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All About Print Making
What is a Graphic Art Print? What is an Original Print? What is a Fine Print? Techniques of Graphic Print Making
Aquatint. An intaglio process used to produce areas of tone or shadow rather than lines; it is often combined with etching. The metal plate is covered with a waxy ground or resin that is granular rather than solid (as in etching). Acid is applied which "bites" into the metal between the granules to produce areas which will catch the ink when it is wiped across the plate. The use of different resins with grains in varying densities will produce different degrees of darkness. Portions of the plate can be protected with varnish in order to expose the plate to multiple biting without affecting the entire composition.Spitbite Aquatint involves painting strong acid directly onto the aquatint ground of a prepared plate. Saliva, ethylene glycol or Kodak Photoflo solution is used to control the strength of the acid applied. Traditionally, a clean brush was coated with saliva, dipped into nitric acid and brushed onto the ground, hence the term "spitbite"

Cancelling Plates/Matrix. In modern terms, after a limited edition of a print is completed, the plate or stone or block may be erased or defaced with lines or holes to discourage further printing. This ensures the integrity of the size of the original edition by either preventing any further printings or by making any later printings recognizably different from the original ones. In earlier times, matrices were often printed until they wore out or until there was no further demand for the print, although lithographic stones, being very expensive, were usually erased by regrinding to make way for another image. The physical cancellation of plates began, like pencil signatures, sometimes around the 1880’s, but it has not been universally practiced.

Chine-collé, literally translated “Chinese glue,” is a technique that allows the artist or printmaker to print with thin delicate papers, such as rice paper or linen. Prior to printing, a water-soluble glue or paste is applied to the back of the lighter paper, which is then placed against a heavier printmaking paper.

The pressure of the press transfers the image to the delicate surface of the paper which adheres to the dampened heavier paper at the same time.

Counterproofs are made by placing a dampened sheet of paper on top of a pastel and applying pressure to transfer the pastel image.

Digital Prints: Artists who use a computer to create or manipulate their works often use a large-scale ink jet printer to print them. These complex printers use a sophisticated print head to disperse the ink on the paper in a fine mist of minute droplets in order to deliver a continuous tone image. The distinction as to whether a digital print is an “original print” is determined by whether the work was created by the artist to be realized as a print. A digital print of a work that originated as a painting or drawing is a reproduction and therefore is not an original print.

Drypoint prints are created by drawing on to a metal plate by scratching with a needle or a sharp tool. This intaglio technique gives the artist the greatest freedom of line, from the most delicate hairline to the heaviest gash. As the artist incises line into the plate, metal shavings called “burr” are pushed up to the surface of the plate and sit along the lines incised. In drypoint, the burr is not scraped away before printing but stays on the surface of the plate to print a velvety cloud of ink until it is worn away by repeated printings. Drypoint plates (particularly the burr on them) wear more quickly than etched or engraved plates and therefore allow for fewer satisfactory impressions and show far greater differences from first impression to last.

Numbering. While the numbering of individual impressions can be found as early as the late nineteenth century, it did not become standard practice until the mid-1960’s. Today, all limited edition prints should be numbered.

The numbering is transcribed as a fraction with the first number signifying the number of the individual impression and the second representing the total number of prints in the edition. The numbering sequence is not intended to reflect the order of printing; prints are not numbered as they come off the press but some time later, after the ink has dried. The edition number does not include proofs (see Proofs), but only the total in the numbered edition.

Editions total number of multiple impressions printed.

Edition numbering If the edition is of 125, then each impression is numbered as 1/125, 2/125 up to 125/125.

Posthumous Edition. Edition printed after the death of the artist. It has usually been authorized by the artist's heirs or is the product of a publisher who purchased the matrix from the artist. It should be limited in some way (though not necessarily hand-numbered) or it becomes simply a limitless restrike. Posthumous editions of prints that were pencil signed in their original edition frequently bear stamped signatures authorized by the artist's heirs or the publisher.

Restrikes. Later impressions, which are not been authorized by the artist, or the artist's heirs. While some restrikes are of good appearance, the excessive printing of the matrix tends to wear it out and many restrikes are only ghostly images of what the print is supposed to be.

In the case of images that may be intrinsically valuable (i.e. Rembrandt etchings), the worn-out copper plate is frequently reworked several centuries later so that while the restrike may be said to have come from the original plate, there is hardly anything left of the original work on the plate, even the plate signature often being re-etched by someone else.

Second Edition. A second edition is a later printing, usually authorized by the artist or by the heirs, from the original matrix, after an edition of declared number has already been printed. It should be annotated as a second, or subsequent, edition. Sometimes second editions are made, many years after the first, because the artist originally printed only four or five impressions, hardly amounting to an edition at all. A photographically produced replica of the original print, whether printed in a limited edition or not, is not a second edition; it is a reproduction.

Engraving is an intaglio technique in which the metal plate is marked or incised with a tool called a burin. As the burin is moved across the plate, copper shavings, called "burr", are forced to either side of the lines being created. These are usually cleaned from the plate before inking. The engraved plate is covered in ink and then wiped so that only the engraved lines contain the ink. An engraved line may be deep or fine, has a sharp and clean appearance, and tapers to an end.

Wood Engravings are a form of relief printing in which the areas of the composition that are not to receive ink are carved away with fine engraving tools. Ink is applied to the raised surface and the composition transferred to paper with a press or by hand burnishing or rubbing. Incredible precision and detail is possible with this technique.

Etching has been a favoured intaglio technique for artists for centuries because the method of inscribing the image is so similar to drawing with a pencil or pen. After a metal plate has been coated with a waxy substance called a "ground", the artist draws through the ground with a stylus to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which chemically dissolves or "bites" the exposed metal. The ground is removed before the plate is inked and printed. Etched lines usually have blunt rather than tapering ends.

Linocut, a form of relief printing, is a variation of the woodcut technique. The artist' composition is cut into the surface of linoleum often backed by wood for reinforcement. Areas, which are not to receive ink, are carved away and separate blocks must be carved for each colour used. Since the blocks possess a smooth surface rather than a wood grain, the resulting prints are characterized by a smoother texture in the printed areas.

Lithography. Literally, "stone drawing", the artist draws or paints the composition on the flat surface of a stone with a greasy crayon or liquid. The design is chemically fixed on the stone with a weak solution of acid and gum Arabic. In printing, the stone is flooded with water which is absorbed everywhere except where repelled by the greasy ink. Oil-based printer's ink is then rolled on the stone, which is repelled in turn by the water soaked areas and accepted only by the drawn design. The stone is then run through the press with paper under light pressure, the final print showing neither a raised nor embossed quality but lying entirely on the surface of the paper. The design may be divided among several stones, properly registered, to produce through multiple printings a lithograph in more than one colour. A transfer lithograph (French, autographie) employs the same technique, but the design is drawn on specially prepared transfer paper with a lithographic crayon and is later mechanically transferred to the stone. A zincograph is the same as a lithograph, but uses a zinc plate rather than a stone.

Matrix. From the Latin word mater, meaning mother, the matrix is the form or surface on which the image to be printed is prepared, for example, a woodblock, a linoleum block, a metal plate, a lithographic stone or a mesh screen.

Mezzotint is another intaglio technique used to create areas of tone or shadow rather than lines. In this method, the entire surface of the plate is roughened by a spiked tool called a rocker so that, if inked at that point, the entire plate would print in solid black. The artist then works "from black to white" by scraping or burnishing areas so that they will hold less or no ink, yielding modulated tones

Monoprint/Monotype. As their names imply, monoprints and monotypes (the words are often used interchangeably but shouldn’t be) are prints that have an edition of one, though sometimes a second, weaker impression can be taken from the matrix.

A monoprint is made by taking an already etched and inked plate and adding to the composition by manipulating additional ink on the surface of the plate. This produces an impression different in appearance from a conventionally printed impression from the same plate. Since it is virtually impossible to manipulate the additional ink in exactly the same way for each impression, every monoprint impression will be different. A monotype is made by drawing a design in printing ink on any smooth surface, then covering that matrix with a sheet of paper and passing it through a press. The resulting image will be an exact reverse of the original drawing, but relatively flatter because of the pressure of the press.

Pochoir is a direct method of adding hand colouring to an impression through a stencil. The stencil itself is usually knife-cut from thin-coated paper, paperboard, plastic, or metal and the ink or paint is applied with a brush through the stencil to the paper beneath.

Prints work of art that exists in multiples.

Artist's Proof. This practice dates back to the era when an artist commissioned to execute a print was provided with lodging, living expenses, and a printing studio with workmen, supplies and paper. The artist was given a portion of the edition (to sell) as payment for his work. Today, though artists get paid for their editions, the tradition has persisted and a certain number of impressions are put aside for the artist. Artist's proofs are annotated as such or as A.P., or Épreuve d'Artiste or E.A.

Bon à Tirer Proof. Literally, the "ok-to-print proof". If the artist is not printing his own edition, the bon à tirer (sometimes abbreviated as b.a.t.) is the final trial proof, the one that the artist has approved, telling the printer that this is the way they want the edition to look. There is only one of these proofs for an edition.

Hors Commerce Proof. Impressions annotated H.C. is supposedly "not for sale". These "proofs" started to appear on the market as extensions of editions printed in the late 1960's. They may differ from the edition by being printed on a different paper or with a variant inking; they may also not differ at all. Publishers sometimes use such impressions as exhibition copies, thereby preserving the numbered impressions from rough usage.

Printer's Proof. A complimentary proof given to the printer. There can be from one to several of these proofs, depending upon the number of printers involved and the generosity of the artist.

Trial Proof. An impression pulled before the edition in order to see what the print looks like at that stage of development, after which the artist may go back to the matrix and make adjustments.

There can be any number of trial proofs, depending upon how a particular artist works, but it is usually a small number and each one usually differs from the others. In French, a trial proof is called a épreuve d'essai, in German a Probedruck.

Publisher. A publisher provides the financial support to produce and market an artist's prints. A publisher brings together artist and printer (assuming the artist does not do his own printing). The printer may also himself be a publisher. Publishers date back to the sixteenth century and the great majority of original print made in the nineteenth century were commissioned and brought to market by publishers.

Screenprints (Serigraphy). In this process, a separate screen is required for each colour in the artist's composition and the same piece of paper must be printed with each of them in turn.
For each screen, a pattern of fabric or paper is cut and attached to the mesh to block the flow of that particular colour to the sheet of paper beneath it. A squeegee is used to force the paint through the exposed areas of the mesh. This technique is often referred to as serigraphy, a term coined to distinguish between commercial and artistic screen-printing.

Signatures. The very earliest prints were not signed at all, although by the late fifteenth century many artists indicated their authorship of a print by incorporating a signature or monogram into the matrix design, what is called “signed in the plate” or a “plate signature.” While some prints were pencil signed as early as the late eighteenth century, the practice of signing one's work in pencil or ink did not really become common practice until the 1880's. Today it is customary for original prints to be signed. When a print is described simply as “signed” it should mean that is signed in pencil, ink or crayon; a plate signature should not be described as “signed.” A stamped signature should be described as such.

Woodcut is a relief technique using a side-grained plank of wood in which the non-printing areas of the composition are cut away below the surface with a knife or gouge. While woodcuts were first seen in ninth-century China, Western artists have made woodcut prints since the fourteenth century. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Japanese artists using these techniques reached an exceptional level of artistic achievement, what is known as the ukiyo-e period or style. Colour

woodcuts involve the use of separate blocks for each colour, often with enormous complexity using multiple blocks and overlapping. White line woodcuts were the product of a technique developed by artists in the Provincetown art colony around 1915. By cutting a groove between each colour in the composition, the artists were able to produce a colour woodcut from a single block. The desired colours are painted on the raised areas while the groove, which is devoid of ink, prints as a blank or "white" line delimiting each area of colour.

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