Xerolithography – transfers using paper

Xerolithography is a lithography process but simpler than using plates. It’s an easy process to experiment with and has the option to add colours with different inks.

Writer and photography / Palle Lindgaard-Jørgensen

Xerolithography is a fairly simple process, where it is paper (originally a xerox copy and not stone like in normal lithography) which is used to print from. The principle of the process is that “fat shuns water”, so black areas in your paper copy will receive ink and white will not. I have worked with the process for the last five years and gradually increased the complexity adding colors and adding more layers of paper on top of each print.

“What I like about the process is, that you are free to change the look of your original photo in numerous ways, still maintaining however the content of your original photo and that the print has a “soft” look as a result of the way you ink your paper.”

The method I am working with is presented in the following.

Xerolithphotography. The original laser print.
The original laser print used for xerolith.
1Start the process A laser print of a photo (black and white) is quickly put in water, pulled out and placed on a sheet of glass with the printed side up. Gum Arabic is applied to the whole surface of the picture with a foam washcloth.

Gum arabic
Gum arabic.
2Add ink Etching ink (Cranfield or other brands) is added a few drops of linseed oil to make it more fluid and then applied to the picture with a foam washcloth. Fold the foam washcloth tightly so it’s only a small area that is put into the diluted etching ink. Dab the ink onto the picture.

Ink used in the xerolith print process.
Ink used in the xerolith print process.
3Remove surplus Surplus ink is removed from the white areas of the picture with a new foam washcloth. Roll the washcloth over the picture and take care not to remove too much ink.

Remove too much ink.
Remove too much ink.
4Print in press Dampened printing paper is put into a printing press (see picture).

Use a printing press to print the Xerolith print.
Use a printing press to print the Xerolith print.
5Or use spoon If you do not have access to a printing press, you may also use a spoon to put pressure on the picture. The final print can be seen below – remember it is mirrored – so if it’s important like if the picture contains text, mirror the picture digitally prior to the xerolithography process.

Use a spoon instead of a printing press.
Use a spoon instead of a printing press.
6Add colour You can add any color you like and you may also print the xerolithography on top of other pictures.

Hope you will enjoy working with the process. The process needs some practicing before you have a perfect result- so start with a simple picture with much contrast- like the elephants shown in my example.

Palle Lindgaard-Jørgensen has worked with alternative photographic processes for more than ten years. He works with photo transfers, photogravure, xerolithography, cyanotypes and albumen prints. See Palle Lindgaard-Jørgensen’s gallery.

4 thoughts on “Xerolithography – transfers using paper”

  1. Of you are not able to get the foam wash cloths- you may use the foam paint brushes mentioned by Robin. However expect a bit less dense print

  2. The foam wash cloth is used for babies to clean them when you change dipers. I Think it’s available in stores with baby products

  3. Is it possible to explain a bit better what it is that you call a “foam washcloth”?
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen those in Canada.


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