What is an Original Print?
An original print is a work of art created by an artist-printmaker through the application and manipulation of one or more printmaking methods. Original prints are usually printed by the artist's own hand. A printmaker works with the materials and processes of the medium to create one or a number of prints as a limited edition. Prints in an edition are not necessarily completely identical; the artist may intend there to be different versions of the same image.
The printmaker uses a range of artistic skills and judgments throughout the whole process from creating the blocks or plates, choosing and mixing colors and controlling the variables in the printing process. The result is an original piece of fine art, usually for a fraction of the price of an original painting or drawing.
Sometimes paintings are photographed and commercially printed or these days even photocopied. These are mass-produced reproductions and are essentially posters at best. They are definitely not original prints. An original print is not a copy of anything else.
In a relief print the surface of the block is inked and carries the image. The areas that are not wanted to print are cut away. The block is inked with a roller, paper is placed on the block and hand burnished (rubbed) or run through a press. Relief printing is the most ancient of all printmaking methods.
Wood Block (Woodcut)
Wood cuts are created by gouging, cutting or punching into a wood block, rolling with ink, placing paper on the block and applying pressure to create the image, usually by rubbing the back of the paper with a wooden spoon, a baren or sometimes using a printing press. Multi-color prints can be produced by this method. Paper can be blind embossed, that is printed with no ink but you can see the image as the paper has molded to the image on the block. Many artists emphasize and use the grain and imperfections in the wood by brushing the wood with a steel brush. This makes the grain of the wood stand up so that when you print the block, you really see this wood grain in your print.
In a wood engraving the white part of the image is carved away using a series of white lines. This method was first popularized by the English engraver Thomas Bewick. The end grain of very hard wood, such as boxwood, is used for the blocks and lines are engraved with palm held tools called gravers or spit stickers. Scorpers or chisels are used to clear large areas of white in the same way as in woodcut. Images are printed by inking the block thinly with stiff ink and laying the paper over the block and burnishing with a wooden spoon.
Linoleum Block (Linocut)
Linocuts are similar in method to woodcut but with some differences. If you warm the linoleum it becomes soft. Llines can be made easily and the linocut can be worked quickly. Lino has been used since World War One for printmaking, initially by Claude Flight. The futurists were attracted by the immediacy and fluidity that lino could achieve, and used Lino cut to convey their images of modernity and dynamism. It became widely used throughout the 30's by many artists including Picasso, and Matisse.
A relief etching is one where the background of the metal plate is etched away and the surface printed in the same way as a woodcut. An image is drawn or painted with etching ground on the surface of a metal plate and then deep etched with acid. The surface is inked and printed on a letterpress or etching press.
Collograph is a relief plate where the surface of the plate is built up using found objects and collage techniques. These plates can be printed using relief and/or intaglio methods.
Intaglio Print (Etching)
Intaglio is an Italian word that means "below the surface". These plates are usually etched with acid into metal, but many new plates are made from polymer with a photo process, using no acid. To print these plates, the ink is forced into incised lines and recessed textures of the plate and the surface of the plate is wiped clean. The plate is printed with an etching press under lots of pressure, this pushes the paper into the lines to pick up the ink.
Drypoint is the most direct of all intaglio techniques. Lines are scratched onto a copper plate with a needle. Ink is held in the line and in the burr created by the needle scratching the line. Many artists have used drypoint including Rembrandt, Durer & Rodin. Drypoints usually are made in very small editions of 10 or less because the burr that holds the ink breaks down very quickly and the images gets lighter with each print after about 10.
Engraving is a simple method of creating an intaglio plate, although difficult to master. A sharp burin (a shaft of hard steel in a square or diamond shape) is pushed along a metal plate removing slithers of metal. This method can produce crisp, precise and clean lines. Tints and textures can be created by using tools that produce multiple lines on a plate.
Mezzotint is a sophisticated drypoint method. A mezzotint rocker digs into the surface of a copper plate raising tiny burrs. This creates a velvet black when printed over the entire plate. An image is created by scraping and burnishing this surface, smoothing the burr and giving white images. Very delicate work can be produced. Mezzotint is valued by artists for the rich quality of the blacks.
Etching uses acid to cut lines in a metal plate. The plate is covered in an acid-resistant layer and lines scratched and drawn to reveal the metal. When the plate is placed in acid the acid cuts the lines according to the length of time it is left in the acid.
Plates are printed by removing the acid-resistant ground, inking, wiping the surface clean and printing under pressure in an etching press. There are many different methods that can be used, individually or in combination, to produce an etched plate. Line etching, soft ground, aquatint, liftground are just some of the methods.
Screenprinting is a simple and direct method of printing. A screen-print is produced by forcing ink through fabric that has been stretched on a wooden frame. The fabric is blocked out where unprinted areas are wanted forming a stencil. Ink is forced through the open mesh of the fabric, with a rubber blade, onto the surface below. Screen prints produce a good depth of color and can be used to produce prints with many colors. Screens can be made by photo processes, by a hand cut stencil or by various painted methods of blocking out.
Lithography is dependent on the resist of grease to water and water to grease. Lithography is favored by artists who appreciate its ability to capture the complexity and tonality of a pencil or brush stoke. Lithographic plates are produced by drawing on a piece of limestone or fine grained metal with greasy crayons or lithographic tusche (a greasy substance that can be painted or used as an ink). Plates are inked with a leather roller and printed on a special press.
Monotypes and Monoprints
Mono means "one" and this type of print is made by manipulating color on a plate and impressing a single image from the plate. The difference between a monotype and monoprint is the latter having a repeatable area in an image.
A monotype is usually made on a prepared acrylic or metal surface. Color is applied to the plate, then transferred to paper by hand or using a press. After printing there is no ink or color left on the plate; a second or repeated print isn%27t possible.
A monoprint is made using a plate or block that has an area that can be repeated in later prints. Monoprints can be made with an etching plate, a wood block or lino block. The ink is individually manipulated for each printed image. If there is a repeatable matrix, it may be only a small part of the entire print.
With or without a repeated element, the ink or color of ink differs one print to the next each. Each print is a unique individual.
An etching or relief print made on a UV sensitive plate that is exposed in the sun and develops in water. A very non toxic process that is fairly new in the last 20 years.