plate. If you are using mountboard you won’t need to file your edges down but maybe cut your plate to your desired shape.

You now have two methods to choose from

6. You can mix each of your Carborundum grits up with a good amount of PVA glue and then paint onto the plate

7. You can paint your glue onto the plate and then sprinkle your Carborundum grit over the glue.

4a In More detail. Mixing your Carborundum grits with the PVA glue.

Mix up each grit with glue in its own pot. If you would like very strong concentrations of grit which will hold consistent and a good amount of ink when inking and printing, mix up equal parts grit to glue, however if you want it to have a more sporadic effect, you will need to add more glue than Carberundum grit. The best thing is to have a play with the different effects the different amounts of glue and grit make when used and printed from. This way you will find the effect you would like.

Once you have painted your plate let it dry over night before doing a test print and then working back into if you need to.

4b. If you paint your glue onto the plate first and then sprinkle the Carborundum grit over the top of the glue you will get a completely different effect to 4a. You will be able to concentrate on 3 different areas of tone. Painting the glue where you would like each different coarseness of grit and then sprinkling it on. This way you can build up your plate with the different grits creating your image on your plate.

Remember that the fine grit which will hold the least amount of ink

The course grit will hold most amount of ink.

Also using 0-point perspective is extremely handy to use when making plates this way

Once you have finished your plate let it dry overnight. If you are working quickly and you want to print straight away, then you will need to use a glue that dries very fast, so you can use superglue. Do not use superglue when using method 4a.

8. When set the Carborundum grit is very hard and will put up with a lot of pressure and working into with both hand and power tools. If you have used mount board as your plate, you might want to seal your plate as well before inking to protect the board, so you can get lots of prints from the plates rather than just a few before the board starts to break down. You can use shellac as a straight sealer or wood varnishes to help create different variations of tone for example

Matt Wood Varnish – will seal your plate but also hold a good amount of ink when inked up.

Gloss Wood Varnish – again will seal your plate but when inked up will not hold any ink at all.

9. When printing your plate (if your using an Ironbridge Gunning press) you will not need much pressure as these presses give out a lot of pressure. Using one, two or three blankets will all work just the same. If your Carborundum is built up heavily you will want to use two or three blankets, if your plate is not built up very heavily you can happily use one printing blanket.

10. You can ink your plate up in relief and intaglio or both at the same time or you can print your plate using the double drop method. It just depends on the results you would like.

  • Intaglio
  • Relief
  • Chine-collé 
  • A la poupée
  • Viscosity printing
  • Double drop printing
  • Multiplate printing