The glossary of printmaking techniques and terms has been taken from two sources. Those marked with an asterisk* have been taken from the International Fine Print Dealers Association. Dr. Jane Glaubinger, Curator of Prints, The Cleveland Museum of Art provided all other definitions.
A La Poupée
A single plate is selectively inked in different colors, using stumps of rag known as a poupée.
Fine particles of acid-resistant resin are deposited on the plate and heated so they adhere to the surface. The plate is immersed in acid, which bites into the metal in very small pools around each particle. The tiny depressions retain the ink and when printed give the effect of a soft grain similar to watercolor.
Artists are given a portion of the edition (to sell) as payment (in addition to any monetary compensation) for their work. These proofs are usually annotated “A.P.”
Bon à Tirer (B.A.T.)*
Literally “ready to pull,” the B.A.T. is the final trial proof–approved by the artist–which tells the printer exactly how the edition should look. Each impression in the edition is matched to or modeled after the B.A.T. This proof is used principally when someone other than the artist is printing the series. There is only one of these proofs for an edition. B.A.T. is also referred as R.T.P., or “ready to print.”
A process developed in the 19th century which enabled artists to print on delicate papers imported from China. This paper (“chine”) was attached (“collé”) to a heavier paper support as it passed through the etching press.
A symbol or logo that is either embossed or stamped on each print of a finished edition, including all proofs, as a way to identify the printer and publisher of the edition. A printer will often have his/her own individual chop that is separate from the publisher’s chop.
Drawing directly on the metal plate with a sharp point creates a rough ridge of metal -a burr- along the furrow or line. When the plate is inked, the burr catches the ink, producing dark, velvety accents.
The set of identical impressions (prints) made from an individual matrix created by the artist, either working alone or in conjunction with a master printer.
A set of impressions (prints) that vary slightly from one to another. This may be due to different inking techniques, color, or the addition of certain changing elements. Edition Variable is related to the term Monoprint, although the intention is to maintain extremely similar impression from print to print rather than producing unique images.
Any process used to create a raised or depressed surface, sometimes without ink.
A metal plate is coated with a varnish-like substance (known as the “ground”) that is impervious to acid. The artist creates an image by drawing through the ground with an etching needle to expose the metal. The entire plate is then immersed in acid until the exposed lines are sufficiently bitten, producing grooves in the metal that will hold the ink. The ground is then removed, and the plate is ready to be inked and printed.
Lines are created by incising the plate, as in engraving or etching. The lines are sunken grooves in the plate.
Linoleum cut (or linocut)
A relief technique like woodcut but using linoleum rather than wood.
The design is drawn on a stone (or certain types of plates) with a greasy crayon or ink. Water adheres to the bare stone but not to the greasy areas, while the printing ink does the opposite; it sticks to the greasy areas but not to the wet stone, reproducing the design when printed.
From the Latin word mater, meaning mother, the matrix is the surface on which the artist creates an image prior to printing; for example, a woodblock, a linoleum block, a metal plate, a lithographic stone, or a mesh screen.
The metal plate is systematically worked over with a spiked tool called a rocker until it is thoroughly roughened. If inked in this state, it will print a solid black. The artist then works from dark to light, smoothing out graduated highlights with a scraper. The smoother the area is, the less ink it will hold, creating an image in a range of tones.
Monoprints are made when an artist alters the image on an already etched or carved and inked plate by adding ink to the surface. When printed, this addition produces an impression that appears different from a conventionally printed impression from the same plate. By manipulating the ink on the plate in each successive printing, the artist may create a series of unique impressions.
In this technique the artist creates a composition in printing ink or paint on any smooth surface which is then covered with a sheet of paper and passed through a press, transferring the image to printing paper. Because of the smooth surface, the pressure applied irrevocably alters the composition, making multiple impressions nearly impossible. In the rare instance that two prints can to be pulled from the same surface, one will be strong and the other weak.
All limited edition prints should be numbered with the first number being the impression number and the second number being the total edition size, e.g. 15/30. The numbering sequence does not necessarily reflect the order of printing, and one must keep in mind that it does not include proofs, only the total in the numbered edition.
This is an intaglio printing process whereby the image is transferred to a plate by using sensitized carbon tissue, which is placed in contact with a positive photo transparency. Following exposure to ultraviolet light, the carbon paper is removed, and the plate is then etched and printed in the normal intaglio manner.
The design is created on a flat surface with no perceptible variation in depth. The image is created on the surface of a stone or plate that is altered chemically (as in lithography) rather than dimensionally (that is, by carving out or incising into).
A complimentary proof given to the printer. There can be from one to several of these proofs, depending on how many craftsmen (printers) were involved in the production of the print.
The image is printed from the raised portions of a carved, etched, or cast block or other rigid material. The printing surface stands in relief above the rest of the block.
A tool with a spiked wheel used to incise lines of even dots on intaglio plates.
(also called serigraph or silkscreen)
Silk or synthetic mesh is stretched tightly over a frame. A stencil is adhered to the fabric, blocking the nonprinting areas. The image areas are open fabric through which ink is forced with a squeegee.
The practice of signing one’s work in pencil or ink became common in the 1880s when artists and publishers noticed that collectors preferred to buy signed impressions rather than unsigned ones. Today it is usual for original prints to be signed, and, in fact, they are often more commercially valuable this way.
The artist draws with a pencil on a piece of paper that has been placed over a special soft etching ground. The pressure of the pencil causes the ground to adhere to the paper, recording the pressure of the artist’s hand. When the paper is peeled from the plate, it takes with it the adhered ground. The plate is then bitten with acid, the remaining ground removed, and the plate inked and printed.
Any stage in the development of a print at which impressions are taken. A change of state occurs only with the addition or removal of lines on a plate.
The process of coating a metal plate with a thin layer of steel by electrolysis, which strengthens its surface for further printing.
Stencil (or pochoir)
Prints are hand colored through specially cut stencils.
In etching and engraving, a method of rendering tone by means of dots and short strokes.
The artist draws on the metal plate using a mixture of sugar, syrup, and ink. When dry, the entire plate is covered with a varnish that is impervious to acid and then placed in warm water. As the sugar melts, it lifts off the varnish and exposes the metal plate where the artist has drawn. These areas are then aquatinted.
The areas around each desired line are cut out of the block of wood so that the lines to be printed stand out in relief.
The artist cuts into the end grain of a hard wood using a sharply pointed instrument called a burin. The surface of the block is inked and printed, producing white lines on a block.