The printmaking terms
Aquatint: An etching technique that creates printed areas of colour.
It is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variant of etching that produces areas of tone rather than lines. It is therefore traditionally used in combination with other methods to create the lines and detail.
Chine-collé: The process of attaching one piece of paper to another by using glue and running them together through the printing press. Chine is French for “China,” which refers to the thin Asian paper originally used with this technique, and collé means “glued.”
Collagraph: A technique of relief printing using any combination of actual elements such as cardboard, fabric, washes, carborundum (an abrasive powder), or found objects, which are adhered to a plate, inked, and printed.
Digital printing: A general term for any technique that involves digital technology.
Drypoint: An intaglio technique in which marks are cut directly into a metal plate. The drypoint needle is used like a pencil to incise lines into the plate, displacing ridges of metal called burrs. Next, the plate is wiped with ink, which collects in the incisions and under the burrs. Next, damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press together, transferring ink from both the incision and the burr, resulting in the drypoint’s characteristic fuzzy line.
Engraving: A technique that creates precise lines which swell in the middle and taper at the ends. Lines are incised into a bare metal plate using a burin, a tool with a V-shaped blade. The plate is wiped with ink, which collects in the incisions. Damp paper is laid onto the plate, and both are run through a press, transferring ink from the incisions to the paper.
Etching: An intaglio technique that can create a wide variety of printed marks. A resist is first applied to a clean metal plate (such as zinc or copper). Next, the resist is selectively scraped off to reveal the bare plate beneath. When the plate is placed in a corrosive acid bath, only the exposed metal areas corrode. The plate is then inked; ink remaining on the surface of the plate is wiped away with cheesecloth, newsprint, or hand-wiping. Damp paper is laid onto the plate, and both are run through a press, transferring ink from the incisions to the paper.
Intaglio: A term for the family of printing techniques that transfers ink from a matrix’s recesses rather than its surface. Methods using intaglio printing include etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint, and mezzotint. Intaglio comes from the Italian word intaglaire, which means “to incise.”
Letterpress: A relief technique for printing movable type (though blocks with images may also be used). Metal, wood, or polymer forms of a standard height are set in place in a press bed. Since the ink is transferred from the surface of the blocks by applying pressure, letterpress prints are recognizable for their embossed printed forms.
Linocut: A relief technique using a sheet of linoleum from which shapes are gouged away using chisels or knives, leaving the printing image as the raised surface. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure. Linoleum is softer and easier to carve than wood; however, it exhibits neither wood’s characteristic grain nor durability.
Lithography: A planographic technique that can print a variety of drawn and painterly marks. Traditionally, a grease pencil or tusche (greasy watercolour) is applied to a flat limestone slab, selectively filling the stone’s pores. A chemical mixture securely bonds the stone before water is used to fill the remaining pores. The oil-based ink used is attracted only to those areas that have retained grease. Damp paper is laid on the face of the stone, and they are run through a press together, transferring ink from the surface. Aluminium plates may also be used.
Mezzotint: An intaglio technique in which the surface of a metal plate is first uniformly pitted using a rocker. A mezzotint rocker is serrated on the bottom and must be rocked back and forth by hand, a demanding task. A rounded metal tool called a burnisher is then used to gradually and selectively smooth out areas, causing them to retain less ink. Damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press together. The fully pitted areas transfer more ink than the burnished sections, creating mezzotint’s distinctive gradations of tone.
Monotyping: A technique involving the painting, rolling, or scraping of ink onto a uniform surface, which is transferred to paper by applying pressure. Because the monotype matrix is unaltered and each unique inking is transmitted in a single printing, the print cannot be duplicated, hence its name.
Offset printing: The inked image is transferred from the metal printing plate to the printing surface via a rubber blanket.
Photogravure: A general term for any metal plate process in which an image has been transferred to a metal surface by photographic means. A corrosive bath is used to incise the image into the plate before inking and printing. Photoetching is a term alternatively used.
Screenprinting: A technique using stencils made of silk or a synthetic fabric, which has been stretched over a frame. Areas of the screen that are not part of the printing image can be blocked out using various methods. In one standard practice, the mesh is first evenly coated with a water-soluble, light-sensitive liquid. Transparency bearing a printed image prevents projected UV light from hardening parts of the screen. Unhardened areas are then washed out with water before a squeegee press ink evenly through the screen, directly onto paper or fabric. This technique is also known as silkscreen or serigraphy.
Woodcut: A relief technique using a plank of wood from which shapes are gouged away using chisels or knives, leaving the printing image as the raised surface. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure. Woodcuts are characteristic both for the grain
that is often evident in the printed image, as well as for their durability.
Wood-Engraving: A relief technique requiring a hard plank of wood, incised with fine lines using sharp tools. Unlike the woodcut, a wood engraving requires a harder plank whose face is cut perpendicular to the grain. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure.
Illustrating a poem:
My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is
My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such present joys therein I find,
That it excels all other bliss
That earth affords or grows by kind:
Though much I want that most would have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave.
Published in 1588 in William Byrd’s Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs, 1st verse.