printmaking n : artistic design and manufacture of prints as woodcuts or silkscreens
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each piece is not a copy but an original since it is not a reproduction of another work of art and is technically known as an impression. Painting or drawing, on the other hand, create a unique original piece of artwork. Prints are created from a single original surface, known technically as a matrix. Common types of matrices include: plates of metal, usually copper or zinc for engraving or etching; stone, used for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts, linoleum for linocuts and fabric plates for screen-printing. But there are many other kinds, discussed below. Works printed from a single plate create an edition, in modern times usually each signed and numbered to form a limited edition. Prints may also be published in book form, as artist's books. A single print could be the product of one or multiple techniques.
OverviewPrintmaking techniques can be divided into the following basic families or categories:
- relief printing, where the ink goes on the original surface of the matrix. Relief techniques include: woodcut or woodblock as the Asian forms are usually known, wood engraving, linocut and metalcut;
- intaglio, where the ink goes beneath the original surface of the matrix. Intaglio techniques include: engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, chine-collé and drypoint;
- planographic, where the matrix retains its entire surface, but some parts are treated to make the image. Planographic techniques include: lithography, monotyping, and digital techniques.
- stencil, including: screen-printing and pochoir
- Viscosity printing
Other types of printmaking techniques outside these groups include collography and foil imaging. Modern printing technology may be included such as Digital printers, photographic mediums and combination of both digital process and conventional processes.
Many of these techniques can also be combined, especially within the same family. For example Rembrandt's prints are usually referred to as "etchings" for convenience, but very often include work in engraving and drypoint as well, and sometimes have no etching at all.
WoodcutArtists using this technique include Albrecht Dürer, Werner Drewes, Dulah Marie Evans, Hiroshige, Hokusai. Gustave Baumann Woodcut, a type of relief print, is the earliest printmaking technique, and the only one traditionally used in the Far East. It was probably first developed as a means of printing patterns on cloth, and by the 5th century was used in China for printing text and images on paper. Woodcuts of images on paper developed around 1400 in Europe, and slightly later in Japan. These are the two areas where woodcut has been most extensively used purely as a process for making images without text.
The artist draws a sketch either on a plank of wood, or on paper which is transferred to the wood. Traditionally the artist then handed the work to a specialist cutter, who then uses sharp tools to carve away the parts of the block that he/she does not want to receive the ink. The raised parts of the block are inked with a brayer, then a sheet of paper, perhaps slightly damp, is placed over the block. The block is then rubbed with a baren or spoon, or is run through a press. If in color, separate blocks are used for each color.
EngravingThe process was developed in Germany in the 1430s from the engraving used by goldsmiths to decorate metalwork. Engravers use a hardened steel tool called a burin to cut the design into the surface of a metal plate, traditionally made of copper. Engraving using a burin is generally a difficult skill to learn.
Gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes that yield different line types. The burin produces a unique and recognizable quality of line that is characterized by its steady, deliberate appearance and clean edges. Other tools such as mezzotint rockers, roulets and burnishers are used for texturing effects.
To make a print, the engraved plate is inked all over, then the ink is wiped off the surface, leaving only ink in the engraved lines. The plate is then put through a high-pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper (often moistened to soften it). The paper picks up the ink from the engraved lines, making a print. The process can be repeated many times; typically several hundred impressions (copies) could be printed before the printing plate shows much sign of wear.
In the 20th century, copper-plate engraving was revived as a serious art form by Josef Hecht and Stanley William Hayter.
EtchingArtists using this technique include Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Francisco Goya, Whistler, Jim Dine, Otto Dix, James Ensor, Dulah Marie Evans, Lucian Freud, Paul Klee, Einar Hakonarson, Edward Hopper, Horst Janssen, Käthe Kollwitz, Mauricio Lasansky, Brice Marden, Henri Matisse, Ludwig Merwart, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Peter Milton, Paula Rego and Cy Twombly. Etching is part of the intaglio family (along with engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, and aquatint.) The process is believed to have been invented by Daniel Hopfer (circa 1470-1536) of Augsburg, Germany, who decorated armour in this way, and applied the method to printmaking. Etching soon came to challenge engraving as the most popular printmaking medium. Its great advantage was that, unlike engraving which requires special skill in metalworking, etching is relatively easy to learn for an artist trained in drawing.
Etching prints are generally linear and often contain fine detail and contours. Lines can vary from smooth to sketchy. An etching is opposite of a woodcut in that the raised portions of an etching remain blank while the crevices hold ink. In pure etching, a metal (usually copper, zinc or steel) plate is covered with a waxy ground. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, or has acid washed over it. The acid "bites" into the metal, where it is exposed, leaving behind lines to the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate, and the printing process is then just the same as for engraving.
MezzotintAn intaglio variant of engraving where the plate first is roughened evenly all over; the image is then brought out by scraping smooth the surface, creating the image by working from dark to light. It is possible to create the image by only roughening the plate selectively, so working from light to dark.
Mezzotint is known for the luxurious quality of its tones: first, because an evenly, finely roughened surface holds a lot of ink, allowing deep solid colors to be printed; secondly because the process of smoothing the texture with burin, burnisher and scraper allows fine gradations in tone to be developed.
The mezzotint printmaking method was invented by Ludwig von Siegen (1609-1680). The process was especially widely used in England from the mid-eighteenth century, to reproduce portraits and other paintings.
AquatintA technique used in Intaglio etchings. Like etching, aquatint technique involves the application of acid to make marks in a metal plate. Where the etching technique uses a needle to make lines that retain ink, aquatint relies on powdered rosin which is acid resistant in the ground to create a tonal effect. The rosin is applied in a light dusting by a fan booth, the rosin is then cooked until set on the plate. At this time the rosin can be burnished or scratched out to affect its tonal qualities. The tonal variation is controlled by the level of acid exposure over large areas, and thus the image is shaped by large sections at a time.
Goya used aquatint for most of his prints.
DrypointA variant of engraving, done with a sharp point, rather than a v-shaped burin. While engraved lines are very smooth and hard-edged, drypoint scratching leaves a rough burr at the edges of each line. This burr gives drypoint prints a characteristically soft, and sometimes blurry, line quality. Because the pressure of printing quickly destroys the burr, drypoint is useful only for very small editions; as few as ten or twenty impressions. To counter this, and allow for longer print runs, electro-plating (here called steelfacing) has been used since the nineteenth century to harden the surface of a plate.
The technique appears to have been invented by the Housebook Master, a south German fifteenth century artist, all of whose prints are in drypoint only. Among the most famous artists of the old master print: Albrecht Dürer produced 3 drypoints before abandoning the technique; Rembrandt used it frequently, but usually in conjunction with etching and engraving.
Artists using this technique include George Bellows, Pierre Bonnard, Honoré Daumier, Salvador Dalí, M. C. Escher, Dulah Marie Evans, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Joan Miró, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Toyen and Stow Wengenroth
Lithography is a technique invented in 1798 by Alois Senefelder and based on the chemical repulsion of oil and water. A porous surface, normally limestone, is used; the image is drawn on the limestone with a greasy medium. Acid is applied, transferring the grease to the limestone, leaving the image 'burned' into the surface. Gum arabic, a water soluble substance, is then applied, sealing the surface of the stone not covered with the drawing medium. The stone is wetted, with water staying only on the surface not covered in grease-based residue of the drawing; the stone is then 'rolled up', meaning oil ink is applied with a roller covering the entire surface; since water repels the oil in the ink, the ink adheres only to the greasy parts, perfectly inking the image. A sheet of dry paper is placed on the surface, and the image is transferred to the paper by the pressure of the printing press. Lithography is known for its ability to capture fine gradations in shading and very small detail.
A variant is photo-lithography, in which the image is captured by photographic processes on metal plates; printing is carried out in the same way.
Screen-printingArtists using this technique include Josef Albers, Chuck Close, Ralston Crawford, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Opie, Robert Rauschenberg, Bridget Riley, Edward Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.
Screen-printing (also known as "screenprinting", "silk-screening", or "serigraphy") creates bold color using a stencil technique. Stencil printing is arguably the oldest form of graphic arts.
The first time man placed his hand against a cave wall and blew ash and dried blood against it was the first time a stencil was used. Around 500 BC in Japan, artists were gluing human hair between pieces of paper to create floral stencils which were used with brushes to tamp color. The hair was later replaced with a silk mesh (hence the name “silk screen”). Stencils were even used to print the bold red crosses on the shields and cuirasses of the crusading knights, but it wasn’t until the turn of the century that silk screen printing became industrialized and was used in the printing of fabrics and textiles throughout the western world. After that, it was only a matter of time before artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol began experimenting with the technique for artistic purposes.
In screen printing, the artist draws or paints an image on a piece of paper or plastic (film can also be used). The image is cut out creating a stencil (keep in mind that the pieces which are cut away are the areas that will let ink through). A screen is made of a piece of fabric (originally silk) stretched over a wood or aluminium frame. The stencil is fixed to the screen.
Modern technology uses direct and indirect photo emulsions which are UV sensitive. This means that the artist’s renderings on transparent film can be exactly reproduced on the nylon screen coated with light sensitive (UV) emulsion. The light sensitive emulsion fills in the entire screen, the transparent film upon which the artist has drawn is laid upon the screen and both are placed in the exposure unit. Where the light passes through the transparent film, the emulsion is exposed and hardens. Where the artist's markings on the film stop the light, the emulsion is NOT exposed and releases upon washing, creating a stencil on the screen that exactly reproduces the artist’s markings to the finest detail.
The screen is then placed on top of almost any substrate, paper, glass, fabric, golf balls, etc. Ink is then placed across the top length of the screen. A squeegee (rubber blade) is used to spread the ink across the screen, over the stencil, and through the open mesh onto the paper/fabric below. The screen is lifted once the image has been transferred onto the paper/fabric, which is replaced with the next, unprinted, substrate. Colors are added layer by layer and each color requires a separate stencil on a separate screen. The screen can be re-used after cleaning.
Digital prints refers to editions of images created with a computer using drawings, other prints, photographs, light pen and tablet, and so on. These images can be printed to a variety of substrates including paper and cloth or plastic canvas. Accurate color reproduction is key to distinguishing high quality from low quality digital prints. Metallics (silvers, golds) are particularly difficult to reproduce accurately because they reflect light back to digital scanners. High quality digital prints typically are reproduced with very high-resolution data files with very high-precision printers. The substrate used has an effect on the final colors and cannot be ignored when selecting a color palette.
Digital images can be printed on standard desktop-printer paper and then transferred to traditional art papers (Velin Arch or Stonehenge 200gsm, for example). One way to transfer an image is to place the printout face down upon the art paper and rub Wintergreen oil upon the back of the print, and pass it through a press.
Digital prints that are stored and sold electronically are problematic when it comes to authorship of the print and the protection of pecuniary interests. Adobe Systems tried to overcome the digital edition problem with their Adobe Reader application.
Electronic images are truly multiple originals as they rely upon code to produce the image and every copy is actually the writing of code upon a disk or reproduction of code. Prints produced via any other medium are copies and not truly original unless a process of manual editing of the final result or plate is applied.
Sociologist Jean Baudrillard has had a large influence upon digital printmaking with theories expounded on in Simulacra and Simulation.
Foil imagingIn art, foil imaging is a printmaking technique made using the Iowa Foil Printer, developed by Virginia A. Myers from the commercial foil stamping process. This uses gold leaf and acrylic foil in the printmaking process.
ColorPrintmakers apply color to their prints in many different ways. Often color in printmaking that involves etching, screenprinting, woodcut, or linocut is applied by either using separate plates, blocks or screens or by using a reductionist approach. In multiple plate color techniques, a number of plates, screens or blocks are produced, each providing a different color. Each separate plate, screen, or block will be inked up in a different color and applied in a particular sequence to produce the entire picture. On average about 3 to 4 plates are produced, but there are occasions where a printmaker may use up to seven plates. Every application of another plate of color will interact with the color already applied to the paper, and this must be kept in mind when producing the separation of colors. The lightest colors are often applied first, and then darker colors successively until the darkest.
The reductionist approach to producing color is to start with a lino or wood block that is either blank or with a simple etching. Upon each printing of color the printmaker will then further cut into the lino or woodblock removing more material and then apply another color and reprint. Each successive removal of lino or wood from the block will expose the already printed color to the viewer of the print.
With some printing techniques like chine-collé or monotyping the printmaker may sometimes just paint into the colors they want like a painter would and then print.
The subtractive color concept is also used in offset or digital print and is present in bitmap or vectorial software in CMYK or other color spaces.
Protective printmaking equipment
Protective clothing is very important for printmakers who engage in etching and lithography (closed toed shoes and long pants). In the past, many printmakers did not live far past 35 to 40 years of age because of their exposure to various acids, solvents, particles, and vapors inherent in the printmaking process.
Whereas in the past printmakers put their plates in and out of acid baths with their bare hands, today printmakers use rubber gloves. They also wear industrial respirators for protection from caustic vapors. Most acid baths are built with ventilation hoods above them.
Often, an emergency cold shower or eye wash station is nearby in case of acid spillages, as well as soda ash- which neutralizes most acids. Some printmakers wear goggles when dealing with acid.
Protective respirators and masks should have particle filters, particularly for aquatinting. As a part of the aquatinting process, a printmaker is often exposed to rosin powder. Rosin is a serious health hazard, especially to printmakers who, in the past, simply used to hold their breath using an aquatinting booth.
Barrier cream is often used upon a printmaker's hands both when putting them inside the protective gloves and if using their hands to wipe plates (wipe ink into the grooves of the plate and remove excess).
Sterile plasters and bandages should always be available to treat cuts and scrapes. For example, zinc plates can be extremely sharp when their edges are not beveled.
Some major printmakers
- Main article List of Printmakers - by period, nationality and technique
Printmakers by nationality
- Griffiths, Antony, Prints and Printmaking, British Museum Press, 2nd ed, 1996 ISBN 0-7141-2608-X
- Ivins, William Jr. Prints and Visual Communication. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953. ISBN 0-262-59002-6
- Gill Saunders and Rosie Miles Prints Now: Directions and Definitions Victoria and Albert Museum (May 1, 2006) ISBN 1-85177-480-7
External linksHistory, glossaries
- Thompson, Wendy. "The Printed Image in the West: History and Techniques". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000 – . (October 2003)
- André Béguin's dictionary;enormous dictionary of terms, relating more to the printing than the creation of the image
- Another glossary - for modern prints
- Print Australia Reference Library Catalogue
- Print Australia - The original printmaking portal
- Large list of links to museum etc. online images of prints
- Bill Fisher's Links
- Judging the Authenticity of Prints by The Masters by art historian David Rudd Cycleback
- UnitTwentyFive London Based Print Studio
- Bellebyrd - The Print Australia blogspot
- Lyrebyrd - The Print Australia discussion forum
- [http://www.philagrafika.org./ Philagrafika, a printmaking organization in Philadelphia organizing an international festival of the printed image in 2010]
- The Print Center, a gallery and non profit art center dedicated to printmaking and photography in Philadelphia
- Southern Graphics Council - largest membership organization, focused on printmaking, in US
- Iowa Biennial - Exhibition & Archive of Contemporary Prints
- Site dedicated to the activity of printmaking and thinking creatively. Includes footage of well-known artists working at Crown Point Press in San Francisco.
- Birmingham Printmakers - A non-profit workshop in Digbeth, Birmingham. It is available to all artists, specialist and non-specialist printmakers.
- California Society of Printmakers
- Frans Masereel Center - Belgium, Kasterlee - International Artist In Residence, Contemporary Prints
- Early and Fine Printing Collection, Birmingham Central Library, England
- Site devoted to printmaking, lithography and tehniques
printmaking in German: Druck (Reproduktionstechnik)
printmaking in French: Gravure
printmaking in Korean: 판화
printmaking in Croatian: Grafika
printmaking in Indonesian: Seni grafis
printmaking in Italian: Stampa (arte)
printmaking in Hebrew: הדפס
printmaking in Japanese: 版画
printmaking in Polish: grafika
printmaking in Finnish: Taidegrafiikka
printmaking in Vietnamese: Đồ họa in ấn
printmaking in Chinese: 版画
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