Art Tutorials/Traditional Media/Printmaking

Printmaking is the art of transferring images from one medium to another. Printmaking has been used for centuries to make multiple copies of paintings and other images, as well as to produce decorative objects such as wallpapers and fabrics. There are many forms of printmaking.

Stencil edit

Stencils can range from simple paper cutouts used to block certain areas from receiving color, to elaborate photographic resists in silk-screen printing, the most widespread technique in this group. Along with relief printing, stencils are one of the most approachable printmaking techniques due to the simple equipment required to get started.

Simple Stenciling edit

Silk Screen Printing edit

Relief edit

Relief printing is any where the raised areas of a printing plate are inked and used to make marks on the final support, typically paper. Ukiyo-e woodblock prints are a famous form of relief printmaking, but many other forms exist, including linocuts, wood engravings and collagraphs. As relatively little pressure is required to transfer the ink and other equipment requirements are moderate, these techniques are a popular entry point into printmaking for beginning artists.

Woodblock Printing edit

Wood Engraving edit

Woodcut edit

Linocut edit

Linocuts are made by carving away some of the surface of a piece of wikipedia:linoleum, and then inking the remaining uncarved surface and transferring it to a piece of paper (or another substrate if desired). The equipment requirements for getting started are minimal:

  • a piece of linoleum
  • a sharp knife. While specialized tools (knives, gouges, etc.) are made specifically for linocuts, a simple utility knife could produce very good effects if used with care.
  • an ink roller
  • a flat, non-absorbent surface to roll the ink out on (usually a piece of thick glass or mirror)
  • a tool for applying pressure to the paper to transfer the ink from the plate - while some artist use massive and expensive etching presses for this, a beginner can make do very well with a simple wooden spoon or something similar.
  • ink - water based inks are best for starting out, and they have recently become almost as good as traditional oil-based ones. They are popular because they don't produce hazardous vapors and are a lot easier to clean up.
  • paper - any smooth paper will do, especially for tests, but a heavier, high quality art paper with a smooth surface will produce better finished prints.

Also good to have:

  • a bench hook - a piece of thin plywood or hardboard with strips of wood attached to the front bottom and rear top sides, which hooks on to the edge of a table and provides a work surface with a stop that keeps the linoleum from sliding around. Very handy, can be purchased or easily made with very limited tools.
  • linocut gouges - tools for carving out lines and large areas quickly. Gouges come in a variety of shapes and widths, which produce different effects in the finished print.
  • tracing paper or vellum for transferring images to the plate
  • lots of paper towels or rags

How you get an image onto the plate is a matter of personal choice. Some artists sketch directly on the plate, some use tracing or carbon paper, some use other methods including stamping, stenciling and projection, but certainly not limited to these. For starters it's probably best to start simply, and to draw the desired image on the plate using soft pencils, markers or anything that will not run off the surface of the linoleum. Once the image is drawn, it's time to carve it into the plate. Using a knife or gouges, carefully cut away any area you want to appear white in the final print. Remember, unlike typical drawing, you're creating white lines on a colored background. This can get a bit of getting used to, and there's no substitute for practice for getting the hang of it. Once you reach a phase where you think the plate is close to being finished, it's good to make a test print. Place a dab of ink about an inch across on your ink plate, and using the roller roll it out into a thin layer. The ink will cover the roller as you do. You want the roller to be generously and uniformly coated. A correctly coated roller will roll on the glass without slipping. With the linoleum face up, you then roll the ink onto the plate. Once you do, place the plate in a clean spot, place a sheet of paper over it, and using a wooden spoon or other tool of choice, rub the entire surface of the paper over the plate to transfer the ink. Since the ink is sticky, you can carefully lift a corner of the paper from the plate from time to time to check how the image is transferring, to see whether any areas require further attention. If you keep most of the paper adhered to the plate, you can replace the corner after inspection without shifting anything and continue rubbing until the image is transferred to your satisfaction. Then carefully lift the paper from the plate and place it on a clean surface printed side up. Now examine the proof print you have made. See whether the image is finished, or whether you want to continue making changes. Chances are that at this stage you will want to make many changes. If so, wipe the ink from the plate and continue working on it. Make another test print once in a while to check your progress. Once you're happy with the image, it's time to make as many copies of it as you want. As with the test prints, roll ink out on your ink plate with the roller, transfer the ink to the plate, place a sheet of paper on it, and rub to transfer the ink to the paper. The ink will take some time to dry, especially if you are using oil-based inks, so having a safe place for the prints to dry is useful. After the ink dries, the prints are finished and ready to sell, give away, or simply enjoy them yourself.

Collagraphy edit

Collagraphy is a technique that uses plates built up from a variety of objects glued onto a substrate, which then can be inked as relief or intaglio, or a combination of the two, depending on the artist's intention. Plates can be made using paper and cardboard cutouts, fabrics, meshes, pieces of wood or metal, as well as found objects, as long as they are flat. When used as a relief plate, it is then inked, and the ink is transferred to paper using moderate pressure from any of a number of possible tools, from spoons and sticks to professional etching presses. For intaglio collagraphy, ink is first applied to the plate, then wiped off the high points to leave it in the crevices of the objects of which it is composed. Such a plate must then be run through a specialized etching press to transfer the ink to paper.

Intaglio edit

Intaglio printmaking transfers ink from grooves in a printing plate using the pressure of a printing press. Various techniques exist of creating the grooves, or depressions, ranging from manually engraving them using a graver or drypoint needle, to etching with acid in etchings and aquatints. Due to the need for a printing press, intaglio techniques are not generally practiced outside dedicated print studios.

Engraving edit

Drypoint edit

Etching edit

Aquatint edit

Mezzotint edit

Planographic edit

Planographic techniques refer mainly to lithography and its derivatives. Lithography depends on the lack of adhesion between a wet printing stone (or plate) and the greasy printing ink used. Heavy pressure from a printing press is used to transfer the image to the final support. As with intaglio, these techniques require extensive, and expensive, equipment, and are typically out of reach for beginning artists.

Lithography edit

Xerolithography edit

An image can be transferred from a paper original printed with water-repellent inks, such as xerographic reproductions (only laser copiers and printers will produce these; inkjet images are not suitable) and some varieties of offset prints such as glossy magazines. The paper plate has to be moistened before being inked in order for the wet paper to repel the ink, which will adhere only to printed areas. The plate is then run through a press in contact with the final medium, transferring the ink. Typically paper plates are suitable for single transfers or very limited editions, as the required moisture and high pressure tends to disintegrate them. One source claims that this technique is suitable for use with a spoon to apply the pressure instead of a printing press[[1]].