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A Short Primer on Printmaking Techniques

Printmaking Techniques

Original prints, (those made by hand by the artist or a fine art printer) fall into four categories listed below.


In the intaglio process, the image is pulled from below the surface of the plate. This image has been incised, engraved, or “etched” using a mordant such as nitric acid. Examples of original prints executed in the intaglio process include etchings, engravings, and drypoints.


The relief process is almost the exact opposite of intaglio in that in this type of printmaking the image is pulled from a raised surface, in which the artist has either cut away the negative (not-inked) areas, or build them up from the surface of the block. (This process is sometimes called block-printing). Examples of relief printmaking include wood-cuts, linoleum cuts, and embossments.


In the planographic process, the image is pulled from a flat surface. The matrix in this case can be many different types of surfaces as long as it is flat and smooth. Examples of planographic prints include lithographs (which can be pulled from lithographic stones OR metal plates) and monotypes, sometimes called monoprints. The term monoprint refers to the fact that usually one only image is obtained, which is different from other types of printmaking where multiple images are usually obtained from the matrix, (the plate or block).


In this form of printmaking, the image is obtained by forcing ink through openings onto the printing surface. These openings can be hand-cut, or obtained through a photographic process. The most universal type of this process is silk-screen, which can be used to print on a wide variety of surfaces. When the silk-screen process is used for a strictly fine-art end, these original prints are referred to as serigraphs.

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