The glossary of printmaking techniques and terms has been taken from two sources. Those marked with an asterisk* have been taken from Grove Art Online. The International Fine Print Dealers Association provided all other definitions.
Relief printing is a term for processes in which the design to be inked stands up in raised lines from the surface of the matrix (a wooden block, metal plate or other flat surface), which has been either cut away or removed by various means. The most common forms of relief prints, both of which use wood as the matrix, are the woodcut and the wood-engraving (the latter so-called because of the method of cutting the block with a tool similar to an engraver’s burin, though the impression itself is printed in relief). Other relief techniques employ metal plates, stone blocks, rubber slabs, household linoleum, potatoes and other vegetables.
Intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning, “to incise.” In intaglio printing, an image is incised with a pointed tool or “bitten” with acid into a metal plate, usually copper or zinc. The plate is covered with ink, and then wiped so that only the incised grooves contain ink. The plate and dampened paper are run through a press to create the print. Usually, the plate is smaller than the paper, so that the impression of the plate, or the platemark, remains on the paper. The intaglio family of printmaking techniques includes engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, etching, aquatint and spitbite aquatint.
This process is based on the antipathy of grease and water. To make a lithograph, the artist uses a greasy medium, such as a crayon or tusche (an oily liquid wash) to create a composition on a plate. The surface is then dampened with water, which is repelled by the greasy areas, sticking only to the sections of the plate that have not been marked by the artist. Next, the printer’s ink is applied to the plate with a roller. This, in turn, sticks only to the greasy section, as the water protects the rest of the plate. The plate is then covered with paper and run through a printing press to create the print.
In collographs, an image is composed from a plate made up of a variety of textured materials glued upon a solid base, such as cardboard or wood. This plate may then be printed as a relief by rolling colored ink onto the surface, or alternatively, it may be inked as an intaglio, where the ink is spread evenly over the entire plate then wiped from the raised surface. Paper is then placed over the inked plate and pressure applied from above to transfer the ink.
Monotype is, in effect, the simplest printmaking process (a printed transfer of an image), but, combined with its inherent uniqueness, it has fallen between strict definitions of painting, drawing and printmaking. The often experimental genesis and comparative technical ease of monotype have combined to render very broad parameters for the process. To make a monotype, one draws or paints on a flat, unworked printing plate or other surface and subsequently transfers the image through pressure to a sheet of paper. As most of the image is transferred in the printing process, only one strong impression can be taken, hence the term monotype (unique, single impression). Residual ink on the printing surface occasionally permits the printing of fainter second or third impressions; these are called ghosts or cognates. The printing plate itself, which usually retains a shadow (ghost) of the original drawing, can also serve as the basis for another application of pigment and be printed again. This process may be repeated a number of times, producing an evolving series of individual, yet closely related monotype impressions.
A monotype is distinct from a monoprint, which is a uniquely inked and printed impression from a traditional print matrix.