In this post I will show you how to use clingfilm to transfer images to paper without a press.

We will print from the texture of clingfilm itself, and also print from relief inked plates.

What is clingfilm?

For my international audience I should probably start by saying clingfilm goes by different names, in your kitchen you may know it as saran wrap or gladwrap, the stronger stuff is called pallet wrap or wrapping film.

What’s so great about clingfilm?

It clings, and it clings to ink, so it works really well as a means to transfer ink from one surface to another. This is printing without a press, and as a bonus the image from your plate is not reversed.

Clingfilm is stretchy and flexible, it lets you distort your images, expanding them and scrunching them up.

Because this method is so quick and (deceptively) simple you can use it to make ‘free’ mono prints after your printing session, which is a good way to build up your supply of chine collee papers. You can also take new prints from existing ones before the ink dries.

Here is a video to give you the general idea of how to work with clingfilm….

Technical info about clingfilm

  • It is usually made from pvc, a more environmentally benign version is made from plants (cornstarch). 
  • One side of the film is stickier, (the inner side on the roll). This will cling to itself, whereas the other side doesn’t do this.
  • It reacts to heat; a heat gun will shrink it and cause layers to stick together permanently
multi coloured clingfilm print

Measuring clingfilm

The thickness of the film is commonly measured in microns, written as µ, and pronounced ‘mew’. However, just to make life more comples there are several other measures used; ‘gauge’, mm and inches. Here is a link to a comparison chart if needed.

So what does that all mean for printmakers?

Clingfilm with thickness of 8/9/10µ is very thin, I wouldn’t even try using this for printmaking. The average thickness for kitchen type clingfilm is 12.7µ, this can work at a pinch but tears easily.

If you really want to get into printing with clingfilm I recommend 20 µ (or 80 gauge). This is much stronger and stretchier, and is the type of film used for wrapping pallets.

There are lots of suppliers on line, not all sell single rolls though. I got mine from Viking, about £10 for a 50cm x 300m roll.


Handling clingfilm

Lets be honest, it can be tricky. The thicker stuff is easier to untangle if it gets bunched up.

I cut a piece of clingfilm and rolled two opposite edges round strips of card to make handles. This makes it much easier to control.

card handles for clingfilm


In these examples I used linseed oil based inks.

What is the best paper for clingfilm printing?

The smoother your paper the better the print will be.

For good clear bright prints coated paper with a shiny surface, as used by commercial printers works very well. (try asking for offcuts if you have a local printing firm)

Rough paper doesn’t attract so much ink so the prints will be paler; I’d suggest experimenting with anything you have lying around first to see what you think. I have used it to print directly into my sketchbook, I actually left the clingfilm sticking to the page as it looked good like that.

If you have some wet strength tissue for chine collee use the shiny side for cling film prints.

Chine collee

This image shows a clingfilm print from a relief inked plate. The orange circles are chine collee. If you have seen the chine collee blog post you will know that you glue the chine collee paper on the reverse and arrange it glue side up on the inked printing plate, I found pritt stick worked fine for this.

As the paper sticks to the ink on the clingfilm, you can turn it all over and place it on your printing paper.


clingfilm print with chine collee
stretched clingfilm print

I made this print by crinkling the clingfilm up as I laid it on the inked plate. When I printed it on paper I stretched it out so the image is bigger than the original plate, as well as being distorted.

The next print shows a compressed image; the inked clingfilm was deliberately scrunched up as I laid it on the printing paper.

scrunched up image from clingfilm
clingfilm on window

window stickers

You may be concerned about how much clingfilm you are using – why not use the inky film to make window stickers.

I stick the used film to a window as I work, the layers build up and look like stained glass.

If you remove the bundle from the window when you’ve finished and put a heatgun on it the layers all stick together and the edges are sealed. I think that is the start of another project – let me know what you do with it!

The Curious Printmaker

© Emily Harvey 2020. All rights reserved
Privacy policy

Website Designed & Developed by Four Degrees West