Printmaking Techniques

Here is a summary of all the printmaking techniques we use as artists.

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Linocut

Carving into lino makes a design that ink can be rolled over and printed. Lino is considered one of the most basic forms of printmaking but it takes a lot of skill to balance the design and incorporate colours. Reduction linocut requires a bit of planning, separating out the colours and planning the order of printing. Each layer is cut and printed in different colours until the final design (and edition) is made.

Image: Polly Marix Evans

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Etching

Etching traditionally involved the use of nitric acid onto copper to 'etch' the design. Nowadays most printmakers use safer, less toxic chemicals to etch into zinc or copper. Then the zinc or copper plate is inked up, pushing the thick ink into the etched grooves and the rest of the ink is wiped off the surface. The plate is covered with dampened paper (which makes it softer) and run through a press. The press pushes the paper into the etching and a print similar to a line drawing is produced.

Image: Gina Tawn

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Aquatint

Aquatint is related to etching in that it is inked and printed in the same way, but how the image is made is very different. A powdered rosin is applied to the metal plate and then heated to set it. Then other resists painted over the rosin and given successive dips in the etching bath to create different tones. Aquatint prints are known for their subtle use of tone, creating painterly effects.

Image: Glenn Tomkinson

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Screenprinting

Screenprinting (or serigraphy) uses a frame covered with a fine mesh through which ink is pushed through with a rubber squeegee. The design is made by either making simple paper masks but photographs and very detailed images can be transferred to the screen using light-sensitive resists. Screenprints are instantly recognisable because of their bright, clear colours and flat designs. Most contemporary screenprinters use water-washable inks.

Image: Robert Finch

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Collagraph

Collagraph prints are made using a plate usually made from board with textures and different media stuck down to it. It can also feature carving and the application of carborundum to create deep, rich areas of tone. The plate is then inked up either with a roller or like an etching and then printed with a press. It is possible to make textured prints without applying any ink, called a 'blind' print.

Image: Penny Hunt

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Drypoint

Drypoint is like etching but rather than using chemicals to etch, a sharp point is used to make the design, usually onto metal but more commonly nowadays onto a rigid plastic. It is inked up in the same way as an etching, with the more deeply and densely scratched areas creating the darkest areas of the design.

Image: David Sharps

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Cyanotype

Cyanotype uses sunlight to create prints! Paper is coated with a special chemical which reacts to light. Images (either positive or negative) or actual objects are laid on top of the paper and then exposed to sunlight.The paper is then rinsed and the image is exposed as a gorgeous, rich blue.

Image: Kim Tillyer

Digital

Images are created using a drawing tablet and pencil. For many this is seen as different from printmaking but it takes a lot of skill to be able to use the different brushes and tools to control the colours and textures that make up the image. The final drawing is then printed using archival inks onto fine paper.

Image: Ray Ogden

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Monoprint

Monoprints are made by manipulating the ink by hand or with masks, objects and stencils and either using a press or hand-printing to make the image. Sometimes multiple layers are created by using several colours and/or passes through the press. Usually only one print is made and they are therefore very unique! Or the monoprint may be one of a series using a theme or a base image.

Image: Denise Mason

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Letterpress

Letterpress traditionally uses commercially cast lead type and specialist printing machines to print text. Each individual letter or character is locked in to a 'chase' and then carefully printed onto paper. The imagination of the printer is only limited by  what typefaces and blocks what they have in their studio, but small linocuts or wood engravings can also be mounted and printed at the same time.

Image: Vega Brennan

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Lithography

Lithography (literally 'stone-drawing') uses the principle that water and oil do not mix. A special stone is drawn on with a greasy crayon and then the rest of the stone surface is treated so that it further resists the oily ink sticking to it. The stone is then wet and oily ink rolled over the surface, only sticking to the drawn areas. Lithographs are recognisable by their delicate textures and interesting drawn marks.

Image: Linda Moore