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.
4: Portrait 5: Memory Inspiration Media

Njideka Akunyili


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Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s complex, multi-layered works reflect contemporary transcultural identity drawn from the artist’s memories and experiences.  Her large-scale figurative compositions combine drawing, painting and collage on paper.  She uses the visual language and inherited traditions of classical academic western painting, particularly the portrait and still life but combines these with collage of colours and textures that give them an African identity.

She portrays images of family and friends, in scenarios with details derived from everyday domestic experiences in Nigeria and America. These include recollections from the formative years of her upbringing, as well as more recent relationships and experiences. Her work often features an element of self-portrait, as in a series of intimate scenes of the artist with her husband made in the early years of their marriage. Her collaged paintings present a compelling visual metaphor for the layers of personal memory and cultural history that inform and heighten the experience of the present.


Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983 and lived there lived until the age of sixteen. In 1999 she moved to Los Angeles, where she has remained since that time. Her cultural identity combines strong attachments to the country of her birth and to her adopted home, a hybrid identity that is reflected in her work.


She complements and enhances her paintings by carefully chosen and integrated collage elements, predominantly acetone-transfer prints of small photographic images. Some of these images are from the artist’s archive of personal snapshots, magazines and advertisements, while others are sourced from the internet; they feature images with a thematic resonance to each particular work.

Source Victoria Miro website

Inspiration for my own practice

It would be interesting to try chine colle for more figurative work like this – using ready printed African textured papers under linocut would work well. Though it would require a lot of preparation and planning to get the collages elements properly in place.


1: Landscape Abstract Inspiration Natural Printmakers

Sue Lowe

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Sue’s work draws on the landscape of west Somerset. Her imagery sits on the borderline between landscape and abstract. The work is concerned with textures and surfaces and draws inspiration from the lines and patterns found in the landscape that tell stories of formation, growth, erosion and decay. Sue has developed a range of collagraph techniques that allow her to use found organic and recycled materials to create richly-textured prints. She also makes extensive use of chine colle.

Many of her images are layered in horizontal strips and represent the seasons and landscape elements. They have a unity of colour and delicacy that I like.

Sue received a fine art degree in 2004 from the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham. Since graduating she has combined development of a printmaking practice with teaching in adult education and a career in arts administration. Sue exhibited regularly in galleries and art fairs in London and the South East before moving to Somerset, (where she was born and grew up), in Spring 2011.

2: Abstraction Inspiration Media Printmakers

Mark Graver


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In a Landscape: etching carborundum and chine colle

Mark Graver is an award winning New Zealand based artist/printmaker specialising in Acrylic Resist Etching and Video Art.

Born in St.Albans, UK in 1964, he moved to New Zealand in 2003.  He established the Wharepuke Print Studio in Kerikeri in 2005, New Zealand’s only dedicated acrylic resist etching studio, and in 2009 with partner Tania Booth, set up Art at Wharepuke a gallery specialising in international printmaking.

He is a tutor at Kerikeri NorthTec on the BAA Visual Arts degree course.

His current practice involves working with printmaking, digital video and sound with interest concentrated at the point where these approaches meet and cross – the editonable act/event/encounter of pulling a print or screening a film, the re-presenting of this act/event/encounter and its relationship with time and memory.

He is author of the printmaking handbook ‘Non-Toxic Printmaking’2011, London, A&C Black.

1: Landscape Inspiration Media Natural Printmakers Woodcut

Helen Brown

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“I work directly from the landscape in either lino or woodcut. Working outdoors enables me to capture the line and fluidity of scenes and localities.

My landscapes are landscapes of self-possession and movement. Through their layered and textured forms they express the tectonic flow of the earth, as mountains and valleys rise and fall in an experience of time much more immense than our own.

I spend time in the places my work depicts, returning to them. From the Sussex Downs to the foothills of the Himalayas, my prints are imbued with the emotion of place. Each one of my pieces is given individual life though colour and chine colle (paper overlay) or hand tinting, just as the mood of a scene shifts with light, time and experience.

My work takes shape in the place between landscape and dreamscape. Whether in architectural or animal forms, it connects the experiential world to the imagination, the material to the emotional.

Our thoughts and feelings colour the things we encounter, and they in turn colour us. In my prints I give visual expression to this conversation.”

See page on Art of Illustration


Helen Brown grew up in Cambridge and did an Art Foundation course there then an art degree at Brighton. She learned screen printing, etching and linocut.


While in Brighton she started to focus on linocut because she could do observational prints outdoors :

“I went to Devil’s Dyke, just outside Brighton and cut the block while sitting outside the pub. They gave me free food and loads of people asked what I was doing. The print worked very well, and people bought it. I thought I would follow this path for a while because I enjoyed it, and it worked well with my travelling.”

“I like the stages; you make the block and then there is the never-ending choice of how to print it. I might print the block in ten different colours. I really like chine colle, where I use coloured papers that I have cut up beforehand. This technique I have taken to extremes.”

“I have recently been thinking more about the marks, so I feel very inspired with my work.I made a lot of blocks from my last trip to Guatemala, which I print to have a bright, strong colour blend, like their dyed and woven fabrics. The landscape in Guatemala is quite unreal, so using unrealistic colours would not seem right. That is what is good about printmaking: I can print the blocks and it might look great, or not, but I can easily change the way I print it.”

The  prints are individually made by the artist in tranches of a few prints – the edition is not all printed at once.

See profile in D’Arcy and Vernon-Morris pp223-225

Inspiration Media Printmakers

Yuji Hiratsuka

Yuji Hiratsuka sees Japan as a land of contrasts. On the surface it looks rather westernized with McDonald and Coca Cola. But underneath the facade traditional Japanese culture and values remained unchanged. His graphic work is a witty and original synthesis of old Japanese ukiyo-e tradition and modern Western elements.


Google images

Japanese gardens are cultivated high atop thirty story Western skyscrapers, or people dine on McDonald’s hamburgers while watching Sumo wrestling. In my work I explore this chaotic coexistence.

“There are many and varied points of view in modern Japan. Some survive from historic periods of significant aesthetic and philosophical development. Two periods in particular contribute to what is known as traditional Japanese art.”

“During the first, in the middle of the 16th century, the Shogun lords closed Japan to all foreign interactions and evolved an art independent of Chinese models. The most important influence was the simplicity born in the spirit of the Zen sect. Art based on Zen was an art of suggestion rather than expression; it emphasized the importance of empty spaces and simple forms.”

“The second period is the Edo era of the 17th century in which the Ukiyo-e school developed a popular art form, largely prints and reproductions, inexpensively designed for common people. Ukiyo-e art was decorative and brightly colored and often featured poster-like caricatures of national personalities (Yakusha-e).”

“In my work I draw from the ancient and the contemporary to express the mismatched combinations and hodgepodge which is Japanese daily life. The Zen aspect can be seen in my portraits. In this case, I always leave the face blank or flat and profile very simple.”

“I do not draw eyes or noses on my portraits. The human face is always changing; the face at work is different from the face that enjoys the love. Aging changes the faces also. I want my prints to express this change. The portraits are left ambiguous so that the viewer can add his/her interpretation. This is the aspect of suggestion rather than expression. Also, I am interested in the humorous and colorful aspects of Ukiyo-e poster art.”

“In my portraits I want to incorporate an element of wit through exaggeration and distortion. For emphasis, I fill in small areas with bright, whimsical colors. To express contemporary influences I use the figure dressed in Western style. My primary source of subject matter is photographs, frequently black and white, which I tear from books, magazines and newspapers. These materials are kept in my studio or in my bag, and whenever I am ready to begin a drawing for the print, I rummage through the wrinkled images.”

“There are small transitions in my work from time to time, and my interest is always based on unpredictable texture that is printed from the etched surface of the copper plate. My prints explore the complex relationship of paper, ink and etched plates to describe my thought, as well as the relationship which occurs between figures and space to express other human experiences. Always I try to investigate the maximum potential available to me as a printmaker.”


Yuji Hiratsuka was born in Osaka, Japan. In 1973 until 1978 he studied at Tokyo Gakugei University, Koganei-shi, Tokyo, Japan. In 1978 he graduated with a BS (Batchelor of Science) in Art Education.

In 1985 the young artist, then 33 years old, decided to take a plane in Eastern direction, and moved to the United States. Hiratsuka has not been the first one to make this step. Many Japanese artists of the 20th century went to the United States – some for studies, others for teaching. Some remained only one or two years in the U.S.A. and others forever.

Yuji Hiratsuka has stayed until now in his new homeland. He first extended and intensified his studies. From 1985 until 1987 he made his MA (Master of Arts) in printmaking at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. And from 1987 until 1990 he studied at Indiana University, Bloomington, and graduated with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in printmaking.

In 1987 Hiratsuka began to work as an art instructor. Since 1992 he is an Associate Professor at the Department of Art, Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Technique: Chine Collé with Etching

The artist uses a mixed media combination of Chine Collé with etching. Thisis a  time-consuming printing process that requires a lot of skill and experience.

“My personal technique using Chine Collé with traditional and innovative etching is the following:

With continuous alterations to a copper plate I print a sequence of black, yellow, red and blue, passing the same plate through the press for each design and color change.

To start with; the first tones to the plate are given with line etching, drypoint, aquatint, softground, photocopy transfer or roulette. I pull my first color. With these first impressions, I work back into the plate with a scraper, burnisher and emery paper to enhance the lights and accent the motif. I then go on to the second, third and fourth colors.

Finally, the print is completed from the back with a relief process of woodcut or linocut to intensify shapes and/or colors.

I print on the paper which best suits my work; this is a thin Japanese paper known as Toyama Kozo (Japanese Mulberry). As in the French use of Chine Colle I apply glue to the back of the Kozo print and pass it through the press, with a heavier rag paper (BFK Rives or Somerset, etc.) beneath. What the viewer sees; is my four color intaglio print saturated with subtle tones that come through the back of a Toyama Kozo paper which is set deep into a rag paper.”