Collotype conference helps revive old printing process

Issue date: 14 March 2005

Issue date: 14/03/05

Experts in a printing technique from the Victorian era that is on the brink of revival gathered from around the world at the second International Collotype Conference, hosted recently by the University of the West of England’s Bristol School of Art, Media and Design.

Collotype is a nineteenth century continuous-tone process able to produce prints with far more fidelity to the original colours than any of the methods that dominate the print world today.

Delegates from nine countries attended the conference and shared the latest research into contemporary uses for this process in the digital age. It is a testament to the quality of the process that many prints with an impressively high image resolution still remain from the collotype era (circa 1880 to 1970) in perfect archival condition.

“This conference was the culmination of an £117,000 award from the Arts and Humanities Research Board which has allowed us to research the interface between the traditional collotype process and the flexibility of digital technology,” said conference organiser Dr Paul Thirkell.

“We were delighted to welcome delegates from the former Cotswold Collotype Company (the UK’s last collotype printery which was based in Wotton-under-Edge) as well as some of the world’s only surviving companies located in Japan, Germany and Italy. Also in attendance were delegates from various universities in the United States. UWE is the only academic institution in the UK with the collotype equipment necessary for the workshops and demonstrations to take place.”

The project has also given rise to a highly-successful continuing collaboration with Cranfield Colours, a South Wales ink manufacturer that has increased its production of the purer, high-pigment inks needed for this process, as a result of a collaboration with UWE. This collaboration won the DTI Best Application of Knowledge award in 2003.

“UWE has a commercial link with Cranfield Colours, whose products are now very sought-after by practitioners of the process,” said Stephen Hoskins, Hewlett-Packard Professor of Fine Print. “Collotype is at the tipping point where it could now take off again in a big way for uses that require the highest levels of accuracy in colour.”

The next biannual Collotype Conference will be held in Florence in 2007. For further information contact or tel: + 44 (0) 117 32 84835


Editor’s notes

Picture attached, caption to read: Collotype workshop run by Dr Paul Thirkell with Italian collotype printer Claudio Acuri using a special collotype technique to adjust the tonal range of the printing plate.

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