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Learning about Solarplate printing

Amongst the art workshops I took last year, Solarplate was one of them. For this, I traveled last March to New York City to take this workshop with the internationally recognized painter and printmaker, Julio Valdez.

You may be asking yourselves what is Solarplate? It is a revolutionary and versatile method of printmaking created by master printmaker, Dan Welden in 1972, to create an etching or photo-etching plate using solar energy, developing the image with water. Solarplate is a non-acid, non-toxic method that produces extraordinary results.

This technique claimed to be a wonderful process for painters, mixed-media, and photo-based artists to create fine art limited edition prints and installations. So I had to give it a try!!!

For this workshop I had to prepare in advance the images I wanted to experiment with in the class. I had to create positive images (5 X 7 inches each), either hand-drawn or photo based, on a translucent or transparent material, such as clear/frosted Mylar or acetate.

Here are some of the images
I hand-drew for the class

For the hand-drawn images I had to use opaque materials, like pencils, inks, gouache, acrylics, oils, litho crayons, etc. For my drawings I chose to work with pencils and ink.

Working to create more depth
and line definition to get a nicer print
Some people in the class, brought printed photographs on prepared "clear" mylar/acetate, and then reworked the images by hand, like you would with the hand-drawn pieces. Since the quality of the positive image created is going to determine the quality of the plate and therefor the prints, they had to make sure to get their photographs printed at a good printing place, like Kinkos or any other professional printing place. It was also recommended to try the same image printed in two variations of contrast/tones.

The drawings are placed
under glass...
...and covered with the Solarplate Box
We turned the UV light on
for a few minutes...
After the plate had been exposed to the light,
we brushed the emulsion off with water, to get the image
imprinted on the plate...
...but we need to expose it to the sun light,
once again, so the emulsion hardens.

Here's a little video I took from Julio Valdez explaining the process...

Now we are ready to start printing!!!

Julio Valdez is explaining
how to ink the plates

Here are my inked plate and the original
drawing next to it.

..and voilà! The first print comes out!

We also did a reverse method to etch the plate (Embossing). By inking the plate, before exposing it to the light, my daughter (who took the weekend workshop with me) and I did a collaborative plate...

Using wooden sticks, cotton swabs...
I started taking some of the ink away
to make my drawing...

Here's my basic drawing

My daughter adding her magic touch!
a sneak peak to her wonderful mark making!!

The finished drawing was exposed to the UV light
and the whole process described above is repeated
until we got the finished embossed plate.

The plate was placed on the press bed...

...and here's our little collaborative project result!!

We made a few more plates and prints, from the different drawings we brought during that wonderful weekend for both, my daughter and I. Back into my studio, I have been using some of my prints for my mixed media artworks, and here's one of them...

encaustic mixed media
(c) Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

NOTE: The bees in "El Panal" are Solarplate prints.

NEW!!! Want to learn this technique but using the sun instead of the UV-light Solarplate box? Join the Dorothy Cochran's workshop at my studio. She'll be coming all the way from New Jersey to teach us the technique she uses for her fabulous Solarplate prints!! For information about her workshop click HERE!


  1. Love this process! I've seen your mixed-media pieces with the solar plate prints incorporated and I like the dimensionality it adds to the work. I am drawn to the pieces that use more loose or less controllable materials, like encaustic. What a great way to use your hand drawn work or photography.

    1. Thank you Millie. I do really enjoy using different media to add depth and dimension to my works. I glad you like it!!



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