Printmaking terms

Intaglio prints are made by scratching or etching a line or tonal area into a metal plate to create the image. I create intaglio prints using an etching, drypoint or mezzotint technique. 

Etchings use acid to cut through the copper or zinc plate. First the plate is covered with an acid-resistant ground. The lines are carved or scratched into the ground with a stylus or sharp needle to reveal the plate below. Then the plate is immersed in an acid bath which "bites" into the metal along the lines. Finally, the ground is removed. Ink is applied to the surface and wiped away leaving it only in the incised lines. Dampened paper is applied and as the paper and plate run through the press, the paper "reaches" into the inked lines to reveal the image print. The inking process must be repeated for each print. 

Collagraph, a print produced by applying items (natural or found, as in a collage) on a print plate, and then inking the surface. The print may be made using either an intaglio or relief process. 

Dry point is an intaglio printmaking technique, in which an image is incised into a plate with a diamond point stylus. Traditionally the plates were copper, but I often use zinc plates, also. The image is printed when the inked plate and damp paper are hand-pulled through my studio press. 

Mezzotints are also created on a metal plate. The entire surface is roughed with a spiked tool call a “rocker” that rocks back and forth to cover the entire surface with cross-hatched lines. (If the plate were inked at this point it would be totally black.) The artist burnished areas of the plate by rubbing away the surface texture. This technique allows the artist to create subtle gradations of tone. The plate is usually printing in a manner similar to that of an etching. 

Hand-color: I add color to each image individually, using watercolor or colored pencil. 

Relief Prints are made by carving areas of a block away to form the desired image. The final image is created by inking the raised portion of the block. The block may be pressed by hand directly onto the paper or a baren may be used to rub paper that has been placed on the inked block. Woodblocks and linoleum prints are common relief print. 

Woodcuts are relief prints made by carving the image in reverse into a piece of wood using sharp or pointed gouges. Woodcuts are printed one at a time by hand using a baren to rub over the paper pressed onto the inked surface. 

Lino-cuts are relief prints similar to woodcuts, but carved into a softer linoleum plate. 

Reduction prints are multi-colored relief prints created by printing one color at a time, using the same block. To preserve each color as it is overprinted with subsequent colors, areas of the plate are carved away. The result is a completely destroyed printing block and beautiful, multi-color prints. 

White-line prints are created by carving away the outline of the image (rather than the image itself) in a fashion similar to direct drawing. Color may be added by registering the plate and paper and printing each color separately through the press. I hand paint the entire plate using multiple colors and print each image with one pass of the press. The process must be repeated for each print. (These are usually considered monoprints, or unique images using a constant matrix or design.) 

Monotypes are one-of-a kind images created by the artist manipulating the printing surface, usually acrylic or glass, which is often covered with ink, paint, stencil or collagraph objects. The final unique and non-reproducible image may be printed using a press or hand baren.

Click here for a video explanation from MOMA:



The Art and Writing of Barbara Rizza Mellin