Exploring XEROX Lithography


Xerox or paper lithography is a technique for making very short edition prints or more often than not monoprints. It's a versatile process with an end result not unlike photo etching which is what I mainly use it for. 

The same image cleaned two different ways. The one on the right was "hopped" using Bromoil brushes.

You can of course make a pencil drawing, a painting or use and manipulate images on your mobile phone or tablet. As long as you can transfer them to a photocopier you are in business! You are only limited by your imagination and the output size from the photocopier. It is useful process when combined with other techniques such as etching, woodcuts or to build multiple images as one print. It should work well with Chine-collé  but I have yet to try this variation. When I do I will post the results. The process uses a photocopy as a plate and oil-based inks. It does take a bit of practice so be patient. Below is my method. To be honest it's not really that different from all the other explanations on the web. Maybe my use of bromoil brushes is something new. There are also tons of videos on YOUtube that show the process.

These two images are from my Oyster Pole Sculpture series. You can see the original digital photos in ""portfolios", these oil prints are from laser copies (Brother)


Use photocopies or laser prints of whatever you want to print. This is an oil process so think carefully about what look you want to achieve. Low contrast images probably will not work quite as well. If you are not comfortable with unexpected results and get frustrated by failure maybe best to look away now and find another technique!  Make sure the photocopier uses toner. Some of the newer models don't. It won't work. Don't use inkjets. It won't work. Older photocopiers/laser printers usually give the best results. I think it was because they used more heat to fuse the image! I try to find copy-shops in the back streets rather than the fancy new digital printing shops.

Use a sheet of glass or you could use acetate as a work surface.

Pour out a little gum arabic mixed with water onto the glass or acetate surface. This stops the photocopy moving but it is not essential step. I often don't bother. You have a choice of gum arabic usually available from your art store. You can buy it in granules or in bottles. I find that I get the best results when I use standard Windsor and Newton from a bottle.

Place your photocopy on the working surface face up. The next stage is to coat your photocopy with the gum arabic mixture. Some people use a roller, some use sponges or brushes. I use my fingers and massage the gum arabic gently all over the paper. Works for me but best to experiment to see what suits you.

Use an oil based ink not too thick for the paper to handle. I use Chardonnel Lithographic. You can use different thicknesses of paper and also actetates for your photocopy. Better quality or thicker paper usually means more prints but not neccessarily a better image. Again I suggest you experiment. Don't expect more than a couple of decent prints from standard 80gm photocopy paper!

Image from the series Inflection Point, a different colour support paper can make a difference as can the quality of your printmaking paper. I use Arches 88 a lot.

Use a roller to coat your photocopy with ink. A few rolls is usually sufficient to cover all the photocopy. Roll slowly in one direction. Rolling back and forth can result in tears, sticking and the photocopy wrapped around the roller! I clean my roller on newsprint in between rolls to remove excess gum arabic. Make sure you clean your rollers well before using them for any other process.

Use a spray bottle, and spray the photocopy with water.

There are different ways suggested to lift the ink. Some say using the same roller you inked with, to roll over the photocopy will lift off the white areas of the photocopy and leave the ink on the black/dark grey areas. Maybe, but this method has never really worked very well for me. I use a sponge and wipe gently. Usually works best with a slightly dirty sponge as the oil clings to the oil. I always finish with a clean dampish sponge or rag to wipe away all excess gum arabic, ink and water from the photocopy. I also use bromoil brushes to "hop over" the image which I find works well.

I dampen my paper support and dry in blotters before printing.

When printing put something down on the press to protect the metal platen from getting dirty. Place photocopy on it and lay print paper over the inked photocopy, and then at least a couple of layers of paper/newsprint to protect as gum arabic gets everywhere! If you want an indent like a printing plate then you need to do the same as above but only after having put the photocopy on a piece of acetate. It never really works for me as I find the paper stretches when rolled and never quite fits the plate. Again I suggest you experiment. Lay blankets over and roll through press. Peel paper off of photocopy as if making straight print from metal or perspex plate. If you want an indent you can let the paper dry a little and put it back through the press with a dry clean piece of acetate. Works for me. By the way if you don't have access to a press, don't despair, you can use a clean hard roller or a spoon. Maybe not as crisp a final image but sometimes different, interesting and not what you were expecting!

Three images from Inflection Point. These were originally B&W negatives from the period 1922 - 1925 remade as montage /collage images.  They use photocopies from photographs as the plate.

That's all folks. Good luck if you decide to have a go!