main menu
back

What is non-toxic printmaking?

I use materials and techniques that I believe can be used easily with very limited risk of harming either myself or the environment. Few materials can be guaranteed as 100% non-toxic but it is important to try to work in as safe a manner as possible.

Printmaking processes, as used several centuries ago by artists such as Rembrandt, were highly toxic. For example, traditionally, artists have used solvents to clean up their inks and plates. They have used toxic etching grounds. They have etched metal plates in acids such as nitric acid, trying to avoid breathing in the toxic fumes that can cause considerable damage to health.

New, safer, materials and processes are now available and these have also led to additional creative ways of working. For example, it is possible to use inks that do not require solvents to clean them up. Or it is possible to use traditional oil-based inks and use a non-toxic citrus based solvent instead of white spirit. Acrylic resists can be used instead of traditional toxic grounds.

Photopolymer films facilitate photo-based intaglio printmaking as well as opening up a wide range of new, safer methods of creating such as "spit bite". Ferric chloride, a strong, corrosive salt, can be used instead of acids for etching. These have all made printmaking a much safer activity.