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Aquatint

An etching technique that creates printed tonal areas. Powdered rosin is distributed across a metal plate and adhered through heating. When the plate is submerged in a corrosive bath, tiny areas unprotected by the rosin particles are “eaten away”, creating recesses. Once the rosin is removed, the plate is inked, and ink collects in those areas with uneven surfaces. Finally, damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press, transferring ink in the shape of these areas. Usually the more an area is eaten away, the more ink will transfer during printing, and the darker the tonal area will be.

Chine Collé

The process of adhering one piece of paper to another by using a liquid adhesive and running them together through the printing press. Chine is French for “China,” which refers to the thin Asian paper originally used with this technique, and collé means “glued.”

Collograph 

A technique of relief printing using any combination of actual elements such as cardboard, fabric, washes, carborundum (an abrasive powder), or found objects, which are adhered to a plate, inked, and printed.

Digital printing

A general term for any technique that involves digital technology. Until the mid-1990s, most computer-made images were transferred photochemically onto traditional printing plates or screens. Since then, many artists have used high-resolution digital printing processes on computer-controlled printers. Sometimes the terms Inkjet (a type of printer), Giclée (the French term for inkjet), or Iris (a brand of printer) are used to refer to the printing process.

Drypoint 

An intaglio technique in which marks are cut directly into a metal plate using a tool with a sharp point. The drypoint needle is used like a pencil to incise lines into the plate, displacing ridges of metal called burrs. The plate is wiped with ink, which collects in the incisions as well as under the burrs. Damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press together, transferring ink from both the incision and the burr, resulting in the drypoint’s characteristic fuzzy line.

Engraving 

A technique that creates precise lines which swell in the middle and taper at the ends. Lines are incised into a bare metal plate using a burin, a tool with a V-shaped blade. The plate is wiped with ink, which collects in the incisions. Damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press together, transferring ink from the incisions to the paper.

Etching

An intaglio technique that can create a wide variety of printed marks. A resist is first applied to a clean metal plate (such as zinc or copper).  The resist is selectively scraped off to reveal the bare plate beneath. When the plate is placed in a corrosive acid bath, only the exposed metal areas corrode. The plate is then inked; ink remaining on the surface of the plate is wiped away with cheesecloth, news print, or hand-wiping. Damp paper is laid on the plate; paper and plate are run through a press, and the ink is transferred from the recesses to the paper.

Intaglio 

A term for the family of printing techniques which transfers ink from the recesses of a matrix, rather than from its surface. Techniques using intaglio printing include etchingengravingdrypointaquatint, and mezzotint. Intaglio comes from the Italian word intaglaire, which means “to incise.”

Letterpress 

relief technique for printing movable type (though blocks with images may also be used). Metal, wood, or polymer forms of a standard height are set in place in the bed of a press. Since ink is transferred from the surface of the blocks by the application of pressure, letterpress prints are recognizable for their embossed printed forms.

Linocut 

relief technique using a sheet of linoleum from which shapes are gouged away using chisels or knives, leaving the printing image as the raised surface. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure. Linoleum is softer and therefore easier to carve than wood; however, it exhibits neither wood’s characteristic grain nor its durability.

Lithography 

A planographic technique that can print a variety of drawn and painterly marks. Traditionally, a grease pencil or tusche (greasy watercolor) is applied to a flat slab of limestone, selectively filling the stone’s pores. A chemical mixture securely bonds the stone before water is used to fill the remaining pores. The oil-based ink used is attracted only to those areas that have retained grease. Damp paper is laid on the face of the stone, and they are run through a press together, transferring ink from the surface. Aluminum plates may also be used.

Mezzotint 

An intaglio technique in which the surface of a metal plate is first uniformly pitted using a rocker. A mezzotint rocker is serrated on the bottom and must be rocked back and forth by hand, a demanding task. A rounded metal tool called a burnisher is then used to gradually and selectively smooth out areas, causing them to retain less ink. Damp paper is laid on the plate, and they are run through a press together. The fully pitted areas transfer more ink than the burnished sections, creating mezzotint’s characteristic gradations of tone.

Monotyping

A technique involving the painting, rolling, or scraping of ink onto a uniform surface, which is transferred to paper by the application of pressure. Because the monotype matrix is unaltered and each unique inking is transferred in a single printing, the print cannot be duplicated, hence its name.

Offset printing

A technique commonly used in commercial printing where an image is transferred first to a rubber cylinder on a mechanized press, from which it is then printed onto paper. An indirect process, offset printing is beneficial because it does not reverse the image from the matrix, nor does the matrix deteriorate quickly. A common use of this technique is offset lithography.

Photogravure 

A general term for any metal plate process in which an image has been transferred to a metal surface by photographic means. A corrosive bath is used to incise the image into the plate before inking and printing. Photoetching is a term alternatively used.

Screenprinting

A technique using stencils made of silk or a synthetic fabric, which has been stretched over a frame. Areas of the screen that are not part of the printing image can be blocked out using a variety of methods. In one common method, the screen is first evenly coated with a water-soluble, light-sensitive liquid. A transparency bearing a printed image prevents projected UV light from hardening parts of the screen. Unhardened areas are then washed out with water before a squeegee is used to press ink evenly through the screen, directly onto paper or fabric. This technique is also known as silkscreen or serigraphy.

Woodcut 

A relief technique using a plank of wood from which shapes are gouged away using chisels or knives, leaving the printing image as the raised surface. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure. Woodcuts are characteristic both for the grain that is often evident in the printed image, as well as for their durability.

Wood Engraving

A relief technique requiring a hard plank of wood, which is incised with fine lines using sharp tools. Unlike the woodcut, a wood engraving requires a harder plank whose face is cut perpendicular to the grain. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure.