Printmaking - Safe Work Practice Manual

Safe Work Practices Manual

Fine Arts Studio - Printmaking


In addition to reading this SWP Manual, students are also required to read and acknowledge a studio-specific Hazard Assessment

Please Note: This SWP manual is not intended to provide detailed instruction of processes and techniques.  It is not a substitute for attending technical demonstrations and taking notes. 



  • Regularly review the Safe Work Practices Manual for each area you are working in - this is an important resource.  

  • In addition to reading the SWP Manual, students are required to read and acknowledge studio-specific Hazard Assessments and, if applicable, attend studio demonstrations. 

  • Know the material you are working with and read the SDS labels and information sheets to ascertain the proper safety precautions you should take.  

  • Wear the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment when working in the workshops. For example, you may need to wear a respirator and work in a ventilated environment based on the information provided with this material. 

  • All materials, supplies, and works in progress must be stored appropriately with the understanding that W840 supports all studio programs. 

  • If you are unsure about which tool to use or how to use it consult the safe work practice manual, a Technician, and your Instructor before starting. 

  • All placement of art outside the 8th floor must be approved by OH&S through the completion of the Art Placement Form. This form is on the OH&S website of the university and must be completed five days prior to the installation of your work. 

  • Do not use headphones or personal listening devices in the W840 workshops.  

  • Be aware of the impact of your work on the work of others in the workshops. 

  • Doors to studios must be kept closed- do not prop open. Do not give away the code to studio doors. 

  • All containers must be labeled, do not use food or drink containers for any controlled substances such as paint thinner, glue, patina solutions, etc.


  • Do not block fire exits and fire-fighting equipment.  

  • Keep aisles, walkways and stairs clear.  

  • Store materials in designated storage areas or in your locker or studio space. 

  • A clear uncluttered passageway must be maintained in storage areas; do not leave anything sticking out beyond the front edge of racks and shelving. 

  • Remove large projects immediately after they have been graded to open up space to make more work. 

  • All storage must be cleaned out at the end of each term. Look for signs and heed your instructor’s directions about portfolio pick-up at end of term. All articles left behind will be removed and thrown out. 

  • Keep your studio facilities and classrooms clean and tidy.  

  • Respect your work and the work of others. 

  • Be aware of the impact of your work on the work of others in the workshops. 

  • Keep all disposal bins tidy with no projecting articles. 

  • Clean up spills immediately in order to avoid a slipping hazard. 

  • Clean and put away all tools and materials when job is done, and at the end of each workday. 

  • Wear the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment when working in Art Studios and Workshops. 

  • Sweep floors, equipment, counters, and tables after completion of tasks and at the end of every workday. 

  • Avoid causing trip hazards with extension cords and air hoses. 

Each person in the School of Fine Arts is responsible and accountable for his/her own safety performance. It is important that each person understand that he/she is also expected to work in a manner that will not cause harm to any other person within the University community. Art materials can affect the body in various ways. There are three major routes of entry: inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. 

  1. Inhalation: The most common ways that foreign substances enter the body are from vapors, fumes, dust, gases or mists that can be inhaled into the respiratory system. The substances may damage the nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract, lungs or be absorbed into the bloodstream and travel to other organs in the body.
  2. Ingestion: Substances may be accidentally or willingly ingested through the contamination of food, drinks, cigarettes and hands. These substances may affect the mouth, throat and/or stomach or be absorbed into the bloodstream. 
  3. Skin Contact: Substances may attack or destroy the natural protective barriers of the skin, damaging the skin itself, and enabling toxic chemicals to enter the bloodstream, where they are carried to various organs of the body. 

It is imperative that eating and/or drinking do not occur in any work area.

All students are required to participate in the Safe Work Practices. This includes participation in training and instructional workshops, reading the information sheets that accompany the training sessions, and signing off on their understanding of the information before beginning work in the studio facilities. 

Once training requirements have been met Students have access to and are allowed to work in their Studio Classroom any time the University is open, as long as safety and working alone policies are followed (see page 9: Working Alone Policy).  

Students with training are permitted to work in the Sculpture Facilities (W840) according to the schedule which corresponds to the hours when Technicians are on duty. This schedule is posted on the Workshop doors.

It is the responsibility of every person in the area to be aware of his or her surroundings, which in turn will create a safe working environment. Particular attention should be paid to the following: 

  1. Telephone: located inside the studio at the exit. Emergency numbers are posted beside each telephone. 
  2. First Aid Kits: located in each area and are clearly marked. These are for emergency first aid procedures only. Do not use supplies for any other use.  
  3. Eye Wash Stations: located in each area and are clearly marked. Eye wash stations are tested every month, by the department Safety Representative. 
  4. Fire Extinguishers: located in every working area. 
  5. Safety Data Sheet binders: located in studios where the Department supplies controlled products to support instruction (see below) 

The following materials and substances cannot be used in student projects: ammunition or explosives, flammable liquids, biohazardous material or waste. 

WHMIS information sheets and proper labeling according to WHMIS regulations must accompany all controlled products.  WHMIS training is provided by OH&S, as a student you must complete the WHMIS Online Training Course offered through OH&S on Moodle.  

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are provided in all studios for all controlled products supplied by the Department to support instruction. 

Controlled products for your personal use must also have appropriate WHMIS labels and accompanying SDS information sheets. 

  • All containers must be labeled (including harmless items like distilled water). The label should contain the proper name of the material (i.e. Turpenoid, Varsol) and the name of the user if appropriate, a statement of hazards should also be listed. 

  • Do not use material from unlabeled containers. The need for adequate labeling extends far beyond the immediate individual user, as they may not be present if the container spills or breaks.  

  • It is important that no unidentified materials are left in unlabeled containers, jars, or bottles. Proper labeling is important since it is difficult and costly to dispose of unlabeled chemicals. 

Each individual has the responsibility for seeing that waste chemicals are safely collected, identified and stored for disposal, and that anyone involved is fully advised of the need for any special methods or facilities for proper disposal.

Handling of Waste

Chemicals are everywhere: they can be found in animals, plants and water as well as in many commercially available products including medicines, detergents, paints, and foods. The risk may be low, but present. In order to keep the risk to a minimum, all chemical waste must be disposed of properly. Once a material is declared a waste, the first responsibility for guiding its proper disposal rests with the worker. He or she is in the best position to know the degree of hazard posed by the material they have used and must provide sufficient information to fit it into the correct channel for disposal. 

Some Acids and Bases:

The following acids and bases have been approved for drain disposal while flushing drain with water, if the pH range is between 3 and 11 (prior to draining).  

Sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide.

Any chemical which qualifies as a hazardous waste must be collected for proper disposal through OH&S.  A waste may be designated as a hazardous waste if it meets one of the following criteria:  

  1. Acute hazardous waste is a waste which has been found to be fatal in humans in low doses or, in the absence of data on humans, has been found to have, in laboratory animals:  

    • An oral LD50 (Lethal Dose of 50% of the test subjects) of less than 50 mg/kg.  

    • An inhalation LC50 (Lethal Concentration) of less than 2 mg/l, or  

    • A dermal LD50 of less than 200 mg/kg. 

  2. A waste is hazardous if it contains any of the toxic constituents listed in the regulations.  

  3. A waste is hazardous if it exhibits any of the following characteristics:

    • Ignitability  

    • Corrosivity  

    • Reactivity  

    • Toxicity *  

    • Sharpness 

  4. Each Studio generating chemical waste in the Department has a designated location within the room for waste accumulation.  

  5. Hazardous Waste Disposal containers are located by the sinks in most studios. As well sharps containers are located in various studios for the safe disposal of glass, knives or saw blades. 

All workplace hazardous materials must be identified and disposed of according to Provincial Regulations. No substance that may affect the Environment, Plant, Animal, or Human Life can be disposed of in the garbage or flushed down the sewer system. Consult with a Technician before you act. 

Effective ventilation is the best method for controlling contaminants generated and released into the studio atmosphere. There are two basic types of ventilation: general and local exhaust. Local exhaust ventilation is required when working in: 

Painting Studio W817

Metal Shop W840 

Advanced Studio W823

Kiln Room W890D 

Wood Shop W840A

Clay Mixing/ Slurry Room 890A 

Spray Booths are located in W840 + W520, use these when spraying fixative to drawings or when using spray paint. If the contaminant is highly toxic or large amounts of the toxic material are produced a respirator must also be worn.

As a result of the hazard assessment performed by the Technical Staff of the Department of Art working alone is not permitted if it can be avoided. 

All work planned outside of times when Technicians are on shift must be done with another student. Any Students found working alone in any studio area will be asked to leave the facility by Security personnel. The buddy system should now be enforced in all of the following workspaces:  W817, W823, W869, W871, W890, A, B, C +D, W520, L804, W844, W842, and W748 A-K. Excerpt from Art Safety Policy (1992); 

In addition, students working after hours are required to have a buddy present. A buddy is another student who is enrolled in and cognizant of the School of Fine Arts Safety Policy. The buddy must remain within the same studio at all times.

The University of Lethbridge now has a Working Alone Safely Login that informs Security that an individual is working alone on campus. All Faculty, Staff, and Students are asked to use this system to login and out with security when they are on campus after regular hours.

The Working Alone Safety Login can be access through Uleth Safe app

This policy was developed through the guidelines found in the booklet “Working Alone Safely: A Guide for Employers and Employees” as developed by Alberta Human Resources and Employment.


In the event of fire, please phone the following EMERGENCY number immediately: 911 or 329-2345. 

Action to be taken (R.E.A.C.T.):

  1. Remove those in danger. 
  2. Ensure the room is closed. This step will confine a fire to the room of origin. This will also prevent the spread of smoke and toxic gases. 
  3. Activate the fire alarm. This will occur automatically with smoke and heat detection equipment. There is nothing wrong with calling the Fire Department for assistance and providing details of the fire. 
  4. Call the Fire Department. 911 or 329-2345. A person should be designated to call the Fire Department even though the building alarm system is automatically connected to the Fire Department. 
  5. Try to extinguish or control the fire. If there is any doubt in the mind of the person(s) attempting to extinguish the fire regarding their ability to do so, then confine the fire to the room of origin by closing the door. 
  6. Evacuate. 
  7. Keep people from re-entering the building until directed to do so by the Building Fire Warden of Campus Security. 

Air Contamination

Should you smell any foreign or unrecognized odors, please phone the following EMERGENCY number immediately: 329-2345. 

What to report: 

  1. The location of the odor. 
  2. Time the odor was first apparent. 
  3. Any physical symptoms experienced by persons in the affected area, ie. headache, feeling of nausea. 
  4. Any information suggesting the odor's origin. 

Open any windows or doors to attempt to dilute the polluted air with fresh outside air. Stay out of the affected area and await further instruction by safety personnel. 

Chemical Spills

Should a chemical spill occur in your area please phone the following EMERGENCY number immediately: 329-2345. 

What to report: 

  1. The location of the spill and any evidence that tells what the chemical could be, ie. an empty bleach bottle lying on the floor indicating the substance may be bleach. 
  2. Any odor, ie. a strong smell of ammonia. 
  3. Any visible chemical reaction that may be occurring, ie. a substance bubbling on the floor. 

When proper personnel have been notified, no one should enter the contaminated area. If an odor is present, open a window and post a guard outside the odorous area keeping untrained persons away. NO ATTEMPT SHOULD BE MADE TO CLEAN UP THE SPILL. Await arrival of emergency personnel.

Personal Protective Equipment

There are times when exposure to toxic materials cannot be prevented, and as such any person working in the area must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. Contact the Technician, your Professor, or OHS for assistance in selecting the correct PPE. It is not only important that the correct PPE is worn but that the equipment fit properly. For instance, respirators must have a mask to face seal and facial hair prevents a tight seal.  

  • CSA approved eye protection must be worn when working in W840 and elsewhere when the activity demands it. 

  • Prescription lenses and sport glasses are not an acceptable substitute for proper, required Industrial safety eye protection. 

  • Contact lens should not be worn in Art Studio Environments. Contact lens may trap or absorb particles or gases causing eye irritation or blindness. 

  • Eye protection should fit properly, with or without prescription lens.  

  • Return glasses to the proper storage rack face up to avoid scratching lens. 

  • In this storage rack you will find a variety of styles- pick the one that fits you best. 

  • There are two common types of hearing protection: earplugs or earmuffs. 

  • One or both types must be used when working in W840 and W890B (grinding room) and at all times when equipment is operating. 

  • These studio workshops are high noise areas and hearing protection is a must even if you are not the one making the noise. 

  • Hearing loss, which normally occurs over an extended period of time, is one concern in high noise areas. The immediate effect of high noise areas is fatigue- when we are tired we make mistakes, some of which could be serious. 

  • Students are required to wear good solid shoes when working in Art Studio. Leather shoes with closed toes are best. These protect your feet from most substances used in studios- for example, spills: photo chemicals, acids, and paints. Open toed sandals should not be worn in any studio, and are not permitted in W840 or W890

  • If you have safety boots wear them and if you know you are going to live in these studios buy some safety footwear. 

  • Employees must wear safety footwear in the above areas and in the performance of the majority of their duties. 

  • Dust masks most be worn in W840, W840A, and W890 A, B, and C when the activities in these areas are dust producing. 

  • Local ventilation and air extraction equipment must be utilized in the above studios depending on the nature of your activity. 

  • Spray Booths are located in W840 + W520, use these when spraying fixative to drawings or when using spray paint.  

  • If the contaminant is highly toxic or large amounts of the toxic material are produced a respirator must also be worn. 

Due to the variety of studio activities you must consider further personal protection that may take many different forms such as leather gloves, nitrile gloves, leather/chemical aprons etc. 

Generally the following rules apply when working in studios and shops: 

  • All rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches should be removed. Long hair must be tied firmly back and tuck in. Short sleeves should be worn when working in the wood shop and shirttails must be tucked in. 

  • If you bend over nothing should fall away from your body.  

  • When working with metal or hot processes long sleeves should be worn, and clothing should be made of natural fibers such as cotton or wool. Synthetic fibers, such as spandex or polyester, melt onto the skin and can cause severe burns. 

  • Unlike in the woodshop, shirttails should not be tucked in when working with hot processes. Do not roll up sleeve cuffs, and pocket flaps should be closed. You want any hot particle to be able to pass through your clothing and not to become trapped against your skin. 

  • Shorts and open-toed shoes or sandals should not be worn in the other studios. You must keep in mind that many of the products you will use are absorbed through the skin, and could be corrosive. 

  • Wash hands and arms thoroughly before leaving the studios after working with potentially hazardous material and before eating, drinking, smoking, etc.  

Care and Maintenance 8th Floor Exhibition Spaces

These spaces will operate on a one-week rotating schedule, and it is your responsibility to schedule your time in the space. At the end of the exhibition period the following procedure must be followed: 

  • Get the paint kit from technicians. In this kit you will find the following supplies: 
    Paint Brush, Roller sleeve and handle, pole sander and sand paper, Extension Pole, Wall Filler, putty knife, Tape, White Latex paint, Paint Tray and drop cloths, brush, and roller spinner. 

  • Lay down the drop cloths tight to the walls, if necessary tape these down with painters tape. They should overlap each other by 24”. 

  • Remove all nails and fastening devices, with pole sander lightly sand the walls, smoothing out the dimple caused by your nails. 

  • Prepare a small quantity of wall filler and apply leanly to all nail holes. 

  • When this is dry lightly sand the walls again taking care to make the walls as smooth as possible. 

  • Stir your paint well and only use the latex paint provided. 

  • Fill the paint tray with a moderate quantity of paint working only on the drop clothes. 

  • With a paintbrush first apply a brush coat on all filled areas, then carefully cut in the edges of the walls. Do not paint concrete, floors, baseboards, or electrical outlets. 

  • Once you have finished cutting in use the roller to apply a light even coat of white latex paint to the walls. 

  • After you have completed the painting scrap excess paint from roller into tray, with a brush, clean paint tray returning excess paint to paint can. 

  • Roll or fold up your drop cloths and sweep the area before returning paint kit to W840. 

  • Return all used painting equipment to W840 and carefully remove the roller sleeve and thoroughly rinse it in the sink making sure all paint is washed out of roller and paintbrush. 

  • Using the paint spinner in the sink fit roller sleeve over end of spinner and spin roller to remove excess water. Stand damp roller sleeve upright for finally drying.  

  • Using the paint spinner, place brush handle into clamp and spin to remove excess water. Smooth out the bristle while brush is still damp and lay brush flat to dry or hang on wall over sink.


  • The door to L804 must be kept closed. Do not prop open, do not share code.
  • Clear, uncluttered passageways must be maintained in studio areas; store materials in designated storage areas or in your locker.
  • Do not block fire exits and fire fighting equipment.
  • Absolutely no eating or drinking in any printmaking area.
  • As in other studio areas, open-toed sandals are not permitted. Wear close-toed shoes to protect your feet from chemical spills. Your shoes should also have a sturdy slip-resistant sole.
  • You may be asked by your instructor not to use any personal listening devices during class hours. If this is the case please follow the directions given you.
  • Do not work alone in the Printmaking studios after Technicians hours if you can avoid it. Have someone working in the studio with you, or login through the ULeth Safe App as working alone.
  • Wear the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment when working in the studios. Consider aprons or lab coats, and wear nitrile gloves or apply barrier cream when handling solvents. Never wash your hands with solvent.
  • Avoid solvent use as much as possible, and use sparingly when necessary.
  • If using the parts washer (aka the varsol machine), keep lid closed when not in use to avoid evaporation of solvent.
  • Print towels used to clean oil-based ink must be deposited into the appropriate metal canister provided in the studio. They are organized for heavily soiled and lightly soiled - sort your towels accordingly and use the lightly soiled for heavy cleaning. Heavily soiled towels will be collected for hazardous waste disposal.
  • Print towels used to clean water-soluble ink can be placed in the plastic bin labeled lightly soiled or, if they are heavily soiled, directly into the garbage. Water-soluble ink does not need to be handled as hazardous waste.
  • Clean counters, work-tables and inking tables thoroughly. Wet ink will migrate to the least desirable places if left on work surfaces. Oil-based and water-soluble inks have distinct clean-up protocols; be sure to know the difference.
  • Clean all parts of tools such as rollers and ink knives. Do not leave any errant ink behind on tool edges/ handles.
  • All print storage must be cleaned out at the end of each term. Look for signs and heed your instructor’s directions about portfolio pick-up at end of term. All articles left behind will be removed and thrown out.
  • If you are unsure about which tool/material to use or how to use it consult the safe work manual, a technician and your instructor before starting.
  • Be aware of the impact of your work on the work of others in the studios.
  • Respect your work and the work of others- printing inks, solvents, and other substances will damage your and others’ work- cleanliness is paramount in Print Studios. If you don’t have time to clean, you don’t have time to print.

Intaglio, lithography and relief inks consist of pigments suspended in a vehicle pf either linseed oil or water. There can be additional hazardous such as binders or preservatives.

Obtain the SDS on all products used, regardless of whether they are hazardous or not.


  • Oil-based inks contain treated linseed oils which although not considered a hazard by skin contact or inhalation, ingestion of large amounts of some treated linseed oils might be hazardous due to presence of small amounts of toxic heavy metals.

  • Oil vehicles are flammable when heated, and rags soaked in these may ignite by spontaneous combustion.


  • Use the least toxic inks possible. Avoid eye and prolonged skin contact.
  • Do not use an open flame to heat linseed oil, linseed oil varnishes, or burnt plate oil. Take normal fire prevention measures (e.g. no smoking or open flames in work area).

Pigments are the colorants used in lithography, intaglio, and relief printing inks. There are two types of pigments: inorganic pigments, and organic pigments.

Pigments are not utilized in the Print Studio, and students are encouraged to avoid using dry pigments because of the hazards involved.


Organic solvents are used in printmaking to dissolve and mix with oils, resins, varnishes, and oil-based inks and to clean plates, rollers, tools.

In general, organic solvents are one of the most underrated hazards in art materials. In our Print studios the commonly used organic solvents are acetone, isopropyl alcohol, varsol and lithotine.


  • Repeated or prolonged skin contact with solvents can cause defatting of the skin and resultant dermatitis (rashes, drying and cracking of skin, itching, etc.). Many solvents can also be harmful through skin absorption.
  • Inhalation of solvent vapors is the major way in which solvents are harmful.
    • High concentrations of most solvents can cause narcosis (dizziness, nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, coma, etc.). This can also increase the chances for mistakes and accidents.
  • Research has indicated that chronic occupational exposure to many solvents can cause permanent brain damage, with symptoms including loss of memory, behavioral changes, fatigue, spasticity, decreased intelligence, slower reflexes, poor hand-eye coordination, etc.
  • Solvents can also attack other organ systems besides the nervous system. In particular, turpentine can damage the kidneys, toluene and chlorinated hydrocarbons can affect the liver, and methylene chloride can affect the heart.
  • Many solvents are toxic if ingested.
  • Most solvents, except chlorinated hydrocarbons, are also either flammable or combustible. A solvent is flammable if its vapors can burn below 100o F when a source of ignition is present; if the temperature must be over 100o F before it will burn, then the solvent is combustible.
    • For example, ethyl alcohol and toluene are flammable, and kerosene and mineral spirits (Varsol or paint thinner) are combustible


Obtain the SDS on all solvent products used.

  • Use the least toxic solvent possible. For example, use denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol rather than the more toxic methyl alcohol (methyl hydrate).
  • In order to avoid inhalation of fumes ensure local exhaust ventilation, and take fresh air breaks during prolonged work sessions.
  • Keep minimum amounts of solvents on hand and purchase in smallest practical container size.
  • Large amounts of solvents or solvent-containing materials should be stored in a flammable storage cabinet.
  • Never store solvents or solvent-containing materials in food or drink containers.
  • Always label containers.
  • Do not allow smoking, open flames or other sources of ignition near solvents. Have a fire extinguisher in the area.
  • Wear gloves when handling solvents to avoid skin contact. In particular, do not use solvents to clean oil-based ink from hands. Baby oil or mineral oil are good substitutes.
  • Do not induce vomiting if petroleum distillates are swallowed. Give 1-2 glasses of water or milk and contact a regional Poison Control Center.

Acids are used in intaglio (acid etching) and in lithography. Although we do not use nitric or glacial acetic acid they are both stored in the Printmaking studio. For etching, we use ferric chloride. Observe the precautions below when using ferric chloride.


  • Concentrated acids are corrosive to the skin, eyes, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system.
    • Dilute acids can cause skin irritation on repeated or prolonged contact.
    • Concentrated nitric acid is a strong oxidizing agent and can react explosively with other concentrated acids, solvents, etc.
      • Nitric acid gives off various nitrogen oxide gases, including nitrogen dioxide which is a strong lung irritant and can cause emphysema.
  • Acetic acid, in concentrated solutions, is highly toxic by inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. It can cause dermatitis and ulcers, and can strongly irritate the mucous membranes.
  • Ferric chloride causes eye damage, skin irritation. It will also stain your skin.


Know what is used. Obtain the SDS for all acids. Whenever possible avoid concentrated acids.

  • Doing acid etching requires working in a properly ventilated area with exhaust hoods.
  • Store concentrated nitric and chromic acids away from organic materials.
    • Concentrated nitric acid should always be stored separately even from other acids.
  • An important safety rule when diluting concentrated acids is to add the acid to the water, never the reverse.
  • Wear appropriate gloves, goggles and protective apron or lab coat when handling acids.
  • An emergency shower and eyewash fountain that is not hand-held should be in studios where concentrated acids are mixed or used. Portable eyewash bottles are not recommended.
  • If acid is spilled on your skin, wash with lots of water. In case of eye contact, rinse the eyes with water for at least 15-20 minutes and contact a physician.
  • Do not induce vomiting if concentrated acids are swallowed. Give 1-2 glasses of water or milk and get medical attention.

Collagraphs are prints produced by using a collage of different materials glued onto a rigid support. A wide variety of materials and adhesives can be used in making collagraphs.


  • Rubber cement, a common adhesive used with collagraphs, is extremely flammable and most rubber cements and their thinners contain the solvent n-hexane which can cause damage to the peripheral nervous system (hands, arms, legs, feet) from chronic inhalation of high levels.
  • Epoxy glues can cause skin and eye irritation and allergies.
  • See the Solvents section for hazards associated with the solvents found in adhesives.
  • Spraying fixatives on the back of collagraph plates to seal them can involve risk of inhalation of the solvent-containing spray mist.
  • Sanding collagraph plates which have been treated with acrylic modeling compounds or similar materials can involve inhalation of irritating dusts.
  • A wide variety of other materials with varying toxicities can be used in making collagraph plates.


Know the hazards of materials used and obtain the SDSs from the manufacturer.

  • Use the least toxic materials available. In particular, use water-based glues and mediums (e.g. acrylic medium) whenever possible.
  • Some rubber cements are made with the solvent heptane, which is less toxic than n-hexane, primarily because peripheral neuropathy is not associated with its use.
  • Use ventilation with large amounts of acrylic medium (due to the presence of small amounts of ammonia), and with any solvents.
  • Avoid the use of highly toxic solvents or large amounts of solvents or other toxic chemicals. If they must be utilized, use local exhaust ventilation (e.g. slot hood, enclosed hood, etc.).
  • Use spray fixatives in the spray booth, or outdoors.
  • Wear gloves when using epoxy glues

Relief printing techniques include woodcuts, linoleum cuts and acrylic plates.

These techniques involve the cutting away of plate areas that are not to be printed. Relief inks can be oil-based or water-based


  • Some woods used for woodcuts can cause skin irritation and/or allergies. This is particularly true of tropical hardwoods.
  • Accidents involving sharp tools can result in cuts.
  • Wood carving and cutting tools can cause repetitive strain injuries.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking while printing can result in accidental ingestion of pigments.
  • Hazardous solvents may be used for cleaning up after printing with oil-based inks.


Obtain the SDS for all materials used.

  • See Acids and Solvents sections for precautions before using acids and solvents.
  • Water-based inks are preferable to oil-based inks since solvents are not needed; clean-up can be done with diluted dish detergent.
  • Wear appropriate gloves, goggles and protective apron when handling caustic soda.
  • An emergency shower and eyewash fountain should be available.
  • If the chemical is spilled on your skin, wash with lots of water. In case of eye contact, rinse the eyes with water for at least l5-20 minutes and contact a physician.
  • Vacuum or mop up all wood dust so as to diminish inhalation of wood dust.
  • Always cut in a direction away from you, with both hands on the tool.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome can be minimized or avoided by using tools with wide handles, avoiding tight grips, and taking rest periods with hand flexing exercises.
  • Linoleum cutting is softer to work, and thus can reduce musculoskeletal injury.
  • Monoprints involve standard intaglio, lithographic and other printmaking techniques, but only one print is made. Monoprints have the same hazards involved in plate preparation and printing as the parent techniques.

Serigraphy or Screen Printing is a method of creating an image on paper, fabric or some other object by pressing ink through a screen with areas blocked off.


  • The screen can be blocked with with either a light-sensitive emulsion, paper, film, or with a screen filling product.
    • Light-sensitive emulsion, screen filler, or screen drawing fluid may cause irritation or allergic reaction with skin or eye contact. Diazo photoemulsion is the least hazardous, although it can cause irritation.
    • Screen cleaning and screen preparation solutions are also skin and eye irritants.
  • Light exposure sources include photoflood lamps, vacuum Poly-Lite units, and carbon arcs.
    • Large amounts of ultraviolet radiation from these lights can cause skin and eye damage and possible skin cancer.
    • Carbon arcs also produce hazardous metal fumes, and ozone and nitrogen dioxide (which can cause emphysema), and toxic carbon monoxide.
  • When paper or film stencils are used the main hazard is accidents with sharp tools.
    • Long-term use of these tools can cause carpel tunnel syndrome, which can cause numbness and pain in the first three fingers. Severe cases can be incapacitating.
  • A pressure washer may be used to clean the screen. The force of the water can damage eyes, and can also spread cleaning solution and contaminants if not contained.


Know the hazards of materials used and obtain the SDS from the manufacturer.

  • Never look directly into the light exposure unit.
  • Use the least toxic materials available. Use water-soluble inks.
  • Keep tools sharp. Store them safely and always cut away from yourself.
  • Minimize the chance of carpal tunnel syndrome by choosing tools with wide handles, avoiding tight grips, and doing hand flexing exercises during regular rest periods.
  • Set work table height so wrist flexing motions are minimal.
  • Wear nitrile gloves when mixing or applying emulsions or screen fillers/ drawing fluid and when cleaning screens.
  • Wash hands often.
  • When using a pressure washer, wear goggles or a face shield. Ear protection may also need to be worn to protect against the sound of the machine. Never point the stream of water at yourself or another person.
  • In case of splashes in the eyes rinse with water for at least 15-20 minutes and contact a physician.

Intaglio is a printmaking process in which ink is pressed into depressed areas of the plate and then transferred to paper. These depressed areas can be produced by a variety of techniques, including acid etching, drypoint, engraving and mezzotint.

Etching involves use of ether dilute nitric acid, saline sulfate (copper sulfate and salt), or ferric chloride to etch the metal plate. Different metals may require different etching solutions- be sure to ask your instructor or a technician.

  • Unetched parts of the plate are protected with resists such as stopout varnishes containing ethyl alcohol, grounds containing acrylic, asphaltum or gilsonite and mineral spirits, rubber cement, and rosin or spray paints for aquatinting.
  • Sometimes soft grounds contain more toxic solvents, although safer soy-wax based or acrylic soft grounds are available.


  • Rosin dust (and asphaltum dust which is also sometimes used) is combustible. Sparks or static electricity have caused explosions in enclosed rosin and aquatint boxes.
    • Rosin dust may also cause asthma and dermatitis in some individuals. Inhalation of solvents and pigments can result from use of aerosol spray paints.


Obtain the SDS for all materials used. See Solvents and Acids sections for specific precautions. Artists, colleges and universities should use etchants with caution.

  • Application of grounds or stopouts should be done with local exhaust ventilation, (e.g. slot or enclosed hood).

Application of spray paints should be done inside a spray booth that exhausts to the outside, or outdoors.

  • Rosin (or asphaltum) boxes should be explosion-proof. Use sparkproof metal cranks, explosion-proof motors, or compressed air.
    • Don’t use hair dryers to stir up rosin dust.

Drypoint, mezzotint and engraving use sharp tools to incise lines in metal or acrylic plates.


  • One major hazard associated with these types of processes involves accidents with sharp tools.
  • Long-term use of these tools can cause repetitive strain injuries, which can cause numbness and pain in the hands or wrists. Severe cases can be incapacitating.


  • Keep tools sharp, store them safely and always cut away from yourself.
  • When possible, clamp down plates to avoid slippage.
  • Minimize the chance of carpel tunnel syndrome by choosing tools with wide handles, avoiding tight grips, and doing hand flexing exercises during regular rest periods.
  • Set worktable height so wrist flexing motions are minimal.