The History of Printmaking
Printmaking is an art form that dates back to at least the 15thcentury and flourished at the hand of Rembrandt in the 17thcentury.
Today there are hundreds of printmaking departments
among universities as well as independent printmaking workshops
in the United States alone. Printmaking is a fast growing medium
The methods used in printmaking require detailed and precise
training and expertise. Printmaking requires a matrix such as a
copper plate, woodblock, linoleum, etc. that is worked, inked,
and printed onto high quality paper, often handmade.
The printmaking process is indirect in that the artist creates
the surface that will make the work of art as opposed to painting
directly onto the art. There is often times more labor involved
in creating a print than a painting, but because several
editions, or multiples, can be created, prints are generally more
affordable than paintings or drawings. Each image in an edition
is an original work of art as each piece varies slightly from
another and is distinct.
Aquatint is an intaglio method
on a copper or zinc plate. The varying colors are produced with rosin. Darker tones are created when the acid bites deeper into
Chine colle is a method of placing colored paper onto
the larger paper at the time of printing.
Collagraphs is a
print that utilizes other materials that are glued onto a metal
or board plate as a collage.
Etchings are created by
using a matrix such as a copperplate. A ground is applied the plate. A steel pen carves, or draws the image onto
the ground exposing the copper. The copperplate is placed into a
bath of hydrochloric acid and water which "bites" the
exposed copper. The plate is then inked and pressed onto the
paper creating the image. This is an intaglio method of printmaking.
Intaglio is a method of printing that incises lines
onto a plate. The plate is then inked with the incisions holding
ink and the excess is wiped away. A damp piece of paper is then
placed over the plate and it is run through the press. The ink is
then transferred onto the paper with the pressure of the printing
press. Etching, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint and collagraphs are all intaglio techniques.
Linoleum Cut is an intaglio or relief process that uses
linoleum as its matrix. A sheet of linoleum is cut to create a
texture or image. The linoleum is then inked and printed.
Lithography is a process based on the fact that water
and oil do not mix. The matrix is usually limestone. An ink with
a high concentration of grease is used to draw onto the stone.
The stone is then chemically treated to set the image. When
dampened with water and rolled with ink the blank areas on the
stone will reject the ink while the image area will accept the
ink and print onto the paper.
Mezzotint is an
intaglio technique in which the entire surface of the metal plate
is worked with a serrated toll to create a rough texture. This
method produces a rich color when inked.
Monotypes are made by painting with water or oil based
inks and paints directly onto a smooth, nonabsorbent surface
(linoleum, Plexiglas, vinyl, glass, copper, zinc etc.). This
surface or plate is "unworked" in that it has not been engraved. The plate is laid on a piece of presoaked paper and
run, or "pulled" through a press. Monotype means
"one image." Unlike other printmaking methods,
monotypes are not created in a series.
Monoprint differ from Monotypes in that the plate used
in the printing process contains an incised image.
Photogravure is an intaglio process that uses
manipulated photographs to create continuous tones.
Relief is a method of printmaking in which the surface
is carved. When the matrix is inked the areas cut away will not print, only the raised
surface. Woodblock and linoleum cut are
types of relief printmaking.
Woodblock prints use wood as the matrix. The wood is
carved or grooved with special tools. Ink is applied directly
onto the wood. The carved areas will not print and will show as white. The wood is then pressed into the paper creating a relief
image or texture.
Ground is an acid resistant
substance, such as beeswax or resin, which is used to coat the
metal plate in the etching process. The image is drawn through
the ground onto the plate to expose the plate.
Drypoint is an etching method using a sharp needle to
scratch lines onto a metal plate. The line creates a
"burr", or raised metal to hold the ink. This process
produces richer color and a softer line than an incised line.
Floating a print is an alternative to matting in the
framing process. This centers the print onto a larger backing or
mat before it is framed. This process allows the collector to see
the edges of the paper.
Soft Ground is an acid resistant coating, such as
petroleum jelly, that will stay pliable so that textures can be
impressed into the ground. This is used in the etching process.