Fine art printmaking is based on the concept of creating a master plate, known as the matrix, which holds the image. The matrix carries the ink and is used to transfer the image onto paper. Printmaking has many subdivisions, each of which is an art form in its own right: etching, lithography, linocut, etc. The printmaking process is generally complex, using a variety of different techniques and media, depending on the type of print and the desired effect. Just as in painting, the artist creates different surface textures, color effects, and forms to produce a unique work of art defined by the artist’s style and personality.
In most instances the process of transferring or printing the image can be repeated numerous times, creating multiple impressions of the same image. These identical multiple impressions form the edition. Sometimes each individual print is retouched or added to afterwards, making it unique. Other techniques involve using the same matrix but different combinations of inks and colors, also creating unique works (monoprints are examples of such works).