Glossary Of Printmaking Terms
Note: Words that appear in boldface are defined in this Glossary.
Acid Resist (See Also Ground)
A liquid that is impervious to acid and used in intaglio printmaking. Artists use acid resist like a stencil to prevent the acid from etching selected areas.
À La Poupée (French, Literally “With The Doll”)
A method of inking intaglio prints. Two or more ink colors are selectively applied to distinct areas of a composition on a printmaking matrix. À la poupée inking requires special skill but yields multiple colors using only one matrix—rather than one for each color—and one pass through the press.
A lithograph whose matrix is a thin, ball-ground aluminum plate instead of the more traditional lithographic stone. “Ball-ground” is a fine texture applied to the plate that approximates the texture of a lithographic stone. Aluminum lithographic plates are less expensive and more portable than stones. The aluminum-plate lithograph is printed in the traditional manner.
A process to create tones of differing gradations in intaglio printmaking. A finely powdered resin is dusted over the plate and heated until the resin melts into tiny mounds. Next, acid is applied to penetrate the surrounding areas, forming a densely speckled surface that looks like microdots. The artist draws an image on the prepared plate, and any areas intended to be pure white are stopped out entirely before etching it in an acid bath. The etched areas that will print as the lightest values are the most shallow. They are stopped out as this process is repeated until areas that are to be printed as the darkest tones have been deeply etched. Aquatint can achieve tones ranging from light gray to velvety black.
Acid-free or Ph-neutral paper used for its longevity. Most conventional paper is made from wood pulp and contains acids that will yellow and/or deteriorate the paper over time. Archival paper made from wood pulp has been buffered so that it has a neutral or slightly alkaline pH level. All the paper in this exhibition is archival, rag paper.
A tarry, petroleum substance used as an acid resist in intaglio processes such as etching.
(French, “Chinese [paper] collage”)
A process in which a thin Japan paper is archivally adhered to a thicker, rag paper by pressing them together with an etching or lithographic press. The image on the matrix is printed on the Japan paper, which is especially sensitive to detail and also provides a background color.
A small, blind embossment applied to the margins of original prints by a shop and/or artist and/or printer. Chops function as authenticating trademarks that identify the shop and the printers and artists involved in the production.
Collaborating Master Printer
A master printer who, by virtue of both experience and temperament, collaborates with artists to help them realize their ideas and imagery in original prints.
A collagraph is created from a matrix made by the artist using an additive process and various materials. The resulting matrix is highly textured and is inked in the intaglio manner and printed on an etching press. This process combines the visual effects of intaglio and relief. Counterproof In intaglio and relief printing, an image printed from one matrix onto paper and transferred to a second matrix for purposes of registration. (see Registration)
The uneven, feathered edge of handmade printmaking papers. The deckle is a consequence of the papermaking process in which the paper pulp extends slightly beyond the edge of the screen used to lift a sheet of pulp from the vat.
Utilizes the same technical process as photogravure, only with a hand-drawn image instead of one that is photographicallybased or lens-based.
Most publishers and shops provide collectors with a documentation sheet for each impression. It is the written authentication of an original print and usually includes the names of all printers involved in its production as well as paper and inks used and the exact number of proofs and numbered prints. The doc. sheet is usually signed by the artist and the publisher or printer.
0An intaglio process in which the image is scratched into the surface of a copper plate using a steel needle. The tool’s point pushes the excess metal to the sides creating a raised edges or burrs along each line. This gives a soft, slightly fuzzy-looking quality to the printed line, adding richness to the image. (As a point of contrast, see Engraving.) Because drypoint lines wear relatively quickly during printing, editions are usually limited to fifteen or fewer prints, unless the plate is electroplated with steel or chrome.
A set of identical original prints pulled by or under the supervision of the artist. Original prints are signed and numbered by the artist. A limited edition is a finite number of multiple-original impressions—usually fewer than 200—that are signed and numbered in pencil, e. g. “1/10”.
Creating an area of shaped, low-relief on paper by running it through a press over a matrix that is usually not inked.
An intaglio process in which the artist incises an image into the surface of a copper plate using a sharp, chisel-like tool called a “burin.” As this tool moves across the plate it extracts a line of steel, creating a recessed line with a clean edge. (See Drypoint for comparison.) Consequently, an engraved line is characterized by its clarity and precision, making it ideal for currency bills. Originating in the Middle Ages, engraving requires a long apprenticeship and a very high level of craftsmanship.
Etch (Noun And Verb)
In intaglio printmaking, a corrosive solution used to etch the artist’s imagery into a metal plate. Etches may be diluted acids or diluted, strong bases such as ferric chloride (which is often used with copper plates because it does not emit gas).
A print made from an intaglio plate that has been worked by the artist to create an image and then bitten or etched in a corrosive solution to create recessed areas on the plate that will carry the ink to print the image. An acid-resist solution is used to coat areas that the artist does not want to etch. and therefore print. (See Line etching and Soft-ground etching.)
An area on an intaglio plate that has been inadvertently etched or bitten in the acid bath.
A print in which the image area extends to all four edges of the paper. Usually this is achieved by printing with paper that is slightly smaller than the image area on the matrix.
A term used to refer generally to an intaglio print or any of the intaglio printing processes. (See Intaglio and Direct gravure.)
An acid-resistant material, such as asphaltum, that is applied to metal printing plates in intaglio processes in which selective and/or successive acid biting is desired. The ground acts as a stencil to allow the artist to select the areas on the plate that the acid will etch and subsequently hold ink when it is run through the press. A liquid, hard ground is used for line etchings. (See Soft-ground etching and Line etching)
A single piece of paper with an image printed from a matrix. An “impression” refers to a single, original print; a set of impressions constitutes an edition.
A recently developed process that uses advanced technology to create a continuous-tone, full-spectrum, digital print or reproduction. Using a special commercial printer, light-stable inks are applied to paper from tiny jets one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Archival papers may be used. An ink-jet print is often referred to as a “Giclée” (pronounced gzhee-clay)
(Italian, literally “cut in,” from intagliare, “to incise”)
A method of printing in which the image is engraved or etched into a metal plate so that the areas to be inked are recessed below the plate’s surface. After the non-image surface area is wiped clean, damp paper is placed on the plate and run through an etching press, embossing the paper into the incised, inked areas and transferring the image. The primary intaglio processes are engraving, line etching, aquatint, and drypoint. Intaglio printing dates to about the fourteenth century.
Formerly called “rice paper,” Japan papers are thin, acid-free papers handmade from soft plant fibers such as kozo (from the Paper Mulberry tree). Artist-printmakers use them for chine-collé, although in some cases they can be used as the primary support. Some Japan-type paper originates in other Asian countries and is called “Asian paper.”
Key Plate (Also Key Block, Key Screen, Etc.)
In instances in which more than one matrix is used, the key plate is the matrix on which the artist has worked the primary part of the image, often printed in black.
The most common of intaglio techniques, in which a metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant ground and then drawn on with an etching needle. The metal exposed by the needle’s marks is eaten away in an acid bath of a corrosive solution. The plate is covered with ink and the surface wiped clean. The recessed areas created by the acid retain the ink, which is absorbed by a piece of damp paper under the immense pressure of the printing press.
Linoleum Cut (Or Linocut)
A relief print made from a carved sheet of linoleum. Linoleum is easier to cut into than traditional wooden blocks used to make woodcuts. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is credited with originating this process.
Linoleum Block (Or Lino Block)
A linoleum matrix adhered to a type-high, wooden slab, plywood, or composition block to be used by an artist to carve and print a linoleum cut or linocut.
An original print made from a lithographic stone or metal plate on which the image to be printed is drawn or painted by the artist with an ink or crayon high in grease content. The process is based on the antipathy of oil and water. The oil-based image area is receptive to oil-based inks, and the non-image area is ink-repellent and water-receptive. The artist (or the printmaker under the artist’s supervision) rolls the ink onto the dampened matrix and runs it and the paper through a lithographic press. A separate matrix is required for each color desired. As opposed to relief and intaglio printing, lithography is a planographic process, i.e., the surface of the matrix is not altered by carving or engraving. (Silkscreen is the other main planographic process.) An original lithograph is not to be confused with a commercial, offset lithograph (often called a “poster”). Lithography originated in Bavaria in the late eighteenth century.
A special limestone used for fine art lithographs. The highest quality stones are from quarries in Bavaria, Germany. Bavarian limestone is uniquely dense and homogenous and therefore perfectly suited for the art of lithography. It is cut into thick slabs that can be reused by artists countless times. Lithographic stone is available in white, yellow, and gray, the latter being the most preferred. Used in the nineteenth century for commercial printing, litho stones are now utilized almost exclusively by fine artists.
A term reserved for a highly skilled printer—usually in a professional printmaking studio—who has served an extended apprenticeship with a senior master printer. Some master printers become collaborating master printers.
The object that is worked by the artist and from which inked impressions are made. Depending upon the printing technique, a matrix is most commonly a metal plate, wood or linoleum block, or a stone slab.
A form of engraving which uses a mezzotint “rocker”. This is a very-high-quality, steel, hand tool shaped like a half moon with a wooden handle. The sharp edge of the tool comprises a row of very fine teeth. When rocked back and forth on a copper plate, the teeth create tiny pits in the copper, which hold etching ink and print a field of dots. The traditional mezzotint is made from a plate that has been rocked so much that it proofs as a velvety, solid black. The artist-craftsman then uses a hard, steel burnisher and plate oil to burnish smooth the areas desired to be white, so that the imagery is created as white on black forms. A small, mezzotint roller is sometimes used for touching up black details. The true, “rocked” mezzotint is rarely mastered by contemporary artists but like line engravings, was a popular technique in the 19th century.
One of a series of original prints that combines a repeatable compositional element printed from a matrix throughout the series with at least one other compositional element unique to that image.
A one-of-a-kind, original print made by painting on an impervious plate of metal or Plexiglas. The paper is applied to the plate under pressure, creating distinct textures and effects not possible when painting directly on paper.
A fine art print made from a matrix or matrices created by the artist to print a limited number of multiple impressions.
An impression printed from a matrix or matrices created by the artist expressly for the purpose of making multiple originals. Such a print is of considerably greater intrinsic worth than a commercial reproduction of a unique original, which is photo-mechanically printed in large numbers on an offset press.
A technically difficult, lens-based, intaglio process invented in 1879 for fine-art printing and recently revived by contemporary artists. Using a gelatin photo-emulsion, a film positive of a photographic image is exposed onto a copper plate, which is then etched and printed in the intaglio method. A direct gravure utilizes the same technical process, only with a hand-drawn image instead of one that is lens-based.
Polymer Direct Gravure
An intaglio process that utilizes a matrix of photo-sensitive, polymer film that is adhered to a sheet of thin steel. When exposed to a film positive with ultraviolet light, the non-image areas are hardened and the image areas are left soft. When the plate is brushed under warm water, the soft image areas wash out and the plate is printed in the standard intaglio manner.
During the development of the image for an original print many proofs are pulled: state proofs (each state of a changing matrix), trial proofs (TPs), color trial proofs (CTPs), process proofs (showing each layer of color), and the final proof (B. A. T.,Fr. bon a tirer, or RTP, right to print) are pulled. After all the edition is printed, a negotiated number of Artist’s Proofs are signed AP and printer’s proofs signed PP. In some cases, one or more impressions are inscribed by the artist to an individual or organization. Publishers will often have a few impressions signed as shop proofs for their archives as well as a few hor commerce impressions (sales samples not for sale) signed HC. In many cases, multiple proofs of the same kind are numbered with Roman numeral fractions.
An archival paper made from cotton or linen fiber instead of wood fiber. Since it is created without acids, rag paper does not discolor or disintegrate over time. It also can be exquisitely beautiful.
A system to ensure that multiple matrices are printed in the exact same position on a print so all the parts of an image (often different colors) appear accurately in their relative positions. Many types of registration systems are used in printmaking.
A relief print made from a matrix on which the artist has created an image using line etching. The surface of the plate is rolled with ink and printed, rendering the etched, recessed lines the color of the paper. The effect is of light-colored lines against a background determined by the color of ink used.
A print made from a matrix—traditionally a block of wood—whose surface is carved by subtracting areas that are not meant to print. When the block’s surface is rolled with ink, the printed image is determined by the raised, un-cut areas. If more than one color is desired, usually a separate block is made to print each color. A handheld “baren,” or a press is used to impress the image. Primary types of relief prints are woodcut, linoleum cut and relief etching.
Secondary Market Print
A previously owned print, that is, one owned by a collector and is now put up for sale.
A serigraph (Lat. seri = silk), also known as a silkscreen and a screen print, is made from one or more screens of nylon or fine metal mesh that is stretched tightly on a wooden or metal frame. The artist applies to the screen(s)–one per color–a negative stencil of the image desired and uses a squeegee to press viscous ink through the open areas onto the paper in contact with the screen and below it. Multiple screens are often used to layer several colors and partial images onto each sheet. The screens are reusable. cuts (linocuts).
Silkscreen Or Screen Print (Also Called Serigraph)
A form of printmaking utilizing stencils that are attached to screens. Thick ink is squeegeed through the open areas of the stencil and the screen onto the paper below. Screen prints require one screen per color. Like other multiple originals, they are most often issued in signed and numbered editions.
An intaglio process favored for its ability to render graphic lines or the textures of low relief objects such as cloth or leaves. A soft ground—i.e., an acid resist that does not harden—is applied to a plate. If a thin sheet of paper is placed on the soft ground, an artist may draw on the paper so that when it is lifted off, the marks are exposed for etching. In some cases, cloth may be pressed onto the soft ground so that, when it is removed, a fine texture approximating aquatint may be etched and printed. In other cases, the exact morphology of objects (e.g., plant material or lace) can be etched into the plate in this manner.
An intaglio technique in which a solvent is used to selectively remove areas of ground (acid resist) on a plate. This opens the area for aquatint or other treatments. This is frequently a technique used to record the artist’s marks with the brushed-on solvent.
A tonal and relatively expressive intaglio method in which the artist uses a brush laden with a diluted acid solution to paint directly onto a plate that has been prepared with an aquatint. The acid solution includes a water-tension reduction agent that was traditionally human saliva. More recently printmakers use gum arabic.
A transparent acid resist used in intaglio printing. It stops the etch but allows the artist to see the previously rendered areas on the plate.
Straight bite In intaglio printmaking, the purposeful etching of an open area on a plate that has no aquatint. (see Aquatint)
printable brush strokes or painted areas on the matrix. Using a solution of black India ink and sugar, the artist paints directly on a plate prepared with an aquatint. A liquid hard ground, called an acid resist, is applied over the entire plate. When dry, the plate is immersed in warm water, dissolving the ground covering the sugary area. This exposes the pictorial area so that it can be etched and printed as aquatint.
White-ground aquatint An intaglio method used to etch an artist’s textured brush marks. The artist uses a soapy acid resist to paint the imagery on an aquatint plate (see Aquatint). When the plate is immersed in the etching bath, the brush marks dissolve, exposing the aquatint and rendering the brush marks in exacting detail.
An impression on paper printed from a wooden block or plywood that has been carved in relief. The image results from the upper surface, the negative areas having been carved away. Also, white lines may be printed by carving them out of an upper surface.
This list of art terms is referenced from Mark L. Smith, PhD