What is printmaking?
Printmaking is any art form that involves transferring one image, from one
surface to another. Most often this includes a "printing plate" or some kind of matrix being pressed onto paper. Various printmaking methods include:
intaglio: etching acid techniques such as line, aquatint, soft ground, lift
ground, embossing; Non acid techniques include: engraving, dry point, mezzotint, crible
relief: wood engraving, wood cuts, linocut, rubbings, etching, collagraph,
stencil or serigraphy: Serigraphy is a fine art term for screen printing. Silk screen, screen printing, stencils and rubbings are the only printmaking methods that do not involve working in a mirror image (backwards). Screen printing involves creating a stencil that will block out ink being pushed through a fine fabric screen. The screen is stretched over a frame, A stencil design is adhered to the screen and a thin layer of ink is pushed through the screen with a squeegee.
intaglio prints: Refers to many processes involving incising the printing plate
with lines or shapes. The image is cut into the plate by the use of acids or tools. When the image is complete, the artist/printmaker applies an ink to the surface of the plate, pushing the ink into the lines and crevices of the plate. Next, the ink remaining on the surface is wiped off carefully to prevent ink from being lifted out of the plates recesses. The plate is then pressed onto printmaking paper which transfers the image. Usually this printing requires a etching press to provide the intense and consistent pressure needed to push the soft rag paper into the recesses of the plate to lift the ink out.
relief prints: Relief printing is the opposite of the intaglio method. The top
surface of the plate is inked and ink is omitted from the groves and therefore the indented areas do not print with color. The top surface of the plate makes contact with the paper and transfers the image. Rubbings can be created from most relief plates. Simply place a thin piece of paper over the plate surface and rub the side of a drawing stick(s) (crayon, color pencil, charcoal, graphite).
monotypes: A painting on a smooth plate and pressed and transferred on to
printmaking paper. This allows the artist to manipulate the ink differently and
in many more ways than if they applied or painted the ink directly to the paper. This creates a one-of-a-kind print that is also a type of painting on paper.
collagraphs: Collagraphs are created by collaged textures on to a printing plate, usually made of masonite, mat board or plexi-glass. The surface is inked usually as an intaglio plate but also can be treated as a relief plate or both. The textures are receptive to ink in various ways and a wide variety of surfaces can be created.
monoprints: Monoprints are one-of-a-kind prints that have a certain
characteristic that is inherent in all of the prints it creates. If an artist creates monoprints from an etching plate for example; each print should be treated very differently with the use of inks, ink colors, masking or use of other plates in combination to create a "unique" print. Also other techniques or processes may be involved to make this print different from all others. Monoprints are used to create and explore variations of an image.
edition prints: This involves creating many prints with the same plate(s) that create virtually the same image. Each print will be very consistent in
technique and method. This group of prints are numbered in consecutive
order and signed by the artist in a limited edition. You will notice two numbers, one above the other. Example: 14/75. This would represent the fourteenth print of an addition of seventy five prints.
An Intaglio Etching Press
The intaglio press concept is over 400 years old and
works like a wringer washing machine. The press bed is
fed through the rollers which create almost two tons of resistant pressure, pushing the plate and paper together
to produce a print.
The inked printing plate and rag printmaking paper
are placed under felt blankets that cushion and help
push the paper into the inked plate.
For each impression the plate must be re-inked and intaglio plates must also be wiped. The excess ink must be skillfully wiped off of the plate surface while leaving ink in the etched, engraved or recessed areas of the plate.
An intaglio press can be used to produce prints from processes such as etching, engraving, linoleum relief printing, wood-cut relief printing, embossment, monotype, collagraph, photocopy transfer, and aluminium plate lithography.
This press was designed and constructed by Douglas E. Taylor. It’s rollers are 25 inches wide and the press bed, where the printing plate and print paper are placed, is 30 inches wide and 72 inches long. Three specific felt blankets cushion the print and plate as the entire bed rolls between the two steel rollers. There is a tremendous amount of resistant pressure created when the press bed and felt blankets are squeezed between the heavy metal rollers. It was designed with an electric motor to help reduce the overall press size. Traditionally etching presses are hand-cranked with a wheel or crank handle that protrudes into the working space of a studio.
copyright 1995 Douglas E. Taylor