Introduced in the mid 1990’s, Photopolymer Intaglio is a “non-toxic” approach to the traditional intaglio

processes that use acids and chemicals, which are hazardous to the artist and the environment.  Not only does it by-pass the use of these chemicals, it provides artists with a whole new set of creative options in printmaking and offers printmakers non-toxic alternatives to every process in conventional intaglio.

Photopolymer film and plates are light sensitive and water-soluble. Artwork is created or copied onto a piece of transparent film. The film is laid on top of a plate or a surface that has been covered with a photopolymer film and exposed to a ultra-violet light source. Where the light hits the plate, it hardens. The areas of the plate that are protected from the light are “eaten” away in a bath of soda ash and water. A quick rinse with vinegar and a little drying with a heat gun and the plate is ready.

Though nothing in today’s world is totally non-toxic, the new photopolymer films and plates are healthier and safer alternatives to the conventional methods and materials that have been use in intaglio printmaking for the past 500 years.

Two such non-toxic materials are Solarplate; a pre-prepared plate with a light senstitive emulsion and ImagOn; a photopolymer film originally developed by Dupont for computer circuit boards. ImagOn consists of a light sensitive blue emulsion sandwiched between a soft peel-back layer and a crisp, clear Mylar layer. It can be used for both etched and non-etched imagery without the use of hazardous chemicals.

Non-Etch Process with ImagOn

ImagOn is easily laminated to a flat surface such as copper, plexi-glass and varnished wood. The film is cut slightly larger than the prepared surface. The soft peel-back layer is removed from the film, the plate is spritzed with water and the ImagOn is placed onto the surface. A squeegee is used to adhear the film to the plate, the edges are trimmed and the plate is dried with a heat gun.

Next, a transparency is laid over the prepared plate, on top of the protective Mylar layer, and exposed to an ultraviolet light source. After exposure, the top Mylar layer is removed and the plate is placed in a mild solution of soda ash and water. Within nine minutes the processing is complete, the plate is rinsed in water and spritzed with vinegar to halt the developing. It is squeegeed off and dried with a heat gun. The plate is now ready to print and is inked and wiped as you would a traditional intaglio plate.

Solarplates work in a similar manner but the plates come pre-coated. They are exposed to a transparency in the same manner as the photopolymer fim. The Solarplates are processed by washing them in a bath of warm water and gently scrubbing the surface with a soft bruch to develop the image. Once dry, they can be printed as an intaglio or relief print.