Printmaking is a general term referring to the various processes used by artists to create works of art on a surface which are then transferred onto specially made high quality papers. The finished work is then printed by hand in limited editions allowing the art buyer to acquire an original work of art at an affordable price. An artist may employ any number of techniques or methods in the creation of an individual print.

This glossary is intended to serve as a general guide, for more in depth information please don’t hesitate to contact the staff at PG Printmaker Gallery.

GENERAL TERMS

Intaglio

This method means that the image to be printed is engraved or incised into the surface resulting in the inked image (e.g. black) being held beneath the non-printed parts of the image (e.g. white). Ink is applied and rubbed onto the ‘plate’ to fill the incised image (e.g. black) and then carefully removed from the upper surface or non-printed (e.g. white) parts of the plate. Etching, engraving, mezzotint and drypoint are all forms of intaglio printing.

Planographic

Also known as “surface” printing this method involves the creation of the image directly onto a flat surface by drawing or through the use of stencils. Lithography and screenprinting are both forms of planographic printing.

Relief

This is the oldest form of printmaking where those parts of the image not to be printed (e.g. white) are cut away from the surface leaving those parts of the image to be printed raised in relief (e.g. black). Ink is then applied to the ‘block’ by means of a roller to print. Woodcuts, linocuts and wood/relief engravings are all forms of relief printing.

TECHNIQUE

Aquatint (Intaglio)

Often used in conjunction with etching, aquatint is a technique used to create areas of tone on a plate. Acid resistant ground is applied to the plate generally by brush leaving an open area exposed. A layer of fine acid resistant resin dust is allowed to settle on the plate and then baked on. After being placed in the acid bath the aquatinted area/s of the plate are pitted with small dots that hold the ink when printing.

Collagraph (Intaglio/Relief)

A collagraph is essentially a collage of various textured materials (e.g. cloth, crumpled paper) that are glued or applied to a flat surface, generally cardboard or masonite. Ink is then applied to the upper surface like a relief print (see Relief) or rubbed into then removed from the top surface like an intaglio print (see Intaglio) or a combination of both.

Drypoint (Intaglio)

In drypoint the artist draws directly onto the plate using an extremely sharp point which incises the line. This direct action displaces metal up onto either side of the line causing a ‘burr’. When inked for printing the ‘burr’ will hold ink as well as the incised line resulting in a softer, velvety look when printed.

Engraving (Intaglio

A specially sharpened tool is used to carve out or incise a line into a metal plate. An engraved line is sharp and clean as opposed to the drawn and bitten line of an etching.

Etching (Intaglio)

In pure etching, a metal (usually copper, zinc or steel) plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he or she wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The ├ęchoppe, a tool with a slanted oval section, is also used for “swelling” lines. The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for “biting”) or etchant, or has acid washed over it. The acid “bites” into the metal (it dissolves part of the metal) where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over, and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines.

Linocut/Linoblock (Relief)

This is the oldest form of printmaking where those parts of the image not to be printed (e.g. white) are cut away from the surface leaving those parts of the image to be printed raised in relief (e.g. black). Ink is then applied to the ‘block’ by means of a roller to print. Woodcuts, linocuts and wood/relief engravings are all forms of relief printing.

Lithography (Planographic)

Lithography is based on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. Greasy marks are applied by the artist to the printing surface, stone or zinc/aluminium plate, using either lithographic pencil, crayon or painted on. Through a series of simple chemical processes these marks are bonded to the surface and made to be both highly receptive to oil and water resistant. When printing water is applied to the entire surface which adheres to those parts not to be printed (e.g. white) and is repelled by the drawn or painted marks (e.g. black). Oily ink is then applied by means of a roller which in turn adheres to the oil receptive marks (e.g. black) but repelled by the water of the non-print (e.g. white) areas.

Mezzotint (Intaglio)

A metal plate is roughened all over using a tool which is curved with a serrated edge known as a ‘rocker’. This results in a textured plate with an overall ‘burr’ (see Drypoint) which prints a solid velvety black if left untouched. The artist scrapes or burnishes down this burr to create various tones from deep grey to white in the smoothest areas.

Screenprinting (Planographic)

The principle behind screenprinting is extremely simple. Stencils are applied to a screen (e.g. white) which prevent or block the ink (e.g.black) from passing through the mesh of the screen onto the paper when printing.

Woodcut/Woodblock (Relief)

This is the oldest form of printmaking where those parts of the image not to be printed (e.g. white) are cut away from the surface leaving those parts of the image to be printed raised in relief (e.g. black). Ink is then applied to the ‘block’ by means of a roller to print. Woodcuts, linocuts and wood/relief engravings are all forms of relief printing.

Wood Engraving/Relief Engraving (Relief)

This technique differs from other relief techniques in that the tools used to carve out or remove the non-print parts (e.g. white) of the block are much smaller allowing for finer detail in the resulting printed image.

PRINTS

Artist's Proof

These are prints of an image printed ‘outside’ the edition and are generally annotated A/P or something similar and titled, signed and dated by the artist. These are printed in much smaller numbers than the edition and are kept by the artist.

Edition

Prints or impressions of the same image are printed to a specific number e.g. 20 after which the plate, block, screen or whatever is disfigured or ‘cancelled’ to make further printing from it impossible. Each print from an edition is usually numbered such as 3/20 which indicates that it is the third print from an edition of twenty, titled, signed and dated by the artist.

Monoprint

As the name implies a monoprint is generally considered to be single print taken from a surface that has printmaking ink, or in some cases paint directly applied to it by the artist.

Rag Paper

Historically paper was made in the ‘west’ using cotton and linen rags. Today the term “rag paper” is sometimes applied to paper manufactured using cotton as it’s base fibre.