When we first heard the news that Tetra Pak cartons could be used for printmaking, we were excited to try it out. We started to collect all the cartons
we had at home and got ready to put them to a new use in the studio. Here’s a little project to get started using Tetra Pak cartons to make intaglio
printed drypoints and collagraphs!
The insides of cartons vary a little. When we cut them open we found some to be foil coated and some plastic coated. We’ve tested both types to see if
they both worked well.
Thoroughly rinse out your carton and open it out flat. Wipe clean again and cut it into printing plate sized pieces. You could cut out each panel separately
to avoid the creases or cut pieces that incorporate all the creases to add interest to your prints. We will be using the plain, inside surface of the
To transfer a drawing, draw your design onto tracing paper using a soft pencil, flip it and scribble on the back to transfer it to your plate. Don’t press too hard or you could
dent the plate.
Use an etching needle to score into the board. Here we
are creating lines that will hold ink to be printed intaglio, like a drypoint plate.
Use a scalpel to score the surface of the card. Gently peel off the top layer to reveal the rough card layer underneath. This rough layer will hold on
to more ink and print a dark area, like a collagraph plate.
This foil lined carton reveals brown card underneath.
The white cartons reveal white card underneath. These plates feel a little less sturdy but can still be carved and scored into.
Before inking your plate, soak your paper in a tray of water. We are using Snowdon – a 300gsm general purpose paper that prints beautifully when soaked.
To print a plate using the intaglio method, we apply ink to the plate and then wipe excess off until the ink is only in the lines and areas we want to
print. We’re using Akua inks – soy based,
water washable intaglio inks.
Apply ink to the surface of the plate using a rag in dabbing motions or with a soft toothbrush.
Using a piece of mount board or card, push the ink into the lines on the plate. Work the ink in several directions. This process will also help to remove
any excess ink from the surface of the plate.
Next, use a small wad of scrim in a twisting motion to further work the ink into the lines and clean the plate surface.
Pinch a piece of tissue between your forefinger and middle finger and, holding the tissue flat, rub the plate to polish the surface.
To clean up the plate even further, use a piece of soft cloth. Be careful not to wipe any ink from areas that you want to print.
Finally (I promise), use a cotton bud to shine up any areas that you want to print completely white.
To print your plate, remove your paper from the water tray and blot off excess water with blotting paper or a clean cloth. The paper should feel damp but
not too wet. Put your flat facing up on the bed of an etching press and your paper on top.
Our final print has lovely texture from the crumples and folds of the carton.
The cartons that were not foil lined printed beautifully too.
To make your own Tetra Pak print you will need:
- A tetra pak carton
- Tracing paper
- Etching needle
- Inking plate or glass slab
- Akua ink
- Toothbrush or rag for applying ink
- A piece of mount board or stiff card
- Tissue paper
- Rags for wiping
- Cotton buds for wiping
- Tray for dampening paper
- Paper to print on
- Etching press