GLOSSARY OF PRINTMAKING TERMS
A la Poupee’: (French: “with a dolly”) The inking of an intaglio plate with several different colours, using a separate brush, cotton bud, pad or rolled felt dolly for each colour.
Aquatint: An intaglio process used to create areas of tone. Fine rosin dust is sprinkled over a plate and fused to it with heat prior to biting with acid. A less toxic method of achieving tone is to spray with enamel paint.
Artist’s Proof (A/P): Approximately 10% of the total number of prints in an edition remain the property of the artist (unless otherwise assigned), and are called Artist’s Proofs. This percentage may be higher for some editions.
Archival Quality: A term used to denote materials having a high degree of permanence.
Biting: The action of acid on a metal plate to incise an image. Also called etching.
Bleed Print: A print where the image is printed up to the edge of the paper.
Blind Emboss: An embossed image in paper – not inked.
Bon a tirer (BAT): French for “Good to Pull” Identifies a proof which will serve as the standard to be maintained during the printing of an edition. One that meets the aesthetic and technical standards of the artist. Also written as “OK” or “Ready to Print” (RTP).
Burnish: To reduce the depth of any detail in an intaglio plate by heavy polishing, either with a steel or agate burnisher.
Catalogue Raissonne: A complete list of prints by an artist. It includes titles, dates, editions and condition of all known prints – usually a posthumous publication.
Chiaroscuro: Italian term meaning extreme gradations from light to dark.
Chine Colle: The process for simultaneously printing a thin sheet of sized Oriental paper and adhering it to a thicker backing sheet using the pressure of the printing process. Can be achieved by planographic or intaglio printing.
Chop mark: A small, embossed mark made in the margin of a print that identifies the printer or publisher.
Collagraph: A printing process by which textured materials are used to create a printable plate. The plate is usually built up by gluing a variety of low relief textural materials – anything that would hold ink—to a plate. Collagraph plates are typically constructed of wood, cardboard or fabric, although in some cases a base material is not necessary. The plate may be comprised of collaged materials, or a single texture. The plate is then inked and printed in relief or intaglio on an etching press.
Colour Proof (C/P) : During the proofing stages of a print, prior to the editioning, the artist may try out inking-up in different colours to see which best expresses the image prior to signing off the BAT.
Composite Print: Any print combining any number of techniques in the one work.
Cyanoype: Known as a blueprint cyanotype was a process discovered with the advent of photography. The print is Prussian blue in colour and made by exposing an object or a negative in contact with prepared paper to the sun or an ultra violet light source. The paper is then simply washed under running water and allowed to dry.
Digital prints: Images printed using current computer printing technology. Images, either all or in part, are created on the computer and stored as a file. The file becomes the printing matrix, equivalent to a wood block, stone or plate. Images are manipulated by special computer software and then printed onto paper or a similar surface. The term “giclée” is often used to refer to digital reproduction prints.
Drypoint: An intaglio method similar to etching, but the lines are scratched directly onto the plate without the use of ground or acid. The drypoint needle sends up rough burrs of metal on either side of the line. These burrs hold large amounts of ink and provide drypoint lines with their characteristically fuzzy appearance when printed. These burrs are very delicate and, unless the plate is steel faced, will disintegrate quickly under the pressure of the printing press, so drypoints editions tend to be fairly small.
Edition: The total number of prints pulled from the plate or stone, numbered and signed by the artist, not counting artist’s proofs, colour proofs, trial proofs and other working proofs outside the edition.
Edition Variable or Variée (E/V): Refers to an edition that uses a common plate throughout, but introduces additional elements (such as a hand-painted background) that are unique to each individual print in the edition.
Engraving : lines cut directly into a plate using a V shaped tool called a burin. Similar to drypoint, but minus the burr. A technique also used by gold and silversmiths to decorate metals.
Emboss: Raised pattern impressed into a sheet of paper.
Etching: An intaglio technique in which an artist uses an etching needle to draw though a waxy, acid resistant ground that has been applied to a metal plate. The plate is then placed in an acid bath and the acid ‘bites’, or etches the image into the metal. The ground is removed and the plate is inked and then wiped so that only the etched lines hold any ink. When paper is placed on the plate and run through at printing press, the pressure forced the paper into the etched lines and it picks up the ink. Etching is essentially a linear medium, in which a network of fine lines constructs a composition. Artists have favoured this technique since the Renaissance, in large because of the ease with which a composition can be rendered.
Foxing: Brown stains appearing on sheets of paper, caused by chemical action upon iron salts present in the paper.
Ghost Print: A print taken from the plate as a second print without re-inking.
Giclée Print: Like a ‘pigment print’, refers to a print made from a digital file using an inkjet printer. In both processes the file assumes the role of the printing plate, from which editioned prints are made. In this process, ink is laid down with pinpoint precision by an archival-grade inkjet printer directly onto fine art paper. While ‘Giclée printing’ and ‘pigment printing’ are largely interchangeable terms, ‘Giclee printing’ is a term which arose at the advent of digital printmaking, referring to fine art prints created on IRIS printers that were prevalent in the 1980s. The term is now used to describe printmaking processes on any archival grade inkjet printer.
G.S.M: The weight of one square metre of a given paper expressed in grams. Although a heavier paper is usually thicker than a lighter one, the weight is not directly related to the thickness of the paper, but to the density of the paper.
Ground: An acid-resistant compound of asphaltum, beeswax and rosin used to coat etching plates and through which an image is drawn.
Intaglio: The general term for the metal-plate printing processes in which the areas that hold ink are incised below the surface of the plate. The various intaglio processes include etching, drypoint, engraving, aquatint and mezzotint. Intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning ‘to incise’.
Laser Printing: Print from the output from a computer. The pigment depositing process is similar to that of dry photocopiers.
Linoleum (lino) cut: A relief technique, similar to woodcut, in which the design is cut or gouged from a sheet of linoleum instead of wood.
Lithograph: A printing technique invented in 1798 by the German actor and writer Aloys Senefelder. The lithography technique is based on the fact that oil and water does not mix. A lithograph is a planographic print, meaning that the surface from which it is printed is flat. The image is drawn with lithographic crayons or liquid tusche on a polished slab of limestone (or a specially prepared metal plate – usually aluminium). The stone is then treated with chemicals and dampened with water so that the oil-based printing ink, when rolled on, will adhere only where the drawing is done. Lithography is one of the most direct printmaking mediums because images are executed on a flat surface in much the same manner as crayon drawings or watercolours. It can be used to produce a variety of lines and painterly effects.
Matrix: A surface that is used as the physical base from which images are printed. Etching plates, lithography stones, stencilled silkscreen and woodblocks are examples.
Mezzotint: An intaglio technique whereby a plate that has been previously prepared to print as rich uniform black is gradually scrapped and burnished back to form the desired image. The plate is prepared using a mezzotint rocker – a fine-toothed tool that is rocked repeatedly over the plate to produce a dense evenly burred surface.
Mokulito: An alternative Japanese printmaking process based upon the principles of lithography. It replaces the traditional Bavarian slate used in lithography with a plate of plywood, which each possess the same printmaking qualities.
Monoprint: Like a monotype, a plate is prepared in a painterly fashion using any printmaking technique in singularity or combination. However, unlike monotypes, “monoprint” plates possess some form of basic matrix that allows them to be reproduced. However, due to the nature of the monoprint plate, each print produced in a monoprint edition may be varied.
Monotype: Any form of print utilising any printmaking technique, or combination of techniques in a painterly fashion – where there exists only a single proof. In layman’s terms, a monoprint may be regarded as a form of printed painting where the plate is only usable for a single print.
Offset: To transfer wet ink from one surface to another. The term offset printing generally refers to commercial lithographic processes. The printed image reads the same as the drawing on the plate.
Original Print : An image produced from a stone, plate, block or such-like, that has been directly worked on by an artist. It is the visual expression of an idea where the artist chooses a printmaking process as the best expression of that idea as opposed to other fine art processes such as painting, pastel, sculpture etc. Such a choice does not differ from the decision to work in oil or another medium. The only difference being the possibility of producing a number of identical images with each impression being an original work of art by the artist.
Pigment Print: Like a ‘Giclée print’, refers to a print made from a digital file using an inkjet printer. In both processes the file assumes the role of the printing plate, from which editioned prints are made. In this process, ink is laid down with pinpoint precision by an archival-grade inkjet printer directly onto fine art paper. While ‘Giclée printing’ and ‘pigment printing’ and largely interchangeable terms, ‘pigment printing’ is most commonly used in contemporary printmaking as it is more suggestive of the evolved inkjet printing technologies that have arose since the advent of ‘Giclée printing’ in the 1980s.
Pochoir: French term for stencil.
Proof: Any print that is not part of a regular edition. Trial proofs are pulled to check progress while an image is being developed on the plate. Working proofs are trial proofs that the artist has altered by hand, usually through drawing or painting for the purpose of working out subsequent changes to the composition on the printing plate. Artists Proofs (AP) and Printers Proofs (PP) do not different from the regular edition, but they are not sold as part of the edition and they are not part of the regular numbering sequence. Hors commerce (HC) may differ slightly, in terms of paper used or the inking.
Relief Printing: Any form of printing, such as woodcut, linoleum cut, or rubberstamping in which raised areas are inked and printed while recessed areas are not.
Screen-printing: A stencil printing technique where a stencil is supported by a tightly stretched fine woven silk or synthetic mesh. Ink is forced through the prepared screen to create a printed image of an individual stencil. Often screen-prints are created by layering a number different stencils. Screen printing may also utilise chemical processes and finishing techniques to alter the screen and produce a wide variety of gradients and effects.
Serigraphy: A term originated by Carl Zigrosser to indicate the use of screen-printing as a fine arts process, as distinct from commercial printing.
Silk-screen: The frame and stretched mesh used in screen printing. In contemporary screen printing silk is often substituted with synthetic meshes.
Solar Plate: A plate of thin steel with a surface coating of light sensitive photopolymer that can be used for relief and intaglio printmaking. UV light hardens the areas not blocked out by carbon (the artwork) and these unexposed areas wash out with tap water to reveal the etched surface.
Stencil: A sheet made of paper, film, plastic or thin metal, in which lettering or a design has been cut so that ink applied to the sheets will transfer to the surface beneath. Stencils are often used to add colour to black and white prints. They can be printed independently using dabbers, rollers, brushes, spray guns or other means, or they can be applied to screens for screenprinting.
Trial Proof (T/P): A proof pulled to determine the appearance of the image.
Unique Sate: Also known as a ‘unique print’. Refers to prints that are produced as singular entities, rather than a part of an edition.
Woodcut: A relief printing process where the image is cut on the plank side of the wood.
Wood Engraving: A relief printing process where the image is cut into the end grain of the wood.