Chine colle techniques

Chine-collé roughly translates from French chine = tissue, and collé, meaning glued or pasted. It is a special technique in printmaking, in which the image is transferred to a surface that is bonded to a heavier support in the printing process.

One purpose is to allow the printmaker to print on a much more delicate surface, such as Japanese paper or linen, which pulls finer details off the plate. Another purpose is to provide a background colour behind the image that is different from the surrounding backing sheet.

The final image will depend on the design and ink colour of the printed image, the colour and opacity of the paper to which the image is directly printed (plus any inclusions such as petals or fibres in that paper), and the colour of the backing sheet.


The word chine is used because the thin paper traditionally used in the process was unsized and made from bamboo paper imported to Europe from China, India and/or Japan. As these papers were generally slightly different in colour they provided a subtle background to the printed image. This was particularly appreciated in  mid-nineteenth century lithography and intaglio printing. In the twentieth century etchings by Picasso and Matisse used this effect.



  • clean printing, inking and drying areas
  • prepared printing paper ready (soaked if you are using it damp)
  • tissue or other colle papers cut to shape or torn
  • glue or paste and pasting brush
  • paper grips or tweezers
  • scissors/cutting implements and cutting mat


Traditionally done with fine paper made from eg gampi fibre. Also any acid-free and colour-fast tissue paper or silk fabric or fine handmade papers. Today as the finer bamboo papers are rare, coloured Japanese papers are usually used.

Any material can be used as long as the ink chosen will adhere to it:  newspaper, metal leaf, dried leaves, textured materials, ephemera, dress patterns, and book pages as the sheet to be printed on.

Some artists have moved away from precise trimming of a single sheet of paper to the size of the printing plate when using this method. For example, some experiment with pre-cut shapes for a collage effect, or simultaneously adhere multiple overlapping pieces of paper under the printed image.


Use oil-based printing ink to reduce effects of colours running and it will not interfere with the glue so much. With water-based ink use rubber solution glue.


Only a thin layer is needed but this needs to be evenly spread all over with a pasting brush to prevent it lifting off.

– PVA diluted with a little water is an option for metal leaf and some thin papers or gel medium. But these are too strong for very delicate papers.

– rubber-solution glue with water-based inks

– spray glue and photomount glues can be used for test prints but can discolour with age

– cornflower and water glue can be used for very delicate pieces (put 1 tsp cornflower and a little warm water and stir to paste without lumps, then add water to make 50ml and gently heat for 2 minutes. Need to use it warm)

– some artists are reported to use a dusting of flour right before pressing rather than paste. Some have tried using no adhesive at all, simply relying on the high pressure of the printing press and properties of the paper (fibers, sizing) to fuse the papers together similar to paper-making; however, this method may be variable and unreliable.

– DON’T USE: contact adhesives or epoxy resins

In traditional paste-making for Chine-collé, wheat or rice starch is separated from gluten and other things in wheat or rice flour. Pure starch is then cooked with distilled water to form a congealed gel. Finally the gel is passed through a fine sieve such as a piece of silk to form the paste. Starch-based pastes are considered archival and are sometimes used in other paper-based applications, such as book binding, book repair and collage.


There is no single recommended procedure – it depends on the materials to be used. But you need to work fairly quickly before the glue or paste dries so you need to have all the necessary materials ready before you start.

Generic Process

1) Make the background print

2) Prepare the printing block and put it face up

3) If precise printing is required, prepare a proof through printing onto the chine colle to be cut and cut it

4) Apply the glue to the chine colle material. In order to avoid tearing, creases or bubbles, use minimal adhesive and consider the dampness and temperature of the surrounding environment.

5) Put the chine colle between the paper and the block, glue side to the paper

6) Register and put the paper on top and print

a) direct print placing chine colle on plate then pasting – particularly useful when the whole plate or a large portion of it is to be covered.  The plate is inked, the thin paper (dampened) is placed on the inked plate and trimmed to size, paste is applied to the thin paper, and the ensemble (plate plus thin paper with paste) is placed on a dampened backing sheet. This is then run through a printing press. In the pressure of the press, the ink is transferred to the thin paper, and the thinner paper is simultaneously adhered to the backing paper.

  • advantage: the thin paper will be exactly the desired size, since it is trimmed to size and then quickly affixed in place.

b)  direct print pasting the chine colle then putting on plate: particularly useful if many small pieces of chine colle are to be used. The rice paper is already cut to size before preparing the plate to print. The heavier print paper has been put in the bath and dampened according to the printmaker’s preference, then set aside. If the rice paper was painted on, it has been dried and is also set aside, ready. The plate is inked and wiped then placed on the press face up. Thin paste is brushed on the back of the rice paper and it is placed face down on the plate and registered. The paste is put on just enough to coat but not saturate, which dampens the rice paper appropriately. If one tries to brush paste on a damp piece of rice paper, it will rip. The print paper is then placed on top of the pasted side of the rice paper, a sheet of newsprint added on top of the stack and the felts then covering the stack. It is then run through the press.

  • advantage:this process is less tricky to manoeuvre than the first method, is cleaner, and more accurate in registration.

c) pre-pasted: the thin paper (dry) is trimmed to the size of the plate, then paste is applied and allowed to dry. When the printmaker is ready to print, the paper is dampened to activate the paste and placed, paste-side up, on an inked plate. Then the ensemble (plate plus thin paper with paste) is placed on a dampened backing sheet and run through a press as described above.

  • advantage once dried, the paste-applied papers can be stored indefinitely, just like a lick-and-stick postage stamp.
  • disadvantage because the paper is trimmed dry, the artist must take into account how much in each direction the paper will expand when it is dampened prior to printing.