Description & Print-making Techniques
Relief prints are often characterized by bold contrasts of dark and light. In this technique the artist first sketches a composition on a hard, flat surface such as a wood or linoleum block; then, the parts of the image that are not to receive ink (the negative space) are carved away from the surface, leaving the composition visible on the raised surface of the block. Ink can be applied to these raised printing areas by dabbing or with a roller. The inked surface of the block is then transferred to paper with a mechanical press or by laying a sheet of paper on the block and rubbing the paper. Since the areas of the block that were cut away did not receive ink, they appear white in the printed image. The inked areas are impressed into the surface of the paper from the force of the press and so appear slightly indented on the reverse side of the paper. The primary relief techniques are woodcut, wood engraving, rubber stamp, and linocut.
The term intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning “to incise.” In this technique, acid or a pointed tool is used to incise into a metal plate, usually made of copper, but sometimes of steel, iron, or zinc. After the image has been drawn, the plate is covered with ink, and then wiped so that only the incised areas contain ink. The plate is then laid on a press, with dampened paper placed over it. Lambs-wool felt blankets are then placed over the paper, protecting it and the plate while allowing them to go through sufficient pressure to force the paper into the incised lines in the plate. This pressure forces the paper into the incisions where it picks up the ink, resulting in the raised character of the lines on the impression. Because often the sheet of paper is larger than the plate, an indentation of the plate edges, or platemark, appears around the edges of the image area. The different types of intaglio prints are distinguished by the technique used: etching, aquatint, and photogravure are made using acid to corrode the metal plate, while engraving, drypoint, and mezzotint are made using a sharp tool to incise, or scratch, the surface of the plate. Often several different intaglio techniques are used in the same print to achieve variations in contrast and tone.
In planographic printing, the printed and non-printed areas on the surface of the print exist in the same plane on the matrix. Lithography is a type of planography that relies on the antipathy between grease and water. The semi-absorbent surface of the stone or plate is treated so that parts of it are receptive to grease while others are receptive to water. In this method of printing the ink is neither pressed down into the stone nor raised above its surface, but lies exclusively on the plane of the stone’s surface. Planographic techniques include: lithography, zincography, and photolithography. Other planographic methods include serigraphy (screen printing), monotype, counterproof, collotype, and digital prints.