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What is a Collotype Print? Invented in France, Mastered in Japan

Portfolio and Print Detail, Martin Gusinde, "Tierra Del Fuego 1918-1924"

An ever changing medium

Beginning with Daguerrotypes and wet-plate prints, then paper and gelatin silver prints and into the fold of modern technology with digital processes, photographs can take on completely different meanings depending on the method of their making.

While there is no right or wrong process to choose, some have stood the test of time as the most beautiful and sought after.

A modern classic

The Collotype, invented in France approximately 150 years ago, stands as a pillar of quality and versatility in the history of photographic prints.  Artists can achieve an enormous range of aesthetic possibilites with the help of highly-skilled master printers.

Introduced to Japan in 1883 through Kyoto, the Benrido Atelier has championed the process since 1887.

What makes collotypes so special? A new world of possibilities for photographers

Visually Stunning

The combination of photographic source imagery and pigment ink based printing delivers the best of both worlds.  The collotype preserves a photographs high resolution while delivering the nuanced textural landscapes that printmakers enjoy.  This clarity, tone, and subtlety are difficult to find anywhere else.

The ability to print black and white as well as color images on many different substrates allows for an infinite number of visual and textural possibilities. Fine handmade Japanese paper is often used to elevate a photograph to a far more experiential level only truly appreciated in person.

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Skillfully Crafted

Many individual steps perfected over a great amount of time go into creating each final print.  A small number of highly skilled craftspeople are responsible for overseeing the printing process, ensuring that the final product will not only be of unsurpassed quality but also of limited quantity.

The Benrido Atelier has maintained the high standards of past masters, passing on their highly developed artisanship to those who possess the right degree of skill to carry on their tradition and incorporate it with the advantages of modern technology.

Few and far-between

The thoroughly meticulous process of making collotypes from negative to final print means that they are not always readily available on the global market.  Only a small number of specialized workshops and studios still dedicate themselves to making collotypes today.

The limited number of adequately skilled printers available worldwide makes the Benrido Atelier all the more important and unique.  Continued by a new generation of visionaries, their efforts will help preserve this historic process for future generations of artists.

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Anatomy of a Collotype Breaking down what makes collotypes unique

Anatomy Benrido Collotype

True Continuous tone

Collotypes faithfully render prints in exquisite detail thanks to the ability to display super fine gradations of tone and an almost infinite range of values.

Matched only by hand printed photographs, the light sensitive gelatin compound used in the process of plate making allows for a distinctly nuanced final product.

Rich Pigment ink

Rich, opaque pigment inks bond to the surface of the paper and allow for layering of luscious colors.

The intensity that oil-based ink lends to color as well as black and white images brings unsurpassed depth and dynamism to two-dimensional work.

Multi-layered color

Every color collotype is made up of separate individual layers of ink. The process of registering each layer and ensuring true colors makes for a huge range of accurate, vibrant hues.

Color strength, tone, and ambience are all carefully checked and corrected at each step of the layering process in order to function harmoniously in the final print.

Carefully Selected Paper

Only the highest quality paper, from western cotton to handmade Japanese rice paper, is used as a substrate for collotype printing. These papers have the best tonal properties as well as lending superb textural qualities to the surface of the print.

The versatility of the collotype process also allows for printing on silk, a luxurious alternative to pulp-based papers.

Kyoto, cultural and artistic heart of Japan A city of innovation

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Benrido Atelier

The Benrido Atelier is a collotype workshop nestled in the heart of historic Kyoto, Japan.  An experienced group of printers oversee the development and creation of beautiful prints and portfolios surrounded by the ancient temples, wandering alleyways, and awe-inspiring natural landscapes of this ancient city.

The atelier has been instrumental in not only producing work for contemporary artists, but preserving and reproducing cultural artifacts and important national treasures of the people of Japan.

Kyoto Benrido Collotype

Kyoto, Japan

The former Imperial center of Japan and it’s current “cultural capital,” Kyoto is a city with vast history and a bright future.  Kyoto’s culture and people are consistently on the forefront of arts and industry, surrounded by local papermakers, bookbinders, and many other skilled trades historically centered in the city.

Carrying on the tradition of innovation laid down by generations beforehand, modern artisans are instantly at home here. Kyoto is the perfect city for the Benrido Atelier, whose mission involves enabling contemporary artists to innovate using the traditional collotype process.

Featured Collotype Portfolios Traditional technique meets contemporary vision


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