Printmaking Process

Intaglio – The process of incising a design beneath the surface of a metal or stone. Plates are inked only in the etched depressions on the plates and then the plate surface is wiped clean. The ink is then transferred onto the paper through an etching press. The reverse of this process is known as relief printing.

Planographic – The process to print impressions from a smooth surface rather than creating incised or relief areas on the plate. The term was devised to describe lithography.

Relief – All printing processes in which the non-printing areas of the block or plate are carved, engraved or etched away. Inks are applied onto the projected surface and transferred onto the paper. The reverse process is known as intaglio printing.

Chiarographs – The Chiarograph is a fusion of traditional printmaking and the latest digital technology. The characteristic of the Chiarograph medium is unique : while each one has a pattern or part of an image that is repeated, the individual hand painting preparation results in a one of a kind print. Thus, no two prints are identical. The beauty of this media is also in its spontaneity and its combination of printmaking and painting.

Aquatint – A printing technique capable of producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolor drawings. This is achieved by etching microscopic cracks and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper or zinc. Spanish artist Goya used this technique.

Blind – Printing using an uninked plate to produce the subtle embossed texture of a white-on-white image, highlighted by the shadow of the relief image on the uninked paper. This technique is used in many Japanese prints.

Collograph – Printing technique in which proofs are pulled from a block on which the artwork or design is built up like a collage, creating relief.

Drypoint – Printing technique of intaglio engraving in which a hard, steel needle incises lines on a metal plate, creating a burr that yields a characteristically soft and velvety line in the final print.

Engraving – Printing technique in which an intaglio image is produced by cutting a metal plate or box directly with a sharp engraving tool. The incised lines are inked and printed with heavy pressure.

Etching – Printing technique in which a metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant material, then worked with an etching needle to create an intaglio image. The exposed metal is eaten away in an acid bath, creating depressed lines that are later inked for printing.

Iris or Giclée – A computerized reproduction technique in which the image and topography are generated from a digital file and printed by a special ink jet printer, using ink, acrylic or oil paints. Giclée printing offers one of the highest degree of accuracy and richness of color available in any reproduction techniques.

Lithography – Printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that ink sticks only to the design areas and is repelled by the non-image areas. Lithography was invented in 1798 in Germany by Alois Senefelder.

Mezzotint – A reverse engraving process used on a copper or steel plate to produce illustrations in relief with effects of light and shadow. The surface of a master plate is roughened with a tool called a rocker so that if inked, it will print solid black. The areas to be white or gray in the print are rubbed down so as not to take ink. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries to reproduce portraits and other paintings, but became obsolete with the introduction of photo-engraving.

Monotype – One-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet of metal or glass and transferring the still-wet painting onto a sheet of paper by hand or with an etching press. If enough paint remains on the master plate, additional prints can be made, however, the reprint will have substantial variations from the original image. Monotype printing is not a multiple-replica process since each print is unique.

Offset Lithography – A special photo-mechanical technique in which the image to be printed is transferred to the negative plates and printed onto paper. Offset lithography is very well adapted to color printing.

Serigraphy (Silk-screen) – A printing technique that makes use of a squeegee to force ink directly onto a piece of paper or canvas through a stencil creating an image on a screen of silk or other fine fabric with an impermeable substance. Serigraphy differs from most other printing in that its color areas are paint films rather than printing ink stains.

Woodcut – Printing technique in which the printing surface has been carved from a block of wood. The traditional wood block is seasoned hardwood such as apple, beech or sycamore. Woodcut is one of the oldest forms of printing dating back to the 12th century.

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