Yr 2, Germs – printing – Europe

What is printing?

Printmaking can be both simple or complex. The essence of the printmaking process is ‘repetition’ , you can make many copies from one block or plate. A printmaker will design their artwork and then transfer it onto a flat surface (block or plate), ink is then applied followed by transferring the design onto paper or fabric.

Artwork – Painting with microbes – As with artwork, sculptures and art forms, agar art involves planning.

What will my artwork will be about?

How will I compose the picture?

What colours will do I want to includes?

Like many types of artwork it takes time but working with agar you are waiting for it to grow into the artwork, this usually takes a couple of days. When the artists paints the microbes into the agar there are so small that they are invisible to the eye.

Zita Pöstényi used a trio of agar plates for her creation, “Hungarian Folk Art,”
How does the design stand out from the background?
How big is the artwork?
What patterns and colours can you see?
What questions would you ask the artist?
How do you think the colours are made?

Growing microbes

Centuries ago, microbiologists grew bacteria on food ranging from potatoes to coagulated egg whites and meat. Robert Koch (1843-1910), known for a series of principles linking microorganisms to diseases, wanted to improve bacterial cultivation by using something that was solid, transparent, and could be sterilised. Gelatin seemed like a good choice, but it was problematic: It liquifies at 37°C (98.6°F), the temperature used to grow many microorganisms.

Angelina Hessa (1850-1934), an assistant and illustrator in Koch’s lab in Germany, discovered that an ingredient used in jellies and puddings could be used to create a better growth medium. That ingredient was agar, a gelatinous substance isolated from seaweed.

She mentioned this to her husband, who also worked in the lab. He reported the idea to Koch, who eventually used it to cultivate Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium behind tuberculosis. Unfortunately, Hesse never received credit for her discovery, but her contribution revolutionised the way scientists grow microbes. National Geographic, Science & Technology


  • stencil
  • vertical
  • horizontal
  • pressure
  • repeat
  • mark-making
  • patterning
  • absorb
  • saturated
Seven artworks on agar depict celestial objects surrounding Earth in the contest submission titled ‘The Micro-Universe.’ Hong Kong-based artists Hoi Lam Tiffany Tai and Tsz Yuen Fong
“I believe my butterfly made of bacteria describes the field of science as it is constantly changing, enduring, and encompassing all forms of life,” wrote agar art contestant Allison Werner.
Fluorescent protein genes introduced into two strains of Bacillus subtilis made this tree glow. Without the genes, B. subtilis is typically beige.
This art work, “Marine Universe,” was a finalist in the professional category of the 2019 ASM contest. To create it, Princeton University student Janie Kim used microorganisms from numerous places.
The process is still the same today!
Printmaking tools.