Chine Colle: starting out

Chine Colle: Gauguin Still life Woodcut

My instinctive reaction to the need to practice Chine Colle is to think of solid black lines and bright colours, and so my mind went to Gauguin again.

This woodcut was based on a detail of “Still Life with Apples, a Pear and ceramic portrait jug” 1889. I was quite happy with how it came out as a black and white print, and planned to focus on colouring the fruit.


The second thing on my mind was that I was aware that there was such a thing as  “Chine Colle” paper but couldn’t find any. There were lots of fancy papers in shops, all linked to different paper crafts, but none were transparent. The art department had lots of tissue paper though, to add to the three colours I already had from packaging (Thank you L’Occitane!).

Anyway, I started with tissue paper, and with a fairly quick one, not cutting the shapes exactly but just suggesting the colours with abstract shapes laid down to complement, not fill the black outlines. I liked the result, with the shapes telling one story and the lines another. But to be honest I got confused about the order the colours would come out. The red is very strong, and I meant it to sit behind the other colours so it would shine through them. As a watercolourist, I like the potential for a glazing technique, but here, one would need to start dark and go lighter. I laid the tissue on in that way, but forgot it would print in reverse, with the last colour coming out topmost.

Having learned that lesson, I decided to do a proper “colouring in” exercise using the tissue paper. This involved cutting the shapes to fit, choosing lemon yellow to highlight the apples, and orange red, light green and dark green to provide the shadows and details. The cutting was fairly exact, but there was a bit of slippage (the shadow on the pear) and wrinkling of the large lemon piece which made it leave a white space. I had some other colours cut for the table cloth, but felt I had to get it all stuck quickly. It came out ok, apart from those flaws, although I actually quite like the slipped pear shadow, for the same reason I liked the abstract one before.

Glueing was difficult. There are bits missed which spring away from the paper. I’d somehow thought the paper would stick by dint of being sandwiched between two sticky layers, one inked and one glued. Not the case. There is also wrinkling. The tissue paper is really intractable once it’s wet with glue. (The monoprint/ chine colle prints by Ian Davenport I saw at the Art Fair really are awesome!)

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5 thoughts on “Chine Colle: starting out

  1. Do you have a copy of ‘Collographs’ by Brenda Hartill and Richard Clarke? They talk in there about using a range of different types of paper for chine colle. I’ll copy and send you the relevant bit if you’ve not seen it.

  2. I don’t think there is a 100% idiot proof way of registering! I’ve ended up going back to the beginning and just do it by eye, and am finding I’m rarely more than 1 mm out and often spot on. I assume you’ve searched online and seen all the suggested ways of doing it? And if you’re press-printing, I think the choices are better. Hand-printing often involves turnng over (or does for me) and that’s really risky, inevitably.

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