Process

In general, printmaking is the process of  transferring ink from a plate (matrix) to paper (substrate) using pressure. Following are selected examples of different processes.

ETCHING

Etching uses acid to bite grooves into a metal plate. An applied layer of etching ground  blocks the acid from penetrating completely into the metal, however any gouge or disruption in the protective ground allows the acid to bite or “etch” into the plate. Ink is then pressed into the disturbed metal surface and wiped clean elsewhere. Paper is placed over the inked plate and run through a printing press under pressure.

INTAGLIO

From Italian meaning ‘in the cut’ or ‘in the groove,’ intaglio refers to a broad category printmaking methods. It encompasses all techniques using high pressure to transfer ink from the disturbed surface of a plate on to paper. Etching, mezzotint, drypoint, aquatint and engraving are all examples of intaglio techniques.

LITHOGRAPHY

Lithography prints are taken from images drawn on polished limestone slabs or metal plates using grease crayons, pens, or pencils which resist water. A chemical solution is washed over the stone (or plate) to fix the image in place. The surface is then rinsed with water and inked with oil-based ink which “sticks” to the fixed image. Paper is applied and sent through a lithography press.

MEZZOTINT

Invented in 17th century Germany, an artist using this technique roughens the surface of the metal plate until it can print a rich, velvety black. Then the artist works lighter values into the plate by smoothing the rough areas with scrapers and burnishers. The rough areas retain the ink, which is then transferred to the paper using pressure.

MONOPRINT

Collagraph

J. Ruth Gendler: inking a collagraph plate.

This term is frequently used in place of ‘monotype,’ but there is a distinction. A monoprint or collargraph has some repeatable element that is a permanent part of the printing plate. An example of the repeatable element would be an incised line in the plate or an object glued to its surface. While the inked surface of the plate cannot be duplicated, the line or impression of the other element will remain the same through subsequent printings.

MONOTYPE

Often considered a ‘painterly’ technique, monotype involves painting on a smooth surface and transferring that painting onto paper, usually, but not always, with the help of a press. Since the surface is smooth and does not hold ink in any repeatable way, each print is as unique as a painting.

RELIEF

This term refers to any printmaking method where ink is applied to the raised surface of a plate and transferred to the paper using pressure. The pressure can be applied by hand, with a baren, spatula,  letterpress, intaglio press, or a steamroller. Some examples of relief techniques include woodcut, wood engraving, linocut, letterpress, and stamping.

SERIGRAPHY

Also called silkscreen, this process uses a flexible squeegee to force ink through “open” sections of a stretched mesh screen containing the image. The image on the screen can be produced either photographically, by cutting a stencil, or by drawing directly on the screen with a “block-out” material.

VISCOSITY PRINT

This technique uses inks with varying viscosities. This allows the artist to create an editionable multicolor print using a single plate rather than separating colors onto different plates.