Eco-Friendly Printmaking: Top 5 Sustainable Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Solarplate Printmaking
  2. Eco-friendly Relief Printing
  3. Water-based Screen Printing
  4. Safe Etching Techniques
  5. Cyanotype Printmaking

Printmaking can be a joy, but traditional methods often involve harmful chemicals that aren't friendly to our planet. But don't worry, this doesn't mean you have to give up your love for printmaking. In our quest for sustainable art, we've found some amazing green printmaking methods that are not only good for the environment but also produce stunning results. Let's dive into the world of eco-friendly printmaking and explore these top 5 sustainable techniques.

Solarplate Printmaking

Our first stop on this journey of green printmaking methods is Solarplate printmaking. This innovative technique trades in harsh chemicals for the power of the sun. Sounds cool, right? Let's break down why it's a fantastic option for eco-friendly art enthusiasts just like you.

What is Solarplate Printmaking?

Solarplate printmaking, as the name suggests, uses the sun's energy to create prints. How does it work? It starts with a light-sensitive plate that you expose to sunlight (or UV light) with your image on it. Then, you develop it using water. That's right, just sunlight and water, no toxic chemicals involved!

Why is Solarplate Printmaking Sustainable?

  • Chemical-free: Unlike traditional methods, solarplate printmaking doesn't use any harmful chemicals. This means you're reducing your environmental impact while enjoying your favorite hobby.
  • Energy efficient: It uses the sun's energy, which is a renewable resource. It's a great way to harness natural energy in your art.
  • Water-based: The plates are developed using water, which is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to chemical developers.

Getting Started with Solarplate Printmaking

If you're thinking, "Solarplate printmaking sounds awesome, how do I get started?"—you're in luck. All you need is a solarplate, your image, sunlight, and water. Print the image on a transparency film, place it on the solarplate, expose it to sunlight, and develop it in water. It's that simple!

By choosing solarplate printmaking, you're taking a huge step toward sustainable art practices. You're not only creating beautiful art, but you're also keeping our planet healthier. So, go ahead, give it a try. Let your creativity shine with this green printmaking method!

Eco-friendly Relief Printing

Next on our list of green printmaking methods is eco-friendly relief printing. Relief printing is one of the oldest forms of printmaking, traditionally using wood or linoleum. But how do we make it eco-friendly? Let's find out!

What is Eco-friendly Relief Printing?

Eco-friendly relief printing is a variation of traditional relief printing that uses sustainable materials and processes. Instead of wood or linoleum, you can use materials like rubber or softoleum. And instead of oil-based inks, you can switch to water-based inks. The process remains the same - carve your design into the material, apply ink, and press onto your chosen surface.

Why Choose Eco-friendly Relief Printing?

  • Sustainable Materials: By choosing materials like rubber or softoleum, you're reducing the demand for wood and thus helping to preserve our forests.
  • Non-toxic Inks: Water-based inks are not only better for the environment, but they're also safer for you to work with. No need to worry about harmful fumes or skin irritations.
  • Less Waste: Since you can clean the plates and tools with water, there's no need for chemical cleaning agents. This not only reduces waste but also makes the cleaning process easier and safer.

Getting Started with Eco-friendly Relief Printing

Wondering how to get into eco-friendly relief printing? It's not as daunting as it might seem. Start with gathering your eco-friendly supplies—a rubber or softoleum block, a carving tool, and water-based ink. Carve your design into the block, roll the ink onto your design, and then press it onto your chosen paper or fabric. And there you have it—a beautiful, handmade print that's kind to the environment!

So, why not give eco-friendly relief printing a go? It's a great way to merge your love of art and your commitment to sustainability. Plus, it's a direct way to show that green printmaking methods can be just as exciting and rewarding as traditional ones!

Water-based Screen Printing

We continue our exploration of green printmaking methods with water-based screen printing. A popular method amongst artists and designers, screen printing can become an eco-friendly practice with one simple change—using water-based inks!

What is Water-based Screen Printing?

Water-based screen printing is just like your usual screen printing process, only with the use of water-based inks instead of plastisol inks. The result? Vivid prints with a soft hand feel and a significantly reduced environmental footprint.

Why Choose Water-based Screen Printing?

  • Reduced Chemicals: Water-based inks contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which means they're less toxic to both you and the environment.
  • Soft Hand Feel: Unlike plastisol inks that sit on top of the fabric, water-based inks soak into the fabric, resulting in prints that are soft to touch and breathe better.
  • Less Water Usage: Despite the name, water-based inks actually use less water in the cleanup process than their plastisol counterparts. A win-win for you and Mother Earth!

Getting Started with Water-based Screen Printing

Feeling inspired to try water-based screen printing? Here are the basics. You'll need a screen, a squeegee, your design, and of course, water-based ink. After transferring your design onto the screen, roll the ink across the screen with the squeegee. The ink will pass through the open areas of the screen onto your fabric or paper. Let it dry, and voila! You've created a stunning print while being eco-conscious.

So, why not make the switch to water-based screen printing? Your prints will not only feel better, but you'll also be practicing a more sustainable form of art. Remember, every small step towards green printmaking methods can make a big difference!

Safe Etching Techniques

Continuing with our exploration of green printmaking methods, let’s take a look at safe etching techniques. Etching, a traditional printmaking process, can be modified to be eco-friendly, ensuring you can create beautiful art without harming the environment.

Understanding Safe Etching

Safe etching is a modified version of traditional etching techniques. It involves the use of non-toxic materials, replacing harmful substances commonly used in the process. This way, you can create intricate, beautiful prints while minimizing your environmental impact.

Benefits of Safe Etching

  • Non-Toxic Materials: Safe etching techniques involve the use of materials that are less harmful to both the artist and the environment.
  • Rich Artistic Experience: Despite the change in materials, safe etching does not compromise on the artistic experience. You can still achieve the same level of detail and depth in your prints.
  • Improved Workplace Health: By eliminating harmful substances, you create a safer workspace. This can be especially beneficial for those working in shared or home studios.

Starting with Safe Etching

So, how can you get started with safe etching? Begin by replacing traditional grounds and mordants with safer alternatives. For instance, you can use acrylic grounds instead of asphaltum and ferric chloride instead of nitric acid. These replacements are less toxic, making your printmaking process safer and more eco-friendly.

Safe etching is a testament to the fact that art and sustainability can go hand in hand. By making a conscious decision to use less toxic materials, you'll be doing your part in promoting green printmaking methods. After all, beautiful art shouldn't come at the cost of our beautiful planet, right?

Cyanotype Printmaking

As we traverse further into the universe of green printmaking methods, we can't overlook Cyanotype printmaking. This unique, eco-friendly technique is known for its captivating blue prints and simplicity.

Unraveling Cyanotype Process

Cyanotype printmaking, also known as 'blue printing', is an old-school photographic technique. It involves the use of two safe and inexpensive chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. When these two chemicals are mixed together and exposed to UV light, they produce a rich, cyan-blue print. No harmful chemicals, no environmental damage—just pure, blue art.

Why Choose Cyanotype?

  • User-friendly: Cyanotype is a simple and straightforward process, making it great for beginners or those wanting to experiment with printmaking.
  • Unique Aesthetic: The distinctive blue hue of cyanotype prints cannot be achieved with other printmaking techniques, giving your artwork a unique charm.
  • Cost-Effective: Cyanotype printmaking is relatively inexpensive compared to other methods, making it a great choice for artists on a budget.

Getting Started with Cyanotype

Ready to give Cyanotype printmaking a try? All you need to get started are the two chemicals mentioned earlier, some watercolor paper, and a UV light source (even sunlight works!). Simply mix the chemicals, apply the solution to your paper, place your design on it, and expose it to UV light. After a rinse in water, you'll be left with a stunning, blue print. It's that simple!

In conclusion, Cyanotype printmaking is a beautiful, eco-friendly way to express your creativity. Whether you're a seasoned artist or a printmaking newbie, this technique is worth exploring. It's not just about creating art—it's about doing so in a way that respects and protects our environment. So, are you ready to dive into the blue and green world of Cyanotype printmaking?

If you're interested in diving deeper into sustainable techniques within the realm of printmaking, check out the workshop called 'Creating Landscapes on Cardboard: The Process' by Shazlin. This workshop will teach you how to create beautiful landscapes using eco-friendly materials like cardboard, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional printmaking techniques.