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Printing Techniques

Screen Print

Screen Printing or serigraphy is a printing process where a print is made by a stencil technique. Ink is forced through stretched mesh fabric (silk, cotton, nylon, or metal) onto paper beneath the frame. The image is created by blocking out parts of the mesh in a variety of ways such as hand-painting the screen with glue or lacquer; applying a cutout design; or by painting a light-sensitive resist on the screen which is then developed photographically. Unlike many of the other printing media, there is no mirror reversal in screenprinting, which is very versatile as it can be placed on almost any material.


This is a method of relief printing in which wood is the printing element. The artist's design is either drawn directly on the block of wood or on a sheet of paper that is adhered to its surface. Then the artist must cut away everything which is not to be printed, so that the printing surface itself is raised above the main body of cut away wood. A variety of cutting tools can be used to carve away the non-printing areas. When finished, the image will appear as a network of lines and shapes standing out in relief, which are then inked and printed.


A linoleum cut or linocut is a relief print that is cut and printed in the same manner as a woodcut. The block consists of a thin layer of linoleum that is often mounted on wood. The soft linoleum can be cut away in any direction without resistance and has a surface that accepts ink evenly.


A printing process based on the antipathy of grease and water. The printing elements used are limestone and aluminum or zinc plates, grained to varying degrees of roughness. The image can be produced by photochemical and transfer processes, or be drawn using lithographic crayons and pencils, tusche, chalk, and various grease, lacquer, or synthetic materials. The stone is then washed with a solution, thus chemically producing water-receptive non-printing areas and grease-receptive image areas. The drawing grease is cleaned from the printing surface. A roller bearing greasy printing ink is then rolled over the surface, with the ink adhering only to drawn grease-receptive image areas. Finally, paper is laid on top of the stone or plate, which is passed through a lithography press for transfer. Lithography is often described as a surface or planographic printing process in order to distinguish it from the relief and intaglio processes.

Offset Lithograph

A modern development of lithography in which the image is lifted from the stone or plate by a rubber roller which then reprints it onto paper. The term offset refers to the fact that the image isn't printed directly to the paper from the plates, but instead is offset or transferred to another surface that then makes contact with the paper. An advantage of this double printing procedure is that it re-reverses the image, which is then printed in its original direction. This is largly a commercial medium and is often used when printing large or complicated editions.


A relief printing method, letterpress printing is a term for printing text with movable type, in which the raised surface of the type is inked and then pressed against a smooth surface to obtain an image in reverse. In addition to the direct impression of inked movable type onto paper or another receptive surface, the term can also refer to the direct impression of inked media such as zinc "cuts" (plates), linoleum blocks or wood blocks.


Digital printing describes the process of transferring an image on a personal computer or other digital storage device to a printing substrate, usually an ink jet or laser printer that accepts text and graphic output. As with other digital processes, information is reduced to binary code, or "digitized," to facillitate its storage and reproduction. Digital printing has steadily replaced offset lithography in many markets, especially at the consumer and business level, as a result of its substantially lower production costs. Many handbills and other small flyers are printed this way.


This is a digital printing technique where images are generated from high resolution digital scans and are typically printed using professional 8-Color to 12-Color ink-jet printers. They use archival quality inks and can print onto various surfaces including but not limited to canvas, fine art paper, and photo-base paper. Giclee (pronounced Gee’clay) is a French term meaning to spray or squirt, which is how an inkjet printer works. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets. Giclee prints are sometimes mistakenly referred to as Iris prints, which are 4-Color ink-jet prints from a printer pioneered in the late 1970s by Iris Graphics. The giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than any other means of digital reproduction.

Original Mixed Media

This is when the artist uses many elements to make a composition. Each print may have the same component parts, but the composition will differ. This makes each picture an original.


Photocopy or xerography is when a normal copy machine is used to reproduce the original. Very common for handbills.


This is an intaglio technique that produces effects similar to a watercolor wash, creating both even tones and/or tones with gradation or blending effects. The process entails adhering fine particles of resin to a metal plate as an acid resist. After the plate has been treated in an acid bath, the acid-resistant material is removed. The resulting etched, or bitten, surface is composed of textured areas rather than lines. Aquatint is often used in combination with other intaglio techniques.


This is an intaglio technique in which a metal plate is manually incised with a burin, an engraving tool with a V-shaped metal shaft. Depending on the angle and degree of pressure with which they were scooped out of the metal (usually copper) plate, the incised lines may vary in width and darkness when printed. The result is a very steady and considered line, with crisp edges where the burin has cut through the metal.


Thi is an intaglio technique whereby marks are bitten into the metal plate by chemical action. The plate is coated with a ground (either hard or softground) impervious to acid through which the artist draws to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath until the open lines of areas are sufficiently bitten. Finally, the ground is removed and the plate inked and printed. Etching is commonly used in combination with drypoint, aquatint, and other intaglio processes.


This is an intaglio method in which the artist works from dark to light. The plate is systematically roughened with a spurlike tool called a rocker. If inked in this state, it will print a velvety black. Graduated highlights are then smoothed out by scraping and burnishing the plate. Mezzotint is often combined with other intaglio methods.

Wood Engraving

This is a particular form of woodcut developed in the late eighteenth century. A very hard wood is used, which is end grain rather than the plank wood normally used for woodcuts. As a consequence, a graver, which is similar to the burin used in engraving, is used instead of a knife. The close grain of the woodblock allows the engraver to cut very fine lines, thereby creating images with much greater detail than is possible in woodcut.


This is a printing process where the plate is built up and manipulated by the artist, using a collage-like process which combines materials as diverse as cardboard, fabric, gesso, glue, string, sand, carborundum grit, and other found objects. The artist can also draw lines into the gesso before it hardens. As a result, the plate may print as both relief and intaglio. Collagraph prints are usually pulled on a press.

See Also

Print Making

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