Discover a great resource of FREE textured patterns ready for printing as relief or intaglio!
Develop your own pattern resource
Visit the wallpaper dept of the local diy store and collect yourself a resource of samples. Most big stores have sample rolls, and they are happy for you to tear off a sample piece.
After a few visits you can amass a nice variety, new designs are often introduced so it is worth calling in every few months to see what’s changed.
Qualities of textured wallpaper
Textured wallpaper, also called ‘Anaglypta’ which is taken from the Greek, meaning ‘raised cameo’. This embossed textured wallpaper was designed to be stuck on the wall and then painted. The Victorians loved it, as they loved all over the top decoration, and it had the added benefit of covering up crumbling or lumpy wall surfaces. I guess they enjoyed the way it gave the impression of expensive decorative plasterwork but without the price or trouble.
It was originally made from pressed paper, and the cheaper varieties are still like this. The example in the picture shows how a piece of pressed wallpaper looks when it is printed.
Much modern textured wallpaper is now vinyl and often has a plasticky finish, making it strong and flexible. The backing paper is frequently reinforced which means you can use it just as it is, for a printing plate. Alternatively cut or tear it up and glue it onto a collagraph plate using pva, this has the advantage of making it more rigid and easier to ink up.
Some papers have a puffy spongy texture, these will print well, but may become flattened after several runs through the press.
See the wallpaper sample book
Click on the image and it will take you to the interactive book….
I have started being more systematic about it and now have a sampler book with a relief print, intaglio print and intaglio and relief combined. This may sound a bit mad but there are so many different papers it can be overwhelming – making sample prints helps to sort out the ones with potential for platemaking, and means you can select the ones that have a particular effect, or need some surface finishing, without too much trial and error.
I printed an example of a relief print, an intaglio inked print and also intaglio with relief over it.
The book here contains samples printed directly from the paper surface with no sealing or alterations. I have kept the ones that didn’t work so well in too, you can start to get a feel for what will work after a while.
These samples were all printed on damp cartridge paper.
Alter the surface texture
Even though many wallpapers will work for printmaking just as they are, you can alter the surface in a number of ways to change the tone or effect, and also to make tricky ones easier to ink up and print.
I sometimes paint gesso on the paper, then coat it with pva to lighten it. This gives an interesting effect of brush marks over the wallpaper pattern which is more subtle than ‘neat’ wallpaper.
Gesso creates a good surface which is easy to ink up and print if the untreated surface is holding too much ink and printing very dark. The advantage of gesso is that you can sand it, smoothing it our so more of the underlying wallpaper texture shows through.
In my “Conference Pears” print the background is made from textured wallpaper.
Sticking aluminium tape on will make it smooth and shiny so when inking intaglio you wil be able to wipe the ink off the high spots while ink is caught in the low bits so there is more contrast in the print.
You could try painting a layer of acrylic paint or other acrylic mediums over teh textured wallpaper; these will usually make the surface print lighter and wont not need any further sealing – once they are dry just ink up and print them.
Once you have some good papers you can use them immediately for mono printing; cut shapes out and roll ink on, then press them onto your paper. It is that easy!
If you use damp paper and an etching press you will get more detail but you will get good results without a press as well.
I used textured wallpaper to make the fish shown in this example.
Roller printing is great fun too – lay a sheet of paper over the textured wallpaper and roll an inky roller over it – you can also use wax crayons to make a rubbing.
Some thoughts on choosing designs
Don’t be put off by the awful wallpaper designs you will find – it might not suit your taste for interior design, but you may love it as part of a collagraph plate.
It is good to build up a range of papers which have abstract organic textures that you can use to suggest different things, eg rocks in a landscape, tree trunks etc. as well as collecting geometric or representational designs.
I would suggest combining the wallpaper with plain areas, or simpler textures, too many wallpapers on one plate can be a bit overwhelming.
This example shows textured wallpaper combined with aluminium tape and carborundum paper.
I have been surprised by the brilliant way some of these print and I don’t know any easier way of getting this type of pattern. Many of them look as if you have spent hours cutting precise printing blocks!
A print inspired by textured wallpaper
The papers can form a starting point for a new print; when you find a design that suggests something to you, you can build a whole new printing plate around it…..
In this print my student used two differnt textuerd wallpapers with aluminium tape and masking tape as contrasting textures.
Woven Fabric Texture
Many textured wallpapers have the impression of fabric and this can be very useful, as you can ink it up immediately and print it, whereas if you used fabric you’d need to do a fair bit of preparation to get a good print of the woven texture.
Flowers and Trees
Many designs include plants in different styles.
My Christmas card last year is an example of using wallpaper with a leafy design. I did lots relief prints from a textured wallpaper with a ferny design and turned them into a tiny forest of Christmas trees.
One of the enjoyable aspects of printing from textured wallpaper is that you never know how it will print till you try it. I generally do a series of test prints when I come home with a new batch of wallpapers. Some of the ones that look quite unpromising actually work really well, and others that look great can be rather disappointing to print.
Either way a stash of textured wallpaper samples can inspire you to create new prints, add new and interesting textures to your collagraph plates, and also supply an absorbing rainy day activity for kids.