What is a print?
With the advent of electronic media and the popularity of experimental photo processes, this question inevitably opens up a can of worms to the traditionalist. In all cases a print is an image that is created on one surface to be transferred to another. Following is a brief description of the most common terms.
Intaglio: When ink is forced into grooves and textures on the plate and the surface is then wiped, leaving ink in the depressions. The pressure of the press forces the ink out of the grooves, leaving a raised line.
Relief: When ink is rolled onto the surface of the plate leaving lines and textures inkless. The printing process requires less pressure. The following types of prints can usually be printed by either method, but are listed below under the most commonly used.
Etching: From the German "essen" (to eat). Using acid to bite into the plate where it is not covered by an acid resistant coating (usually asphaltum -based).
Aquatint: Usually refers to small particles of rosin which are dusted onto the plate's surface and heated till they adhere. Areas exposed to the acid create "half-tones".
Drypoint: A sharp instrument is used to scratch into the plate without the use of acid. The raised burr holds the ink creating a "soft" line quality. Drypoints do not hold up well in printing editions.
Engraving: A "burin"(flat faced steel tool) is used to directly carve lines into the plate without the use of acid.
Mezzotint: A fine ridged multiple-line "rocker" is used to roughen up the plate, creating a rich over-all tone from which the whites are brought out through the use of a burnisher and scraper.
Photogravure: A photographic negative is projected onto a metal plate covered with a light sensitive varnish, the plate is then bathed in acid, inked and printed in the same way as an etching, resulting in a photographic reproduction with a velvety satin-like finish.
Woodcut: Done with gouges on the plank grain of wood. Grain is a consideration.
Wood Engraving: Done with gravers on the end grain of wood.
Collograph: The surface is built up in layers using glue as in a collage.
Linocut: Gouges are used to cut areas away in linoleum. More loosely curved areas are possible than with a woodcut which is more dependent on grain.
The Planographic method of printing depends on the natural antipathy between water and grease. Lithography, a planographic process, is done on a slab of limestone or on an aluminum or paper "plate" using a greasy pencil, crayon or ink (tousche). A nitric acid and gum arabic solution is applied with a sponge, etching the exposed areas. The surface is dampened before rolling ink onto it with a roller and the greasy areas resist the water while accepting the ink.
Serigraph: Also known as a silkscreen. is created by blocking out areas of the screen with a glue solution, allowing ink to be squeegeed through the uncoated areas.
Monoprint: is a one-of-a-kind print with one aspect remaining consistent in subsequent prints. For example, an etched plate may serve as the basis for freely painted color and the image will come through though each print is different.
Monotype: is a truly one-of-a-kind print. For example, ink may be applied to a clean, unworked surface and through the removal of the ink an image may emerge. No part of the image can be replicated.
Limited Edition: is a quantity of prints that use the same kind of paper, same pressure, ink, and printing registration. The prints are signed and numbered by the artist with a pencil on the bottom of the image to emphasize the number of the impression obtained from that particular plate and the total quantity of prints of the final edition. The standard way to number an edition is by placing the number of the print over the entire size of the edition. i.e. 3/20. AP (artists proof) and PP (printers proofs) are prints set aside for the artist and printers own use.