These are a few of my favorite (studio) things

Do you have a set of favorite go-to tools? Are there things in your studio or workshop you just couldn’t live without?

As I gear up for the busy Christmas season — with shows and sales and open studio tours — I am in hyper production mode. That got me thinking that this would be a good time to share some of my favorite tools as I prepare for the season.

LINDA COTE-glass table2Glass table

Although it is very 1960’s, my second-hand find is a vintage table that rocks! I got the idea from a printmaker in the UK when I saw her studio set up. Before this, I was rolling my inks on a small 8×10-inch tempered piece of glass on top of my drafting table. My retro chrome and glass table gives me a HUGE surface to do printmaking on, and I can roll out several colors at once if I want.

LINDA COTE-Glass TableCaligo Safe Wash Relief Printmaking Inks

I often get asked what kind of inks I use. I started out (like many printmakers) using the easy-to-find Speedball water-based printmaking inks. I didn’t find they suited me, though, because they dried quickly on my glass and tended to clump up. They were not permanent when they dried either, so would come off on my hands and any bit of water made them run.

LINDA COTE-Caligo InksAnother printmaker recommended Caligo inks, and I have never looked back. I have used these inks for several years and they have always given me a great outcome. They are creamy to roll out, are oil-based so they stay ‘open’ for up to 3 hours, and dry permanent on the paper. I can paint over them with watercolor paint and they don’t smear.

They also wash up with water. I once forgot to clean a roller, found it the next day, gave it a bit of a water soak and cleaned it up easily. The inks are not readily available where I live, but I happily have them shipped from Toronto.

Water spray bottle

LINDA COTE-Rag & WaterSpeaking of the glass table and water wash up inks, my spray bottle is all the ‘cleaning solvent’ I need. That wasn’t always the case with printmaking. Some older textbooks I have on the subject have a whole section about working with toxic chemicals. Ugh. Thankfully, due to the Safe Wash Caligo inks I use, water is all I need.


While printmaking, my fingers always get ink all over them. Rags are a durable way to keep my hands clean as I print. Although clean up is relatively easy, and can often be done with paper shop towels, I like to also use rags because they create less waste (I wash them for multiple uses). Plus, the rags started out as t-shirts and towels from our house so they satisfy my kids who chant: “Reuse, reduce, recycle!”

Canola Oil

Sometimes I experiment with making my own inks from burnt plate oil and powdered pigment (if you just said, “Huh?” click here for that blog). Or, I have also used a block medium that mixes with oil paints to make printmaking inks. Since the base for these methods is oil, a water wash up will not work. So, I use canola oil, and boy does it work! Although I never thought to clean oil with oil, another printmaker’s tip turned me onto this. Nice.

 Vegetable cleaning brush

LINDA COTE-Oil & Veggie brushEvery printmaker needs one of these. Seriously! I buy mine from Lee Valley. Although they are intended to gently brush the dirt off mushrooms or potatoes, I find these unbelievable great for cleaning brayers (rollers), glass and even the blocks I reprint often (like my greeting cards). It gets into those little nooks and crannies without damaging my art block. (I typically use linosoft, a rubber-like block, so water doesn’t swell the block like it would with traditional linoleum or wood.)

Retractable clothesline

LINDA COTE-ClotheslineAnother amazing Lee Valley find is my four-line retractable clothesline for drying my prints. I don’t have a printmaker’s drying shelf, but my line works amazingly well.

LINDA COTE-Clothesline2It gives me a ton of space when I am in high production mode, but retracts back into the wall cover when not in use. I can also add a second line that I got from a camping store that gives me even more drying space (which I do sometimes need).

IKEA drawer storage

LINDA COTE-IKEA drawersOnce the prints are dry and signed, I package several of them — or frame them for shows.

But, many are not sold right away and need to be stored flat. I have this lovely IKEA drawer storage system that holds a lot of prints in the wide but not deep drawers. Each print is stored with acid-free tissue paper between them to protect them.

Printmaking Art Books

LINDA COTE-booksI am a confirmed book fanatic. Art books? Even worse. I sometimes think I could start my own art bookstore! But, printmaking books are my secret treasure because I am self-taught in printmaking arts. Over the years I have taken a few courses, but have largely learned my craft from reading many excellent books on printmaking and then experimenting in my studio.

Here are a few of my favorite printmaking books:

  • HANDMADE PRINTS by Anne Desmet and Jim Anderson
  • PRINT WORKSHOP by Christine Schmidt
  • THE PRINTMAKING BIBLE by Ann D’Arcy Hughes & Hebe Vernon-Morris

Do you have any studio or creative favorites to share? I would love to hear from you!

13 responses to “These are a few of my favorite (studio) things

  1. The nail brush is a great tip. I’ve been cleaning out Lino pieces with q-tips which takes a while, especially since thickened natural dyes are so goopy.

  2. Thanks for this post Linda! I was actually hoping to ask you what inks you use, so this is great. I tried the Charbonnel aqua wash, but they are “etching” inks – and they did not really dry even after a couple months (still rub off a little)! I tested Akua Intaglio this week (soy based and non-toxic) and they seem much better so far.

    How long do the Caligo take to dry? Do you print on damp or dry paper? And what type of paper do you use for your cards?

    For inspiration: the book William S. Rice: Art and Life by Ellen Treseder Sexauer, and also the website and work of Chandler O’Leary – gorgeous stuff.

    • You are welcome Sophie! I have heard good things of Akua inks, but have never tried them. You will have to let me know how you like them.

      The Caligo drying time depends on a couple things. The black on card stock (my cards) dries in about 5-7 days. The prints, if one color, about that, too. But, if I am layering inks on top of one another (like in a multi-color reduction print), the more layers of ink, the longer the drying time I have found … even when the under layer is quite dry. Sometimes in between multiple colors, I’ve found it can take 2-3 weeks to dry! And, weirdly, red Caligo ink takes longer to dry than the black (about 2 weeks to be smudge free). Not sure why!

      I always print on dry paper. I know that damp paper is an option, but I have never needed it except when I took an etching course and printed with a press – then we did damp the paper.

      For my cards, I have my local printer cut them to size and score them for me in advance to get a crisper fold. I use the Cougar 80lb cover stock in white, a fairly standard stock.

      THANKS for the book recommendations. I have the Rice book (and his 2014 calendar). Isn’t he amazing?!? I will check out Chandler O’Leary!

      Thanks for all your questions and comments!

  3. Pingback: A creative place to be·

  4. I love this post! Peeking into other artists’ studios and learning their little tricks and tips is my favorite. That retractable clothesline is genius!

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I found so much valuable information in it as a beginner printmaker! And I love your yt videos 🙂

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