Saturday, August 12, 2000


Intaglio Printing
Intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning "to cut in". The image is cut into a metal plate (usually copper or zinc) using either a sharp tool (engraving) or acid (etching). The plate is then covered with ink and wiped, so that the ink remains only in the incised grooves. A dampened piece of paper is placed over the plate and run through an etching press. The paper is pushed into the grooves and ink is picked up. An easy way to tell an intaglio print is to look for the platemark - the impression of the plate on the paper. The primary intaglio techniques are engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, etching, and aquatint.

Engraving requires only a burin and a metal plate to produce a line, this intaglio technique demands great control. The plate is cut into directly using a sharp-pointed tool called a burin. The engraved line is unique, with a crisp, precise character and clean edges.

Drypoint is a method of intaglio printmaking in which the artist scratches directly on the metal plate with a sharp
instrument such as an etching needle. The technique differs from etching in that it is entirely manual and does not
involve the use of acid to cut the plate. It differs from engraving in that the tool scratches the design on the plate,
displacing the metal rather than removing it. When the drypoint line is scratched into the metal plate the tool creates a
ragged burr on either side of the line. This burr, as well as the incised line itself, holds a great deal of ink and is
responsible for the characteristic feathery nature of the lines.

Mezzotint is essentially engraving in reverse. A spiked roller called a rocker is used to create a textured surface all over
the plate, so that if it was inked and printed it would print in solid black. The picture is then developed in chiaroscuro
with a scraper and a burnisher; the artist works from "black" to "white" by flattening (burnishing) areas so that they do
not hold ink. No line drawing is employed in pure mezzotint, the result being soft without the sharp lines of an etching.

A metal plate is first covered with an acid-proof hard ground made of asphaltum, beeswax, rosin and solvent. Wherever
the artist scratches lines or textures in the ground, the acid will "bite" with clear definition. The longer the plate is left in
the acid the deeper the open lines will become, making them print heavier and increasing the darkness of the print. The
ground is then removed, and the plate is inked, wiped clean and printed in exactly the same way as an engraving. It is
much easier to draw quickly on the waxy ground than it is directly onto the plate and this is why etching became the
preferred technique for artists such as Picasso and Matisse who wanted to match the fluidity of drawing with the
aesthetic possibilities of printing.

Aquatint is a technique used to achieve tonal areas in an intaglio plate. It is a form of etching in which the plate is
covered with many tiny particles of rosin (adhered to the plate by heating), which allows the acid to bite through evenly,
creating areas of tone on top of the incised lines. Because of this, aquatints can often look like ink-brushed drawings or

Invented in 1798, lithography was devised as a way of making posters and reached its height in Paris in the 1890s, when artists like Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec used it to design posters for cabarets and revues. Lithographs were initially made on slabs of stone (usually limestone), although, in the 20th century, the heavy stones began to be replaced by sheets of zinc. The artist draws on the stone or plate using a greasy medium, such as a wax crayon. 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 drawn on. Ink is then applied to the plate with a roller and this sticks only to the greasy sections, as the water protects the rest of the plate. The stone or plate is then covered with paper and run through the press, printing the original crayon drawing.

Relief Printing
In a relief print it is the surface of the block that yields the image. After drawing an image directly onto a suitable surface - such as a wooden block, or a linoblock - the artist then cuts away all the space around it, leaving the drawn areas raised, or in 'relief'. Ink is then rolled on the surface and the image transferred onto paper either by passing the block through a press or rubbing it by hand. Since the cutaway areas do not take the ink, they appear white on the printed image. Relief prints are characterized by bold dark-light contrasts. The primary relief techniques are woodcut, wood engraving, and linocut.

Woodcut is the earliest and most enduring print technique. In a woodcut it is the raised surface containing the positive
image that is printed. The background area is carved away, creating the white, nonprinting, areas.

Wood Engraving
Wood Engraving is an extremely fine form of woodcutting. Unlike the woodcut, the image is developed as an intricate
pattern of white lines. Using blocks made from the end-grain of the wood, the artist can obtain great detail and tonality.

Linocut is essentially the same process as woodcut, the only difference is that linoleum is softer and easier to use.
Linoleum's use as a craft material and as a means of introducing children to printmaking has caused many artists to
avoid it, although excellent work has been done by Matisse and Picasso as early as 1939. Picasso was probably the first
person to devise a reduction method by cutting and printing each color from one block until only the last color portion
remains on the block. The reduction method is best descrbed by its name. One block is reduced in stages to a
multicolored print. The first color is sometimes printed from the whole block. Sometimes a minimal amount of the block
is removed to designate the first color. The number of the edition is established before printing the first color, as there
is no possibility of reprinting. After printing the first color, the block is cut a little more, reinked with a different color
and printed over the first color. THe cutting will continue until an image develops.

An intriguing hybrid among printmaking techniques, monoprints are neither a print nor a painting, but a unique combination of both. It is one image (mono) painted with oil-based or water-based inks onto any surface that will transfer the image onto paper.The two terms monotype and monoprint are often confused and need clarification. A monoprint is a print created through any technique (lithograph, etching, woodblock, etc.) that is altered after it has been printed. Each print is different from the other, as the artist works each etched or worked plate individually, adding color or wiping the ink differently each time a print is pulled. A monotype is the printing of an image from a clean, unworked surface containting no scratching, carving or drawing. The main difference is that with monotypes editions are impossible to pull.