Nontoxic Printmaking, Safe Painting & Printed Art

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This website is an ongoing research project. 

It aims to give an overview of some of the key issues

in safer practices in PRINT. 

It does not claim to be definitive or complete. 

New information and findings emerge on a regular basis. 

Our aim is to present a more comprehensive

selection of views, topics, and positions

as more health-aware practices, ideas and innovations

are becoming the mainstream.

Our history: The first online resource was created in 2004 as an academic research project to help disseminate new findings in the field of 'nontoxic' printmaking. There were already many books on the market outlining the subject and its development, but it was quite clear that an online publication would reach a larger audience, facilitate searching, and be better suited to dealing with information that would need to be changed, added to, and updated at short notice.

In 2006 the site became a reality as an independent not-for-profit resource, and since that time it has grown enormously through contributions from artists, scientists, educators and many others, all of whom gave their information and articles freely to forward the debate on 'nontoxic' practice. Whilst mainly focusing on printmaking and showcasing printed art, the site also includes broader issues, and information on safer paints, binders, inks and solvents. This collaborative forum and resource tries to foster the cross-fertilization of ideas and approaches; it is not just about innovation, but also about tradition practiced more safely.

Whilst the new body of 'nontoxic' research enjoyed tremendous growth over a period of over twenty years, practically modernizing all of traditional printmaking, and making painting hazard-free, there has been a recent and very pronounced and widespread backlash against the health-friendly and innovation-friendly movement, especially in Academia and in some of the privately run commercial print studios.

'Steampunk', 'Historic photography', and 'Radical Publishing' positively endeavor to revitalize pre-20th century methods, often disregarding the dangers inherent in many of the heavy metals and other hazardous compounds that require specialist protection and training. Note: even uranium salts were used back then, but then... the 1850s were an age of innocence. 

Many of the potentially sickening and cancer provoking compounds that were the staples of early photographers, printmakers, and painters are making an unwelcome comeback. This movement away from 'safety' appears to entail a new ethos of carelessness in some that may have a negative impact on the entire field, and on both kinds of users: those that have a more safety-aware innovative (green?) outlook, and those that have a traditional outlook and a greater acceptance of increased health risks that are inherent in many of the old materials and methods.

For example, the use of organic respirators - these had become widely accepted for solvent use in the 90s - is becoming neglected by some practitioners. Maybe this is connected to the current prevalence of water-based materials (many of which in themselves aren't as safe as claimed). The expected increase in incidents and ill health is already evident.

Our resource will continue to endeavor to provide relevant, solid, and peer-reviewed information to artists, students, and printmakers from all fields to facilitate informed choices.

the following essays may give a glimpse of the scope and relevance of the subject, 
and some implications:

Exposing Ourselves to Art     Scott Fields

Safe Painting     Merle Spandorfer

Eco-friendly Paints    Sarah Houlton

The Contemporary Printmaker    Friedhard Kiekeben

Beginners Compendium       Donna Adams

Not Dying for their Art      Alicia P. Gregory    

Screenprinting Solutions        Roni Henning

Intaglio Type       
Keith Howard

Printmaking Revolution      New Book, by Dwight Pogue

The Green Art School       Susan Groce

The Green Print Studio        Liz Chalfin