Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique that is used for the creation of tonal effects and areas. The surface of a degreased copper or zinc plate is covered with fine, powdered rosin applied either by being hand dusted or by the plate being placed into an aquatint box where an even layer of rosin gently settles onto the plate. When the plate is then heated the rosin adheres to form tiny acid resistant particles. The plate is then immersed into either ferric chloride or nitric acid to etch the plate around each particle with the depth of tone being established by the length of time that the plate is in the acid. Protecting specific areas during successive immersions creates variations in tone.
Tool used to make engravings on either metal or wood. It has a mushroom shaped handle that fits into the palm of the hand and a steel shaft that comes out at an angle ending with a very sharp cutting face. The tip is usually diamond, square or lozenge shaped but other tips can be used to cut multiple lines simultaneously or to stipple fine dots.
Carborundum is a collagraph printmaking technique used for printing dense tonal areas. Carborundum is a sand-like abrasive powder that is affixed with glue to plates made of cardboard, wood, plastic or metal. Once the glue has completely set, the surface can be printed from and will hold an immense amount of ink. Using larger amounts of glue and carborundum to print darker tones or specific oil-based paint application to print lighter tones creates variations in tone. Colours are determined by the choice of printing inks.
Collagraph printmaking refers to plates that have been built up generally with a collage of materials that have been glued to the surface. Traditional materials include glue, collaged paper or fabric and carborundum. Prints taken from these surfaces generally have an embossed, three-dimensional nature.
This is a computer printing technique that recreates a digital image onto paper. An original digital print is not a replica of an image previously made in a different medium but a bespoke digital image that is created by an artist on a computer screen. The image is then printed on acid-free archival paper.
Drypoint is a direct intaglio printmaking technique where a sharp tool or nail is used to draw directly into a metal plate that can be made of aluminium, copper, zinc or steel. The drawn line creates a raised metal burr that holds ink and creates prints with a softer and hazier appearance than is possible with etching.
Engraving is a direct intaglio printmaking technique where a tool called a burin is used to directly cut lines that will hold ink into a metal plate. Unlike drypoint there is no raised burr created so the lines are extremely clean and fine. When the same technique is used on wood it is a relief printmaking technique – see wood engraving.
Etching is a term that can be used to cover all intaglio printmaking techniques, however, it is usually used solely to refer to plates made using the techniques hard-ground, soft-ground or aquatint. With all of these a metal plate is immersed in mordant such as nitric acid or ferric chloride to etch into the surface. The etched marks will hold ink that will transfer to paper once printed. Etching is also the verb that printmakers use to refer to act of immersing the plate into acid.
Hard-ground etching is an intaglio printmaking technique where lines are etched into a metal plate of copper, zinc or steel. The surface of the plate is degreased and covered completely with a hard waxy ground that is acid resistant. The artist uses a tool to scratch through the surface of the ground, so that the lines or marks will be exposed to the acid when the plate is immersed. The tonal variation is controlled by the length of time that the plate is immersed.
See Digital print
Intaglio printmaking is the comprehensive term that covers all techniques where marks that are made into the surface of a metal plate hold ink that will transfer to the dampened paper when printed. The marks in the metal are made by either direct techniques such as drypoint, mezzotint and engraving or by indirect techniques that use acid to etch into the surface of the plate.
Linocut is a relief printmaking technique where ink is rolled onto the surface of a carved piece of linoleum and then transferred to paper. An image is carved into a piece of linoleum using tools with tips that are hollow, grooved or v-shaped depending on the needs of the specific marks. The raised uncarved areas create the image. Firm rollers are used to roll ink over the raised surface of the block, which is then transferred to the paper either with a press or by rubbing on the back of the paper by hand.
Letterpress is a relief printmaking technique where moveable typeface is composed and locked into a bed or chase of a press, rolled with ink and printed onto dry paper. It is often combined with other relief printing techniques such as linocut or wood engraving.
Lithography is a printing technique that is based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. An image is drawn or painted onto the surface of a smooth limestone or metal plate using an oil-based medium. The surface is treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic that etches the areas of the surface not protected by the grease-based image. When the surface is subsequently moistened, these etched areas retain water so that when an oil-based ink is then rolled over the surface, it is repelled by the water and sticks only to the original drawing. The plate or stone is then covered with a dry piece of paper and rolled through a printing press, transferring the image to the paper.
Mezzotint (also see rocking)
Mezzotint is the direct intaglio printmaking technique used to print large tonal areas with subtle variations. A drypoint tool called a rocker with rows of small teeth is used to uniformly roughen the surface of a copper or zinc plate with thousands of tiny raised burrs that hold ink. Once prepared, a mezzotint plate would print a rich, velvety black. The image is made by polishing or burnishing highlights into the plate to create lighter tonal areas.
Monoprints and monotypes are printmaking techniques that create unique, one-off prints unlike the rest of printmaking where multiples are produced. There is an infinite range of techniques available to the monoprint artist and not all of them involve a printing press. Techniques that do involve a press include the expressive and unique inking of plates or blocks made using other techniques such as etching or woodcut; the inking and printing of various overlaid objects and elements; or the inking up of a plate in a painterly manner to be transferred to paper. An example of a monoprint that does not involve a press is when a drawing is done on the back of a piece of paper that has been laid onto a surface rolled with ink thus transferring a mirror image of the drawing on the reverse. See also monotype.
A monotype is a monoprint where no reusable element such as an etching plate, woodblock or stencil has been employed. Printing from plates that have been inked up in a painterly manner or where an image has been created by removing ink with rags or brushes from a completely inked surface are both examples of monotypes. As a unique piece, the monoprint and monotype hold a status somewhere between the editioned print and a drawing or painting.
Photo silkscreen (see screenprint)
This is a technique where a print is created by being inked through a mesh traditionally made of silk but now more usually synthetic. The fabric or mesh is stretched over a frame and the non-printing areas of the mesh are blocked out using lacquer or glue. In the case of a photo silkscreen, a light sensitive resist is painted onto the screen so that when the screen and a negative are placed in an exposure unit the image area is burned off. Ink is forced through the open areas of mesh using a rubber blade or squeegee onto the paper.
Relief printing is any form of printmaking where only the raised parts of the printing plate or block are inked. The recessed parts of the image stay completely ink free. The plate or block is inked by using a firm roller to apply ink to the surface and then printed either by hand or with a press. These techniques include woodcut, linocut, relief etching, letterpress, wood engraving and potato print.
Rocking (or grounding)
Rocking is the act of using a tool called a rocker to systematically roughen the surface of a plate in order to create a mezzotint. The tool is rocked back and forth in one direction over the surface of the plate until it is entirely covered with small, raised burrs. The plate is then turned slightly and the process repeated. To create a consistent grain this process should be repeated in slightly different directions at least 20 times.
Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking technique where a copper plate is degreased and covered with a layer of aquatint. A light-sensitive gelatin paper is exposed to a film positive. Once affixed to the copper plate the gelatin image will act as a resist when the plate is etched recreating all the subtleties of the original photograph. Machine-made photogravure plates have largely replaced this traditional technique.
Reduction printing is a relief printmaking technique that refers to linocut or woodcut. A block is cut and a first colour is printed. The same block is cut again for the printing of each subsequent colour. The artist must print the full edition for each colour as it is imposible go back and reprint previous colours once the plate has been cut.
Soft-ground etching is an intaglio printmaking technique where drawn lines and tones resembling pencil marks are etched into a metal plate of copper, zinc or steel. The plate is degreased and a ground is applied to the plate that is softer than a hard-ground and never hardens. The artist lays a piece of paper over the surface of the plate and draws onto the plate through the paper. When the paper is lifted, the ground has been removed in a manner very closely resembling the drawn lines. The plate is then immersed in acid to etch the drawn lines and areas. It is a very sensitive technique with the ultimate printed image very closely resembling the original drawing. An artist can also etch patterns or textures by laying fabric, leaves or anything that could be run through a press onto the soft-ground. The plate is then run through the press at much lower than printing pressure and then etched.
Spit-biting is an intaglio printmaking technique where acid is painted directly onto a plate that has been covered with aquatint rosin. The acid was traditionally mixed with spit to make it adhere to the plate, hence the name. The resulting marks are extremely painterly.
Sugar-lift etching is an intaglio printmaking technique where an artist paints on a metal plate using a sugar and water solution. When the solution dries, the plate is covered in acid-resistant wax. The plate is then rinsed under hot water, which dissolves the sugar and lifts the wax from the painted area. This area is then etched either as an open bite or as an aquatint to create delicate brush marks.
Wood engraving is a relief printmaking technique where a tool called a burin is used to cut lines into the end grain of a block of wood. The lines will print white, as they remain clean when the surface of the wood is rolled with ink. The block can be printed on a press or by hand.
Woodcut is a relief printmaking technique where the image is cut with the grain into a plank of wood or ply and the wood grain often becomes an integral part of the image. The tools used are the same as those used for linocuts.