Printmaking Terms

Planographic                               Relief                                                 Intaglio

Planographic Prints: printing surface and paper or fabric are the same height.

Lithography is a planographic process, in which a flat surface, usually stone, is prepared so that one area is receptive to  ink and other areas are not. A grease pencil is the commonly used  tool.

Serigraph/Silk Screen print made by forcing ink through a mesh on which the design is applied by stencil or resist.

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.

Monoprint is also a unique image, but one that keeps a constant matrix, so the image, though one of a kind, may be similar to others. 

Collagraph, a print produced by applying items (natural or found, as in a collage) onto a print plate, and then inking the surface. The print may be made using either an intaglio or relief process.  A variety of surfaces may be used.
Relief Prints: made by carving areas of a block to create a raised area, which is inked and printed. The block may go through a press or be pressed by hand directly onto the paper or a baren or spoon 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 or by hand. (I often hand paint the entire plate using multiple ink colors and print each image with one pass of the press or hand printing.) The process must be repeated for each print. (These are usually considered monoprints, or unique images using a constant matrix or design.) 

Intaglio prints: made by scratching or etching a line or tonal area into a metal or acrylic plate to create the image.  Plates are usually copper, zinc, aluminum or acrylic.

Etchings traditionally use acid to cut through the copper or zinc plate. I use non-acid copper/sulphate and salt. 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 incised lines to grab the ink and reveal the image print. The inking process must be repeated for each print. 
The longer plate remains in the etching solution, the darker the image  will be. 

Aquatints  are created by adding an acid-resist substance such as rosin to the plate. The solution “bites” around the particles to create a tonal quality rather than lines.

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, aluminum plates, or even acrylic also. The image is printed when the inked plate and damp paper are hand-pulled through my studio press. 

Mezzotints are also created on metal plates. The entire surface is roughed with a sharp-toothed tool call a “rocker” that artist moves back and forth to cover the entire surface with cross-hatched rows of pitted indentions. (If the plate were inked at this point it would print totally black.) To create the “white” areas, the artist scraped away the burrs of metal that have been raised by the rocking, so the shiny surface of the plate is returned. This area will not hold  ink, so will print with no color (white if on white paper). The artist may also burnish areas of the plate by rubbing or  pressing down the  burrs on the surface texture. This technique allows for subtle gradations of tone or a middle tone (hence the name) The plate is printed in a manner similar to that of an etching. 

Hand-colored: Adding color to each image after printing, using watercolor or colored pencil.     

Editions: the number of images produced from one plate.  3/10 = third image of an edition of 10.


The Art and Writing of Barbara Rizza Mellin