Would you like to see your face in a new way?
Using the principles of viscosity printing you can record the surface of your body in interesting detail. This post explains how to print your face directly from your face, warts and all!

viscosity mono print of profile

print your face example

Good news – this works especially well if you are old and wrinkly with lots of life experience.

However don’t be put off if you are young with
smooth skin, you can still print your face, but you may want to scrunch it up a bit!

You can enjoy looking forward to the day when your leathery old skin will tell more of your life story.

Body prints

Lots of people have experimented with different ways of making prints from body parts (more curious printmaker posts to follow….) and it doesn’t necessarily mean covering yourself with ink! This method is quite safe and can even leave your skin and hair feeling better than before.

The Bog People as inspiration

photo of Tollund Man

Tollund Man; an Iron Age man preserved in a Danish Bog

I have always been fascinated by the ‘Bog People’ and the book by P V Glob is one of my favourites.

Bog People are bodies from the Iron Age that have been preserved by the environment in ancient peat bogs. The acidity of the bog means that you can see every detail of skin, wrinkles, nails and hair and it is easy to imagine the person as they were in life several thousand years ago.

If you live in the UK you can see Lindow Man at the British Museum which is a very moving experience.

These face prints always remind me of the bog people – I have used charcoal and red oxide to print them as these are their colours.

Viscosity printing

If you have read the post on viscosity printing you will know that it works because stiff ink on a roller picks up the thin top layer of runny ink when you roll over it. This property can be used in different ways to create interesting prints – here is one to try using your face as the source.

You will need

Your face
Vaseline and baby oil
A sheet of acetate
Oil based ink
The biggest roller you have
A friend; you can do this on your own but it could be useful to have a friend to help

Print your face

face print

face print with wiped background

Rub Vaseline into one side of your face, including your ear. It is easier to use baby oil on your hair. (Wipe the grease off your hand afterwards or you will get fingerprints all over the plate.)

Take some slow breaths, you need to be calm and controlled for this next bit

Gently lay your head on the clean acetate sheet and very slowly roll your face so as much of your skin as possible touches the plate. Don’t slide or twitch and definitely no laughing. You will probably find you hold your breath to aid concentration. Your friend can help to steady your head if needed. Slowly lift your face up off the acetate.

Ink up the plate

You need a roller big enough to cover the whole plate in one roll.

Alternatively if your roller is smaller calculate its surface area and cut the plate to fit.  Your prints will be small unless you invest in a bigger roller. Hawthorn Printmaker Supplies do great ‘student’ rollers.

Charge the roller with oil based ink using a glass slab.

Starting at one edge of the acetate plate slowly and steadily roll ink over the whole plate ONCE ONLY. You only get one chance at this. Don’t go back and forwards, and once you have started rolling don’t stop or you will get a line.

The viscosity method is working if the ink covers everything except the vaseline areas.

This video shows an inky roller going over the plate with Vaseline on it, and then the prints made from it.

Print it

Print your face plate on to damp paper.
You will get a better result with a press but if you haven’t got one you can use the back of a spoon or a baren to rub all over the back of the paper.

Not a selfie

double face print

Double face print

This is so much more than a selfie; at first you may not recognise yourself in the print.

The images are rarely flattering but they are fascinating, and I like to think they show the similarities between us and our Iron Age ancestors.

Keep going…

Clean the plate well between prints, if Vaseline is left on the surface the viscosity technique won’t work. Try different expressions or two faces together. You could invite people with interesting features to join in – beards? Plaits?

Help start an alternative selfie culture and share your face print on Instagram using the hashtag #thecuriousprintmaker