Oil print process

The oil print process is a photographic printmaking process that dates to the mid-19th century. Oil prints are made on paper on which a thick gelatin layer has been sensitized to light using dichromate salts. After the paper is exposed to light through a negative, the gelatin emulsion is treated in such a way that highly exposed areas take up an oil-based paint, forming the photographic image.

Greasy ink is repelled from a gelatin that is swollen with water while hardened gelatin accepts the ink. The oil pigment process works on the same principle as lithographic printing > oil and water don’t mix.

The oil print process creates soft images reminiscent of paint or pastels but with the distinctive indexicality of a photograph.

As with other forms of printmaking, the ink application requires considerable skill, and no two prints are identical.

Each print is unique.

Oilprints have a great decreased susceptibility to deterioration compared to silver-based prints due to the inherent stability of the process and also because they are commonly printed on 100% cotton rag papers. No silver metals are involved that could destroy the paper.

Oilprints, dating around 1910, are still in good condition in several museums/collections around the world.

Short description of the process

1/ Preparing watercolour paper. The luxury paper weights 300gr and is 100% cotton.

2/ Preparing the high quality photographic gelatin. 

3/ Pouring the gelatin onto the paper. Drying the gelatin layer > +- 72h.

4/ Sensitizing the gelatin layer.

5/ Creating digital negative on transparant sheets. Negative has same size as the print.

6/ Expose the print under UV light source.

7/ Develop the print by washing in water to remove the unexposed sensitizer. (example)

8/ Dry the washed, uninked print during 24h (example)

9/ Soak the print in water to swell the gelatin.

10/ Ink the print with oil based inks.

More info about the oilprint technique:


Frame & presentation system for exhibitions

All prints are -reversible- mounted on aluminium plates. The used glue is regular paste from rice starch or wheat starch. The glue is 100% sustainable and used by many paper (art) conservators since multiple decades. The frames are white, roughly chalked box frames. This gives a very unique,  artistic and natural look. The mounted oilprints are floating inside the box frames. I use no glass to present these oilprints. My work is rather intimate and the oilprints have a special appearance too. Glass is breaking up this intimacy. The used ink on my oilprints  has a very high UV resistancy, so the prints are well protected by itself. Glass is not really needed to protect them against the light.

A preview of these frames:


Using Format