Solar Plate at The Hot Bed Press

I recently attended a workshop in Solar Plate or Photo Polymer printing at The Hot Bed Press, Salford. The Hot Bed Press is based at the Casket Works, and is a not-for-profit printmakers’ studio, it is now the largest open-access print workshop in the NorthWest of England.

I’ve been looking into Solar Plate printing for a while and have managed to miss every opportunity to attend a workshop or masterclass at a number of print studios, so was really looking forward to this one. I was keen to see the reproduction qualities of photo polymer printing and compare its ability to reproduce photographic qualities in an ink based print, especially the mid-tone details. Excellent info on Solar Plate can be found on

The workshop unfortunately didn’t quite go to plan… After spending Saturday trying to get decent test strips, Martin the tutor, remained behind to try to solve the mystery of why none of us were getting the expected results.
On the Sunday we returned to find a set of full image plates ready to print, unfortunately these still were not of good enough quality to get decent prints from. I’m unsure if it was a case of the UV units not working properly, or if it was a dodgy batch of plates. Fair play to Martin it was a little out of his control and these things do happen now and again. Some of the group were pretty disappointed especially ones that had traveled a fair distance and stayed overnight in a hotel.

Heres my plate, as you can see theres hardly and depth to it making it next to impossible to print.

I’d taken two images to make plates from, no one from the group had a portrait so I went with this recent one of Richard to see how skin tones would print.


And heres the first print from it, I only did one other print with less ink wiped from the plate to see if it improved it at all!? It didn’t.


Out of six of us only one plate was anywhere near good enough to print. This was Anne’s plate, a lovely photograph of light coming through the trees, granted this wasn’t a perfectly exposed/developed plate either but at least she was getting decent prints from it. We have no idea why her plate came out so much better than everyone elses, needless to say she was very happy.


Her first print…


and her second….


By this time most of the group had cut their losses and gone home, I hung around to see Anne print her plate and see what potential solar plate has, even with a dodgy plate.

Onto some fine art papers…


And this is a print with Chine Colle, I really like this effect, it offered a lot more detail and a denser shadow.


Heres Martin showing some of the group how to use the Rochat etching press.



I’m still undecided to the quality of Solar Plate, but from what I’ve seen from the prints Anne produced it really does seem to have some potential, and I’d like to try some of my own tests with variations of random dot screens and acetates.

Anne was kind enough to gift me one of her prints from the weekend. Thank you Anne, very much appreciated.

Martin also offered to get another batch of plates, and go through the whole process himself and etch everybody’s plate from fresh acetate positives. We can then have the opportunity to re visit and run a few prints off.

I’ll be following this up as I think the processing of plates can be done at my studio and then the cured plates printed in sessions at the Hot Bed Press. At the moment I really cant justify the cost of a decent etching press.