Printmaking

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Intro

The earliest record of printed material is a book dated 868 AD, printed in China from wood blocks. Printmaking in the West began around the mid 1400s with Gutenberg’s Bible. Today printmaking is a renaissance with the evolution of modern technical innovations. A basic component to all printmaking is still the matrix. It is the surface, plate or block that holds and guides the ink to create the image, by pressing a sheet of paper against it and transferring the image by hand or via the printing press.

Intaglio

Intaglio (in-tal’-yo) is the Italian word for incised. An intaglio print is produced from incisions or depressions made below the surface of the matrix. (The matrix is the plate or block that holds and guides the ink to the surface of the paper. Some printmaking processes require the pressure of a press on the matrix to create a print. In other types, hand pressure is enough to transfer the image from the matrix to the paper.)

An intaglio print is made by spreading ink into the incised grooves on the matrix. The ink is then wiped off to the desired effect, leaving enough ink in the grooves to transfer the image. Paper is then placed on the plate and passed through the press. Tremendous pressure is needed to transfer the ink from below the surface of the matrix. For this reason intaglio plates cannot be printed by hand.

Intaglio is the umbrella term for the largest family of printmaking techniques. It includes etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint, photopolymer etching (solar plate etching), and collagraph.

Gallery II – Intaglio

Relief

In relief printmaking the uppermost surface of the matrix yields the image. (The matrix is the plate or block that holds and guides the ink to the surface of the paper. Some printmaking processes require the pressure of a press on the matrix to create a print. In other types, hand pressure is enough to transfer the image from the matrix to the paper.)

A relief print is made by carving away parts of the matrix, leaving only that which is meant to be printed. The ink is easily transferred from the surface of the matrix. Therefore relief prints can be printed by hand as well as with a press.

Woodcut, wood engraving and linocut are examples of relief printmaking. Collagraphs may be printed as relief prints with the ink transferring from the top surface of the collagraph plate.

Gallery III – Relief

Monotype & Monoprint

Monotypes and monoprints are planographic prints. In planographic printmaking the image is created and transferred from the flat surface of a matrix. (The matrix is the plate or block that holds and guides the ink to the surface of the paper. Some printmaking processes require the pressure of a press on the matrix to create a print. In other types, hand pressure is enough to transfer the image from the matrix to the paper.)

Monotype is a process in which a combination of painting and printmaking techniques are used, resulting in a one-of-a-kind image. The image is developed on a flat unaltered plate with oil-based or water-based inks or paints and then transferred to paper either by hand or with a press. When the transfer is complete there may be some ink left on the plate which can be re-printed. This yields a “ghost print”, a paler version of the original. This type of print is also called a cognate print. This pale image can be further developed into a new monotype or mixed media print.

Monoprint refers to monotype work that includes elements of another printmaking process for the purpose of repeating an element of the design. A monoprint may utilize etching, woodcut, lithography or collagraph to create the repeatable element of the monoprint.

Gallery IV – Monotype & Monoprint

Collagraph

The word collagraph comes from the French word collage and was coined by the American artist, Glen Alps. The matrix for a collagraph is a very low three dimensional collage made from various materials such as string, fabric, tagboard, dried plant material, etc., affixed to the surface of the matrix base. Cardboard, metal, plastic or hardboard can be used as a matrix base. (The matrix is the plate or block that holds and guides the ink to the surface of the paper. Some printmaking processes require the pressure of a press on the matrix to create a print. In other types, hand pressure is enough to transfer the image from the matrix to the paper.)

A collagraph can be printed as an intaglio, with the ink in the recesses of the plate or it can be printed as a relief, with the ink transferring from the top surface of the plate. Embossed effects can be achieved by printing without ink.

Collagraphs can be combined with other printing methods where texture and color overprinting is desired.

Stencil & Silkscreen

There are several ways to use stencil methods in printmaking.

Using a process called pochoir, the French word for stencil, a shape is cut from paper, tagboard or other material. Ink or paint is then sprayed, painted, pushed or rubbed though the resulting opening thus creating the image on the print paper.

Another use of stenciling is screen printing. It is the main contemporary use of stencil printing in art and is also called serigraphy from the Greek sericum, meaning silk. Silkscreen printmaking was patented in 1907. Its’ early use was primarily for displays, signs and posters. It is one of the newest, simplest, most direct ways to obtain multicolored images.

The matrix for a silkscreen is a woven screen of silk or other fine fabric stretched over a frame. Areas are blocked out on the screen leaving the image to be printed. Ink is then pushed or squeegeed through the screen. It is not necessary to use a press for silkscreen printing. The print can be transferred onto almost any surface.

Gallery V – Screen Printing & Lithography

Mixed Media Print

A print that combines two or more techniques in printmaking and/or other artistic media is often labeled as a mixed media print. Any process that can be done on paper can be combined with printmaking to create a unique finished work of art. For instance, etching or drypoint can be combined with monotype and woodcut, paint, pastel or other art mediums.

Printmaking is a constantly expanding area of art that has the capacity to combine traditional, or even ancient methods with the most contemporary innovations. Digital techniques of various kinds are the latest addition to making images. The options for artistic creativity and self-expression are nearly unlimited in printmaking, especially by combining or mixing media.

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