What is Solarplate?

A. Solarplate is a light sensitized steel backed polymer material used by artists as an alternative to hazardous printing techniques. It is a simple, safer, and faster approach than traditional etching and relief printing.

How does it work?

A. It does not use grounds, acids or solvents. It is exposed with U.V. light (The Sun) and developed with ordinary tap water.

How is it done?

A. It may be done by working on the plate directly, with opaque materials in the form of non-water based pigments, or… it may be utilized by exposing the plate through a transparent film with artwork on it. The film may be created by drawing on acetate, photocopying or scanning and printing on film, or darkroom techniques with Kodalith. A positive transparency is for printing as an etching; A negative transparency is for printing a relief impression.

What etches the plate?

A. Water disolves the unexposed portions of the plate. Either in large bold areas or tonal ranges equivalent to a 40 micron dot or finer.

Who uses Solarplates?

A. Artists/Printmakers, and photographers wishing to create multiple impressions of their work on quality papers. Students ranging from elementary level through college as well as professional artists. Solarplate impressions have reached the level of being exhibited in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How is the plate exposed?

A. Exposure is done by placing the transparency in contact with the plate (see diagram at the top of this page) and exposing it to the sun or placing the transparency in contact with the plate in a UV exposure box.

How long should a plate be exposed?

A. Always test first…use a small plate or end cut. Exposure units vary with intensity and distance away from the light source….the sun will vary as to the time of day, season of the year, and the geographic location of the exposing source. A typical photocopy in New York at noon time in the early fall may be about 2 minutes. There is a pretty wide latitude of exposure time and is not critical for the single exposure.

How long have people been using Solarplates?

A. Since Dan Welden’s development of the process in the 70’s.

How easy is it to teach?

A. Many schools, universities, art schools throughout the world, as well as independent artist teachers offer workshops. Many are replacing traditional acid techniques with Solarplates due to health and safety regulations. Due to its diversity and photgraphic nature, highest quality results are obtained more easily and faster than any other printmaking technique.

How safe is the Solarplate?

A. Safety test results reveal that SOLARPLATE causes no harm to the human body when used under normal conditions, however, the user should work in a well ventilated area to reduce any odor concentration. People with hypersensitive skin are recommended to wear gloves.

Solarplate has been certified in compliance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard of Practice for Labeling Art Materials for Chronic Health Hazards: ASTM-D4236

Download the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)