Sunday, May 10, 2009

Testing the limitations of the pasta machine as etching press

Despite spending most of this week trying to recover from the stress of the past few weeks, I did manage one afternoon in the studio.

Add ImageFollowing on from last week's post about solarplate etching, I decided to run the test plates from the workshop through my pasta machine press. To anyone who has missed earlier posts where I've mentioned this little beauty, it is exactly what it says - a pasta making machine which I use for intaglio printmaking. I learned about this in an online printmaking course I took a couple of years ago.

To pass the test plates, which are only small strips approx 10cm x 3cm through the press, I decided to place the plate on some perspex. The dampened paper goes does next and then I experimented with the "felts". For the pasta press I use half sheets of the felt that you buy from craft shops. Depending on type of plate you are using and therefore how thick it is, I have used up to 3 layers of felt to give the desired pressure. In this case, with the perspex backing sheet, 1 layer of felt was all that would fit through between the rollers. And the results are below:

I have to confess that the umber speckles on the person are old sepia ink from the workshop that I hadn't cleaned off properly. They make the clouds look more like land masses I think, and could be useful in certain circumstances. I am pretty happy with how these tests turned out, and plan to continue developing this imagery. I think the pasta press has shown that it is definitely up to doing test runs, and if the imagery is not as finely detailed as the clouds on the left, it can even be used for the final print, especially where embossing is a feature.

Next I thought I would try my zinc etching plate through the pasta press, just to see how that worked. Almost straight away I discovered a problem:

Photo: kschmic, photobucket

Unless your plate is shorter than the distance from the rollers to the base plate, it needs to be flexible, so you can pull it forward as you wind the plate through. Previously I've used perspex, mylar and mat board for the plate, so flexibility has never been an issue, but with the zinc plate being 20cm long and obviously inflexible, it couldn't pass through the press. Oh well! maybe I'm the only person crazy enough to think of putting a zinc plate through a pasta machine anyway!

I do have a couple of prints of the etching I did on zinc to show you. It's not completely finished but the term of classes I was doing at Studio West End has come to an end, so this is as far as I can take the etching for now. I apologize for the quality of the images, but the prints are a bit large for my scanner so I have photographed them, and it's getting a bit dark.

This first attempt (below) is just the line etch with plate tone in sepia. I quite liked it, but I thought more atmosphere could be created by working with the light.

For this version (below), we added a number of aquatints, progressively darkening the plate. I think we've maybe gone a bit far, but it is possible to burnish back some areas to lighten them. I was about to try this when I discovered the pasta press couldn't be used to print the result.

Soon I will have access to an etching press through the community printmaking studio Impress Printmakers, so I'll be able to keep working on this plate then.



  1. How cool is that. I have a pasta machine and think I should try it! That might get it out of the cupboard a little more often...

  2. It's great to see you exploring printmaking techniques. Amazing what you've done with a pasta press! I love the clouds.

  3. Amanda ...your latest exploits with printmaking and using a pasta machine are truly commendible.

    Thinking on what you are saying about solar plates ..theres a product you can get which is a roll on photo etch emulsion and you need a UV box to expose your photo positive acetate or hand drawn positive.
    I imagine you could buy a small UV exposure unit on EBay ( I have previously seen such things - think they are intended for circuit board makers /other crafts people)
    That way you wouldn't need to surrender to the "loss"/cost, of the solar plate - if it all went pear shaped.

    Just an idea. Yep isnt printmaking great although it can be frustrating and maddening as well. I had a dreadful day last week trying to get to grips with a new technique....going to try again this coming Tuesday.

    Keep at it - you really are doing well.
    Its really hard work though very physical as I know only too well to my pains.


  4. Really cool! I love the way you are experimenting.

  5. Thank-you all for your comments. I'm glad that you are finding these experiments of interest. My posts have been pretty wide-ranging so far this year.
    Sara: If you don't have access to an etching press, I reckon the pasta machine is the go for small work.
    Annie: Thanks! I love the clouds too - they look quite velvety.
    Ainesse: Thanks for this info. I have done a bit of research since reading your comment and discovered photopolymer film which is also much, much cheaper than the solarplates. I'm going to order some and test it out. Thanks for the heads-up!
    Carol: Thank-you for dropping by and saying hi!

  6. I really enjoy how your document your process. Print making is not something that I have ever really thought about attempting so it's all new and interesting to me.

  7. Hi Sonya,
    Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. Actually, I think this type of technique would work beautifully with your photos, if it was of interest to you.

  8. Tag! - You're tagged. Come visit my blog to learn more about it.

  9. pasta machine printmaking -- what a great idea! And your prints are really nice.

  10. This is an amazing idea! Pasta machine, awesome! I dont have a pasta machine, how thick can you make it? I mean what thickness of perspex have you been using?

  11. Thanks Buchertiger, Moonbindery and Abigail for visiting and for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.
    Buchertiger: Thanks for the tag - I'll be responding soon.
    Abigail - different pasta machine can take different thicknesses. Mine is an "Ampia" and I use 2mm perspex. For that I need the widest setting so I can fit at least one "felt" through as well.

  12. Great! This idea is so good, I am so impressed. I hope you don't mind if we all 'steal' this fantastic idea! I will be forever quoting you for this one I feel. :)

  13. Yes of course Abigail - go ahead and give it a try. I should point out, as I did earlier, that I didn't think of the idea myself. I learnt it in an online printmaking course, run by Kristi at

  14. Christian Adams11:26 PM

    We also have a pasta machine in our home. So, i should try this as well! it is good too! Those artworks are really good~!

    You should continue on working on these kind of stuffs!
    Keep it up!

    Christian Adams
    Christian Jewelry

  15. Hi Amanda, you gave me a great new idea for my art class. This new technique which you invented will surely gonna help me, although I hope that my work will turn out as beautiful as your, or less than to what you did. @Abigail is right, that it is truly a great idea which I can't wait to try on and tell my classmates. I also love the artworks in your blog site, truly captivating.

    Margie Lash

  16. Anonymous3:35 AM

    I've been looking into alternative methods for intaglio printing because I like the way it looks but I don't have the money for a press. What would you say is the maximum width and height for a plate for printing intaglio?

  17. Anonymous2:19 PM

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  18. Amazing. Great idea. Pasta machines are so versatile. You just made me want to create some art. Now I just need a fresh idea...