Photopolymer techniques provide a medium with endless possibilities, as well as a healthy approach to the traditional processes of intaglio. Plates can be prepared and "etched" without using acid or other hazardous chemicals, and an unlimited variety of marks, textures, and tones can be transferred to the film-covered plate.
The process begins with the lamination of light-sensitive photopolymer film to a substrate (for example, plastic, copper, or zinc) to make a plate, which is then exposed to a positive image on transparent film and ultra-violet light. The light passes through less dense and clear areas of the film and these areas polymerize and harden. Dark areas on the film block the light, creating areas of the plate that will dissolve in a bath of soda ash and water. When the plate is dried, ink is applied to its surface and wiped so that ink remains in lines or areas that are "etched" in surface of the plate. Multiple plates are inked with different non-toxic inks and printed in succession on damp, mould-made paper on a hand-operated press.
Each new layer increases the depth and complexity of the image, and each layer is as unique as a fingerprint. The process is somewhat unpredictable. A small and seemingly insignificant variation at any step of the plate-making or printmaking can create unexpected and sometimes serendipitous results. Often a "mistake" or unexpected variation can be incorporated into the composition to good effect. Printing time per print depends on the complexity of the image, number of plates to be used, and level of effort involved in inking and wiping each plate.