This is the "Printmaking" page of the "Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts" guide.
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Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts  

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Printmaking Print Page

General Printing Resources

      There are many different types of printmaking, each with a different set of materials. Printmaking is also an art enriched by a deep history and tradition, which often makes it difficult to make substitutions and changes to the process. Still, there are innovative alternatives to those substances with some of the common health concerns, including pigments, solvents and acid baths.
Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center
This organization is dedicated to educating printers of a wide variety on more sustainable practices, including pollution prevention. While dealing mostly with large-scale production, the site houses an extensive resource list and supplies technical assistance to companies, schools and other organizations. 
A Pollution Prevention Guide for the Printing Industry 
Information and tips on pollution prevention in printing by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, put out in the 1990's. This site is also geared primarily toward large-scale production.
International Waterless Printing Association
The International Waterless Printing Association provides information on the benefits of waterless offset printing without fountain solution, helpful tips, events and contact information.  Also see article below under lithography.

Linoleum and Woodblock

      Linoleum and woodblock prints require many less materials than other types of printing. Linoleum is made from linseed oil and you can use found pieces of wood for your woodblock, and other than the block, the only other necessary materials are ink, carving tools, and paper. Ink is typically water based, though a retardant can be added to slow down the drying time. These processes are simple, quick and effective. 

Intaglio Printing

Safer Printmaking 
This page contains links to articles on specific substances, and their accompanying dangers, used in printmaking, as well as an overall safety guide and various other links related to health and safety in printmaking.  Included are links to several articles by Ad Stijnman on safer alternatives.
Green Prints 
Written by Cedric Green, a book is available for download here that offers extensive information on alternative intaglio methods and etching without the use of toxic materials and proposes electrolytic and electrochemical methods, called Galv-Etch, as a solution. The author suffered from chronic health problems as a result of traditional printing methods and has experienced dramatic improvements since starting with these methods.
Intaglio: The Complete Safety-First System for Creative Printmaking: Acrylic-Resist Etching, Collagraphy, Engraving, Drypoint, Mezzotint
By Robert Adam
A book focused on safety in the Print studio. It details how to do intaglio printing from start to finish as safely as possible.
The Contemporary Printmaker: Intaglio-Type & Acrylic Resist Etching
By Keith Howard
A dense book published in 2003 describing all of the different materials available to modern printmakers and the best non-toxic processes. 

HAZMAP Intaglio
This HAZMAP database page links to information on several chemicals used in Intaglio printing.


Screenprinting: The Complete Water-Based System
By Robert Adam
This book goes through in detail the process of printing with water-based inks. This is aimed at artists who print on paper, fabric and other surfaces, rather than those looking to print on clothing to wear and wash regularly.
Starch-based Serigraphy
Explains how to use starch as an alternative printing medium. 

Ink and Cleaning

      The binders are different between lithographic and intaglio printing inks, while the pigments used are generally the same. Both oil and water based inks exist; the oil is generally linseed oil and the “water-based” is actually soy based and water-soluble. This means that solvents must be used to clean up oil-based inks, while water can be used on soy/water-based inks.
Different Printing Inks 
Documents on different inks available, both petroleum and vegetable based. These were published in the 1990s, so there are some new types of ink available today, but the main concerns for the different categories remain the same.
Citrasolv is a d-limonene-based cleaner that can be used to clean plates and equipment rather than stronger solvents.


An Evaluation of Substitute Blanket Washes
A study by the U.S. EPA on blanket washes and various safer alternatives to solvent-based washes.
Vegetable Ester Blanket Washes
Put out by the EPA, this explains vegetable ester based blanket washes and how they are safer than traditional blanket washes.
Alcohol-Free Printing
Information on the use of alcohol in lithography and how to print without it.
Waterless Lithography Using Common Caulking Silicone
An account and description of the process of waterless lithography. This process uses silicone as the ink-rejecting surface. This goes through the materials used and why each one has been chosen. 

HAZMAP Lithography
This HAZMAP database page links to information on several chemicals commonly used in Lithography.

    Toxics Use Reduction Institute - University of Massachusetts Lowell
    600 Suffolk St. - Wannalancit Mills - Lowell MA 01854

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