800.717.4ART (4278)
LOCAL: 301.714.2278
by appointment

Tuesday - Saturday
10 to 5:30

Noon to 5

Art Terms                                       Framing Terms

Print - Making

WHAT EXACTLY IS A (HAND-PULLED) PRINT? Unlike paintings or drawings, prints generally exist in multiple examples. They are created by drawing not directly on paper but on another surface, the printing 'element' or matrix, and then, by various techniques, printing that image on paper. Those techniques may involve the use of one or another kind of printing press and ink, or the image may be transferred by pressing the paper by hand onto the inked surface of the matrix and rubbing. There are three principal printmaking techniques: relief printing (woodcut, wood engraving, linocut), intaglio printing (etching, drypoint etc.), and planographic (lithography, screenprinting etc.).Multiple "originals" or impressions are made by printing additional pieces of paper from the matrix in the same way. The total number of impressions an artist decides to make for any one image is called an edition. In modern times each print in an edition is signed and numbered by the artist, but this did not become common practice until the mid-nineteenth century.


Each of the various methods of printmaking yields a distinctive appearance, and an artist will often choose a technique in order to achieve a specific, desired effect. Artists may, and do, combine different techniques. Since some modern techniques are quite complicated, many artists use professional printers to help create the final work. Relief Printing TechniquesThe relief method of printing is the oldest method of reproducing designs. Designs cut into wood blocks were used to print Eqyptian textiles (around 600 AD) and religious images in China soon after. The first known playing cards (1327, France) were printed from woodcuts as were all early book illustrations.Relief Printing
In this technique, the artist sketches a composition on a wood block or other surface and then cuts away pieces from the surface, leaving only the composition raised. Ink is then applied to the surface with a roller and the image transferred to paper with a press or by hand burnishing or rubbing. In all relief techniques it is the surface of the block that is inked and printed. Since the recessed, cut-away areas do not receive ink, they appear white on the printed image. Relief prints are characterized by bold dark-light contrasts and an impress into the paper of the inked lines. The primary relief techniques are woodcut, wood engraving, and linocut.
The design is drawn on a wood plank (side grain) and those areas that are not to print are cut away well below the surface with a knife or gouge. Woodcut is the earliest and most enduring, in that it is still practiced, of all print techniques. While woodcuts were first seen in ninth-century China, Western artists have made woodcut prints since the fourteenth century. They were originally conceived as religious icons and sold as souvenirs of a pilgrimage to some holy site. Woodcut soon became a popular medium for the mass distribution of religious and instructive imagery in Europe, not least through books since, with the invention of movable type, the woodblock matrix could be set in the same press with the text and both text and image printed together. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, woodcuts were developed in Japan to an exceptional level of artistic achievement, what is known as the ukiyo-e period or style.Linocut is the same technique using linoleum rather than wood.Chiaroscuro Woodcut.
The design is divided among several blocks, each to print a different color, with or without overlaps. Those areas cut away in all blocks will not print at all and thus provide highlights of the natural color of the paper used, the light of the "light-dark" technique. The blocks must be carefully matched in placement of the design (registration) and the paper must pass through as many printings as there are blocks.Chiaroscuro Woodcuts involve the use of several blocks, often one for each color to be used and sometimes one to outline the composition of the image. The print is made by printing a sheet of paper with each of the blocks in turn, using some method of registration to avoid misplacement or overlapping. Where a non-printing area has been cut out of all the blocks, the natural white of the paper shows through in the finished print, giving the reason for the name Chiaroscuro (Light-Dark). Usually no more than three or four blocks are used and the purpose of the technique is to imitate the appearance of a wash drawing, not to attempt to capture reality.Color Woodcuts, in the West a product of the nineteenth century, use the same techniques as chiaroscuros, but often carried to an enormous complexity of multiple blocks and over-lapping, and they commonly employ more realistic colors. The greater the complexity, the greater the rate of failed or imperfect impressions, so impressions of many color woodcuts are both rare and expensive. In Japan the color woodcut had much earlier become the dominant print technique and the complexities and subtleties of the greatest masterpieces have probably never been equaled elsewhere.White Line Woodcut. This is a technique developed in America that allows a color woodcut print to be produced from a single block. The outline of the design is cut away (so that it will not print) and the desired colors are painted on the block, always separated by the cut-away outline. When printed, the image shows a white line delimiting each area of color.Wood Engraving.
Tools similar to metal engraving are used on polished blocks of end-grain wood (usually boxwood), but instead of producing lines that will print, they are used to produce non-printing lines. It is the uncut surface that will take the ink and print. Wood Engravings are made from the end-grain surface of very hard wood, usually boxwood, as opposed to woodcuts, which are made from side-grain planks of wood neither so hard nor so expensive. Rather than cutting away non-printing areas with a knife, wood engravings are made with fine engraving tools, which, however, engrave the non-printing areas. As in woodcuts, it is the surface that takes the ink and prints. Incredible precision and detail is possible in this technique. Linocuts are printed from a linoleum block, usually backed with wood for reinforcement. The linoleum is handled in exactly the same way as a wood block but, since it does not have a wood grain, the surface of the resulting print will have less texture. Color linocuts are produced by the same method as color woodcuts. The material takes all types of lines but is most suited to large designs with contrasting tints.Block Print: A relief-printing technique in which incisions made in a wood or linoleum block print white, and what is left in relief prints black.Intaglio Printing Techniques
Intaglio: Intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning "to incise." A term that includes all metal plate engraving and etching processes in which the printing areas are recessed, e.g., engraving, etching, drypoint and aquatint.print-making.All-metal plate engraving and etching processes in which the printing areas are recessed, i.e., the lines that form the design are cut into the surface. The plate is inked and then wiped so that the paper receives the ink from the incised lines and not from the surface of the plate. In intaglio printing, an image is incised with a pointed tool or "bitten" with acid into a metal plate, usually copper or zinc. The plate is covered with ink, and then wiped so that only the incised grooves contain ink. The plate and a dampened sheet of paper are then run through a press together to create the print. Usually the paper sheet is larger than the plate so that the physical impress of the plate edges, or the platemark, shows on the paper. The ink on the print tends to be slightly raised above the surface of the paper.The intaglio family of printmaking techniques includes engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, etching, aquatint, and spitbite aquatint.A printing process in which the image is incised or etched into a metal plate using a variety of techniques and tools. Ink is applied to the recessed areas of the printing plate by wiping, dabbing, or a combination of both. The paper receives the ink from the incised marks and not from the top surface of the plate, although thin films of ink may be left on the surface to produce a variety of tonal effects. For intaglio printing, the paper is dampened so that under printing pressure it will be squeezed into all the inked recesses of the plate and around it (leaving a PLATE MARK if the plate is smaller than the paper). One of the distinguishing characteristics of this type of printing is that the dried ink impression stands up from the paper in very slight relief, perceptible by touching with the fingers or by close inspection.In all intaglio prints except mezzotint the design is produced from ink in lines or areas below the surface of the plate. The smooth surface is wiped of ink before printing. Considerable pressure is used in the press to force the ink out of the lines and areas and, to an extent, to force the paper into them, so the final printed image will appear to be slightly raised above the surface of the uninked paper.Etching A process by which graphics are taken from a metal plate, on which the drawing is bitten with acid into the surface of the plate. A clean polished copper plate (or occasionally zinc or steel), is covered with a thin coating of acid-resisting etching ground. The drawing to be reproduced is either traced onto the blackened surface of the grounded plate, or is drawn directly onto the surface, using the burin, which exposes the metal in the drawn areas. The edges and back of the plate are then coated with an acid-resistant varnish and it is then immersed in a bath of acid which attacks the metal where it is exposed. When the lightest parts are bitten to the artist's liking, the plate is taken out of the acid and the work stopped out with varnish. The process can then be repeated until the work is completed to the artist's satisfaction. The ground and varnish are then removed with a solvent and the plate is then inked. Ink is applied to the entire surface and then carefully rubbed off, leaving the ink in the bitten areas. Impressions are made on damp paper, which is forced into the ink filled lines as the paper and plate are put through a pressure press.This is an abbreviated list of the most commonly encountered types of Please see the glossary of terms for other information.

Engraving - An intaglio printing process in which a design (lines) are incised on a highly polished metal plate by means of a sharp-pointed instrument called a burin or graver. The tool works like a plow cutting a furrow. As it is moved across the plate, shavings, called burr, are forced to either side of the lines being created and these are usually cleaned from the plate before inking. An engraved line may be deep or fine, has a sharp and clean appearance and tapers to an end. The process is slow and painstaking and generally produces formal-looking results. The strength of the line may be increased by cutting deeper. The burin is held in a fixed position and, to produce a curved line, the plate itself is turned. This makes engraving a slow and painstaking technique producing controlled, formal results.Engraving: A type of intaglio printing in which the plate is cut with a tool called a "graver" or "burin," which cuts a V-shaped trough. Engraved lines are cut so they are sharp and clean, and can be distinguished from etched lines, which are slightly irregular since they are bitten unevenly by the acidENGRAVING - an intaglio print made by cutting slices of metal out of a plate. Ink is held in the lines and transferred under pressure from the plate to the paper. Lines cut into a plate by hand with a steel burin or graver; no acid is used. The metal which is displaced in cutting is smoothed with a scraper which results in crisp, meticulous lines. Then the entire plate is thoroughly inked, with care taken to force the ink down into all of the lines, completely filling them. The surface is wiped clean, leaving the incised lines filled. A press is used to transfer the image onto paper. Characterized by sharp, clean lines and high definition. Also called line engraving.- examples -

made by creating a burr, or raised bank, on each side of the cut. The burr produces a velvety line on the print.
Drypoint Engraving A process of engraving upon a copper plate with a burin,scoring deeply into the plate, creating a furrow bordered by rough, upturned edges (the burr), which hold the ink. In line engraving, the slight burr made by the burin is removed, but in drypoint engraving the burr is left. Therefore, prints taken from a drypoint engraving have a special velvety black line. Lines are scratched into the metal plate using any sharp instrument with the same freedom as a pencil. The effect is spontaneous, not formal. Cutting into the plate throws up, on each side of the cut, ridges of displaced metal, which are called burr. In the printing of the plate, these ridges will also take some ink and print a kind of inky glow around the line.Drypoint prints are created by scratching a drawing into a metal plate with a needle or other sharp tool. The technique allows the greatest freedom of line, from the most delicate hairline to the heaviest gash. In drypoint the burr is not scraped away before printing but stays on the surface of the plate to print a velvety cloud of ink until it is worn away by repeated printings. Drypoint plates (particularly the burr on them) wear more quickly than etched or engraved plates and therefore allow for fewer satisfactory impressions and show far greater differences from first impression to last.

Etching has been a favored technique for artists for centuries, largely because the method of inscribing the image is so similar to drawing with a pencil or pen. An etching begins with a metal plate (originally iron but now usually copper) that has been coated with a waxy substance called a "ground." The artist creates the composition by drawing through the ground with a stylus to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which "bites" or chemically dissolves the metal in the exposed lines. For printing, the ground is removed, the plate is inked and then wiped clean. It is then covered with a sheet of dampened paper and run through a press, which not only transfers the ink but forces the paper into the lines, resulting in the raised character of the lines on the impression. Etched lines usually have blunt rather than tapering ends. . Lines are bitten into the metal plate through the use of acid. To begin with, the plate is covered with a thin, acid-impervious coating called a ground which is smoked to a uniform black. Lines are drawn through the ground with a stylus baring the metal of the plate. Acid is then applied which eats into the exposed areas. The longer the plate is exposed to the acid, the deeper the bite and therefore the stronger the line. Different depths are achieved by covering some lines with acid-impervious varnish (stop-out) and biting others a second (or third) time. The appearance of etchings is usually free and spontaneous but the technique has occasionally been used to produce results almost as formal as engraving.an intaglio print produced by using acid to cut away (etch) the drawing on the plate. The lines are filled with ink, damp rag paper is laid on the plate, and they are put through an etching press to produce the edition.A printing process. A metal plate is covered with an acid-resisting ground. The design is scratched through this ground, exposing the metal beneath. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, causing the scratched or exposed areas to be eaten away. The plate is wiped clean, inked and the higher surfaces cleaned again, allowing the ink to remain in the incised areas. A press is then used to transfer the image onto paper. (n) Art work so executed.A use of chemicals to achieve a surface treatment.(prints & drawings) A printing process in which chemical agents are used to deepen lines drawn onto a printing plate.- examples -

Aquatint is an etching process concerned with areas of tone rather than line. For this technique, the plate is covered with a ground or resin that is granular rather than solid (as in etching) and bitten, like etching, with acid. The acid bites between the granules. The design, wholly in tonal areas not line, is produced by protecting certain areas of the plate from the acid with an impervious varnish, by multiple bitings to produce different degrees of darkness, and by the use of several different resins with different grains. A technique of acid-biting areas of tone rather than lines. A ground is used that is not completely impervious to acid, and a pebbly or granular texture (broad or fine) is produced on the metal plate. Stop-out and second and third bitings are.used to produce variations of darkness.Aquatint A process for producing tone etchings, so named because the finished print resembles watercolor drawings in quality. The ordinary bitten line of etching is combined with a delicate tone or tint produced by etching the copper plate with acid through a protective resist. This resist, or ground, is laid by flooding the copper plate with dissolved powdered resin, or by inserting the copper plate in a dust box. Using the dust box method, the coating of resin dust has to be fastened to the plate by heating it. From this stage on the process is similar to etching. Those parts of the design whichare to be left white are protected with an acid resistant material such as varnish, or are "stopped out", and the rest of the plate is bitten. Varying tonal effects are achieved by repeated varnishing and immersion. After preparation of the plate, the edition is pulled as would be in other etching techniques.- examples -

Soft-ground Etching Soft Ground - The artist covers a plate with a sticky soft substance (ground) which is then covered with either a sheet of paper or fabric (Holston & Mallett have used lace in some of their soft ground etchings) upon which the artist may then draw. When the fabric or paper is lifted off, the ground sticks to the drawn upon areas. The plate is then 'bitten' in an acid bath in the usual manner. The resulting plate (& etching) often has incredible textural range & variation.An etching process which produces a print with a quality of line and tone resembling a pencil or chalk drawing. A soft, acid-resisting ground is laid on the metal plate. The design is then drawn with a sharp pencil upon thin paper stretched over the ground plate. This causes the ground to adhere to the paper where it has been pressed down with thepencil. Thus, when the paper is removed, the metal is left exposed in somewhat irregular or ragged lines. The plate is then immersed in acid, the drawing is bitten into the plate, and then prints are pulled in the standard procedure.

 Hard Ground - the plate is covered with a hard ground substance which will resist acid. A needle-like tool is used to remove the hard ground in select areas and the plate is then immersed in an acid bath to 'bite' (deepen) the unprotected areas.

Mezzotint is a technique of engraving areas of tone rather than lines. In this method, the entire surface of the plate is roughened by a spiked tool called a rocker so that, if inked at that point, the entire plate would print in solid black. The artist then works "from black to white" by scraping or burnishing areas so that they will hold less or no ink, yielding modulated tones. Because of its capabilities for producing almost infinite gradations of tone and tonal areas, mezzotint has been the most successful technique for the black-and-white adaptation of oil-painted images to the print medium. Mezzotint A process of engraving in which the design is produced by scraping the half tones and highlights from a specially roughened black printing surface. The copper plate is first roughened with a rocker, ( a tool with a wide, curved, serrated edge) which is used to rock the surface of the plate uniformly at a number of different angles causing an even burr, which holds the ink and makes it possible to print a rich, velvety black. he artist then scrapes out with a rnezzotint scraper those areas of his design which he desires to print in a lighter tone, or completely rubs the burr out for those areas to be printed white.
Mezzotint: A reverse-engraving procedure in which the entire surface of a copper or steel plate is heavily abraded with a tool called a "rocker" or "cradle." The resulting surface, called the "burr," prints as a dark, velvety black. White areas are made by burnishing and scraping the burr to create smooth, depressed areas which will not take the ink. Half-tones are created by partially burnishing and scraping the burr. The only intaglio technique that proceeds from dark to light rather than the opposite. The metal plate is totally abraded with an instrument called a rocker. Were it inked and printed at this point, it would produce an even, rich black. The design, in areas of tone rather than lines, is produced entirely by smoothing areas of the plate with a scraper or a burnishing tool. The more scraping and burnishing done, the lighter the area.type of intaglio printing where a metal plate is roughened with burrs. The image is made by burnishing and scraping the plate to create smooth areas that will not hold ink.Mezzotints are characterized by a rich, velvet overall appearance with numerous tonal ranges.


Photogravure: Prints in which the original image is photographed through a finely cross-ruled screen onto copper-plates, the margins and non-printing areas of the plate are covered with acid resist and the plate is then etched. A type of intaglio printmaking. In this method the proofs are pulled on dry paper through an etching press. Also called Heliogravure.


Planographic Printing Techniques

In planographic printing, as opposed to intaglio and relief processes, there is no difference in level between the inked surface and the non-inked surface.

Planographic Printing

As suggested by the name, planographic printing includes all those techniques in which the ink is neither pressed down into the paper nor raised above the surface of the paper, but lies in a flat plane on the surface. In planographic techniques the pressure of the press, if indeed there is a press at all, is generally much lighter than with relief or intaglio printing.

Lithography. Invented in 1798, lithography is perhaps best known from the prints of the 1890's by artists like Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec. The process is based on the mutual antipathy of oil and water. To make a lithograph, the artist uses an oily or greasy medium such as a crayon or tusche (an oily liquid wash) to draw a composition on a flat, ground stone. The surface of the stone is then flooded with water, which is repelled by the greasy areas and stays only where the drawing isn't. Printer's ink (oily) is applied to the stone with a roller and it, in turn, sticks only to the greasy sections, as the water repels it elsewhere. The stone is then covered with a sheet of paper and run through the press to create the print. Though lithography literally means "stone drawing," in modern times the expensive and unwieldy limestone block has often been replaced by a grained metal plate, in which case the print is sometimes called a zincograph. The stone or plate, it should be noted, is not etched or engraved in any way but simply acts as a solid surface for the antipathetic actions of oil and water. A transfer lithograph, in French parlance, an autographie, is one in which the original design was drawn on a paper made especially for the process and then mechanically (not photographically) transferred to the stone or plate. A photo-lithograph is generally a reproduction and not an original print. Color lithographs are made through the use of several stones or plates to separate the colors and printing the same sheet of paper with each of them in turn. A lithotint, in traditional usage and as made by J. A. M. Whistler, is a lithograph in which the image is created on the stone with a brush and oil-based ink in the manner of a wash drawing. It is otherwise handled and printed exactly like a crayon lithograph.

Screenprinting does not require a printing press. This technique was made famous in the 1960's, when artists such as Andy Warhol exploited its bold, commercial look to make Pop icons. To make a screenprint, an image that has been cut out of paper or fabric is attached to a piece of tautly stretched mesh. Paint is then forced through the mesh -- or screen -- onto a sheet of paper beneath it by means of a squeegee. The uncovered areas of the screen will, of course, allow the paint to pass through, while the areas covered by the compositional shapes will not. For works with more than one color, a separate screen is required for each color. This technique is often referred to as serigraphy, a term coined to distinguish between commercial and artistic screenprinting.

Lithograph: A process in which proofs are pulled on a special litho-press from a flat surface that is chemically sensitized to take ink only on the design areas and to repel it on the blank areas. The design is drawn or painted on the polished, or grained, flat surface of a stone, usually Bavarian limestone, with a greasy crayon or ink. The design is chemically fixed on the stone with a weak solution of acid and gum arabic. In printing, the stone is flooded with water which is absorbed everywhere except where repelled by the greasy ink. Oil-based printer's ink is then rolled on the stone, which is repelled in turn by the watersoaked areas and accepted only by the drawn design. A piece of paper is laid on the stone and it is run through the press with light pressure, the final print showing neither a raised nor embossed quality but lying entirely on the surface of the paper. The design may be divided among several stones, properly registered, to produce, through multiple printings, a lithograph in more than one color. A transfer lithograph (French, autographie) employs the same technique, but the design is drawn on special transfer paper and is later mechanically transferred to the stone. A zincograph is the same technique, but employing a zinc plate rather than a stone.

Cliche-Verre (Glass Print).
A glass plate is covered with ink or paint and a design is drawn through it with a stylus or brush, producing a negative matrix. A piece of photo-sensitized paper is placed beneath it and it is exposed to light. A positive, proto-photographic image appears on the paper. It should be noted that this is a print without printing; there is no ink on the paper.


Important Note: Techniques may be, and often have been, combined: etching with drypoint, etching with aquaint, engraving with etching, woodcut with wood engraving, even etching with chiaroscuro woodcut. There are, in addition many dozens of other techniques used, usually in combination with these basic ones, and many variations of the basic techniques. Artists are artists, not technicians, and no true artist will hesitate to use any technique that gives him or her the wanted result.


BITEBiting In etching and aquatint, the immersion of a prepared copper or zinc plate in acid,which "bites" into the exposed metal. When printed, the bitten areas will be visible.

Block - The wooden element (matrix) which is printed in making woodcuts and wood engravings. Also the backing for linoleum used to make linocuts.

Bon a Tirer: This is a French term which translates as "good to print". It denotes that the print that has just been pulled can be used as a guide to match up the remainder of the prints that are pulled in the edition. If the artist is not printing his own edition, the bon à tirer (sometimes abbreviated as b.a.t.) is the final trial proof, the one that the artist has approved, telling the printer that this is the way he wants the edition to look. There is only one of these proofs for an edition.

BURIN/GRAVER - A tool, usually hard steel, used to draw on etching or engraving plates.

BURR - In engraving and drypoint, the ridge of metal plowed up by the burin, graver or needle on the surface of a metal plate. A sharper tool generally produces less burr than a dull one. In a line engraving the burr is removed with a scraper to produce a clean line; in drypoint it is not removed, in order to produce the soft, blurred effect typical of that technique. Also, a burr can be the rough edge remaining on any material after it has been cast, cut, or drilled.

Collagraph: A contemporary intaglio process in which prints are pulled from a block on which the design has been built up like a collage. Various objects are adhered to the block to build up the areas that will print white. The block is inked and then wiped so hat the paper receives the ink from the depressions.

Matrix. From the Latin word mater, meaning mother, the matrix is the form or surface on which the image to be printed is prepared, for example, a woodblock, a metal plate, a lithographic stone or a mesh screen.

Monoprint - - a unique print usually made by drawing or painting onto a plate, then pressing a sheet of paper onto the wet pigment.A one-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet or slab and transferring the still wet painting to a sheet of paper by a hand method; if the painting is done on a metal sheet, it may be run through a press.

A design is drawn in ink or paint on any smooth surface. While the ink or paint is still wet, a piece of paper is laid on top of it and pressure applied, either with a press or by hand. The process, by its name, is meant to produce a single impression, but there is sometimes enough damp ink left on the plate surface to make a second, weaker, impression.

Numbering. The numbering of individual impressions of prints can be found as early as the late nineteenth century. However, it did not become standard practice until the mid 1960's. Today, all limited edition prints should be numbered, with the first number being the impression number and the second number representing the total edition, thus 12/50, impression number 12 from an edition of 50. The numbering sequence does not necessarily reflect the order of printing; prints are not numbered as they come off the press but some time later, after the ink has dried. And one must keep in mind that the edition number does not include proofs (see Proofs), but only the total in the numbered edition.

PLANOGRAPHIC - (prints & drawings) A type of printmaking where the ink is transferred to paper from a flat surface.

PLATEMARK - a mark or line on the paper left when the plate and paper are forced together by the press.

PRINT - An image made from an inked surface. Prints are usually, but not always, produced in multiples.

PRINTMAKING - (prints & drawings) In printing, ink is transferred to paper from another material, usually a metal plate or a wooden block. If the plate or block has been worked so it will receive ink in the same way each time it is applied, then there is a matrix and more than one print can be made.

State A term applied to the stages in making an etching, lithograph, etc. As the work progresses, the artist pulls proofs in order to examine condition or effect.

Signed in the Stone or Plate When the artist's signature is printed along with the image. After creating the image on the plates or stones, the artist will then "sign in the stone" and then the edition is pulled. Not the same as the hand-signature of the artist.

Trial Proof. An impression pulled before the edition in order to see what the print looks like at that stage of development, after which the artist may go back to the matrix and change it. There can be any number of trial proofs, depending upon how that particular artist works, but it is usually a small number and each one usually differs from the others. In French, a trial proof is called an épreuve d'essai, in German a Probedruck.


Printer's Proof. A complimentary proof given to the printer. There can be from one to several of these proofs, depending upon the number of printers involved and the generosity of the artist.

Artist's Proofs. Formerly, when an artist was commissioned to execute a print, he was provided with lodging and living expenses, a printing studio and workmen, supplies and paper. The artist was given a portion of the edition (to sell) as payment for his work. Today, though artists get paid for their editions, the tradition of the "artist's proof" has persisted and a certain number of impressions are put aside for the artist to do with as he will. Artist's proofs are annotated as such or as A.P., or Épreuve d'Artiste or E.A.

Hors Commerce Proof. Impressions annotated H.C. are supposedly "not for sale". These "proofs" started to appear on the market as extensions of editions printed in the late 1960's. They may differ from the edition by, for example, being printed on a different paper or with a variant inking; they may also not differ at all. Publishers sometimes use such impressions as exhibition copies, thereby preserving the numbered impressions from rough usage.

Signatures. The very earliest prints were not signed at all, although by the later part of the fifteenth century many artists indicated their authorship of a print by incorporating a signature or monogram into the matrix design, what is called "signed in the plate" or a "plate signature." While some prints were pencil signed as early as the late eighteenth century, the practice of signing one's work in pencil or ink did not really become common practice until the 1880's. At this time, it was done for the benefit of collectors; artists and publishers noticed that when presented with a choice, collectors preferred to buy pencil-signed impressions rather than unsigned ones. The practice spread rapidly and today it is usual for original prints to be signed. An unsigned impression of the same print is generally not as commercially valuable. When a print is described simply as "signed" it should mean that is signed in pencil, ink or crayon; a plate signature should not be described as "signed." A stamped signature should be described as such.

Second Edition. A second edition is a later printing, usually authorized by the artist or by his heirs, from the original matrix, after an edition of declared number has already been printed. It should be annotated as a second, or subsequent, edition. Sometimes second editions are made, many years after the first, because the artist originally printed only four or five impressions, hardly amounting to an edition at all. Other times, they are simply a method of extending the commercial possibilities of the matrix to a greatly expanded market. A photographically produced replica of the original print, whether printed in a limited edition or not, is not a second edition; it is a reproduction.

Restrikes. Theoretically, these are any printings made after the first edition. A more useful definition, though, would define restrikes as later impressions not authorized by the artist or his heirs, as opposed to authorized subsequent editions. The inevitable problem with restrikes is that they are printed in almost unlimited quantities, thus diluting the value of every individual impression. While some restrikes are of good appearance, the excessive printing of the matrix tends to wear it out and many restrikes are only ghostly images of what the print is supposed to be. In the case of images that may be intrinsically valuable (i.e. Rembrandt etchings), the worn-out copper plate is frequently reworked several centuries later so that while the restrike may be said to have come from the original plate, there is hardly anything left of the original work on the plate, even the plate signature often being re-etched by someone else.

Posthumous Edition. This is one printed from a matrix after the death of the artist. It has usually been authorized by the artist's heirs or is the product of a publisher who previously purchased the matrix from the artist. It should be limited in some way (though not necessarily hand-numbered) or it becomes simply a limitless restrike. Posthumous editions of prints that were pencil signed in their original edition frequently bear stamped signatures authorized by the artist's heirs or the publisher.

Cancelling Plates. In modern terms, after a limited edition of a print is completed, the plate or stone or block may be erased or defaced with lines or holes to discourage further printing. This ensures the integrity of the size of the original edition by either preventing any further printings or by making any later printings recognizably different from the original ones. In earlier times, matrices were often printed until they wore out or until there was no further demand for the print, although lithographic stones, being very expensive, were usually erased by regrinding to make way for another image. The physical cancellation of plates began, like pencil signatures, sometime around the 1880's, but it has not been universally practiced.

Publisher. A publisher is one who underwrites the printing and marketing of an artist's prints. An artist may be his own publisher, but this is no longer as common as it was. A publisher brings together artist and printer (assuming the artist does not do his own printing). The printer may also himself be a publisher. This is not a new idea. There were print publishers already in the sixteenth century and the great majority of original prints made in the nineteenth century were commissioned and brought to market by publishers.


Cliché-Verre, or glass print, is different from every other print technique in that the image on the paper is not produced with ink but with light-sensitive chemicals. The basic cliché-verre is made by coating a clear glass plate with collodion or printer's ink and drawing a design through that coating with a stylus. A sheet of photo-sensitized paper is then placed under it and the assemblage exposed to light (usually sunlight). The image will be received onto the photo paper, exactly in the way that a photographic print is made from a negative, and the image is then chemically fixed. A more sophisticated technique involves painting the design on the glass, the varying densities of the ink or paint appearing on the final print as varying shades of white to black. The technique is proto-photographic, but not reproductive since there is no camera involved. It was especially popular with Corot, Daubigny and other Barbizon artists.

Digital Prints: Iris Prints/Giclée. Iris prints are created by printing computer-generated images on a large-scale ink jet printer manufactured by IRIS. The ink is dispersed by a sophisticated print head in a fine mist of minute droplets in order to deliver a continuous tone image. Iris prints can be made using highly-saturated, archival, water-based inks on a wide range of materials, from traditional art papers to fabrics and wood veneers. See the Winter 2002 issue of 'Off the Wall' for more information on giclees.

Monotype/Monoprint As their names imply, monotypes and monoprints (the words are often used interchangeably but shouldn't be) are prints that have an edition of one, though sometimes a second, weaker impression can be taken from the matrix. A monotype is made by drawing a design in printing ink on any smooth surface, then covering that matrix with a sheet of paper and passing it through a press. The resulting image will be an exact reverse of the original drawing, but relatively flatter because of the pressure of the press. A monoprint is made by taking an already etched and inked plate and adding to the composition by manipulating additional ink on the surface of the plate. This produces an impression different in appearance from a conventionally printed impression from the same plate. Since it is virtually impossible to manipulate the additional ink twice the same way, every monoprint impression will be different from every other one. Degas made monotypes; Whistler made monoprints.

Pochoir is a direct method of hand coloring through a stencil. The stencil itself is usually knife cut from thin coated paper, paperboard, plastic or metal and the ink or paint is applied with a brush through the stencil to the paper beneath. Multi-colored pochoirs are produced with multiple stencils, and the technique has often been used to add colors to black and white lithographs.


COLLAGRAPH - A collage of materials which are sealed on a board and inked. It can be printed by inking the depressed area (intaglio) or as a relief by inking the raised areas.(prints & drawings) An intaglio printing process that uses a printing plate that has elements collaged to it. A collograph plate may also be used to make embossed prints. Collagraph takes its name from the French colle, meaning glue, and the Greek graphos, meaning drawing. An image is composed from a variety of textured materials glued onto a solid base such as cardboard or wood. This is the matrix. The plate may be printed as a relief by rolling ink onto the surface or, alternatively, it may be printed as an intaglio by spreading the ink over the entire matrix and then wiping it off the raised surface. Paper is placed over the inked plate and it is run through a press or printed with hand pressure to transfer the ink. Essentially, it is a print from a collage.

The listings above describe the principal techniques in traditional and contemporary printmaking. There are variants of these techniques (for example, crayon-manner engraving, stipple engraving, soft-ground etching) and combinations of techniques (etching and aquatint, lithography with pochoir coloring). There are also additional techniques, such as embossing, gypsography, sulfur tint, and roulette, which have been used at specific times and places or in combination with other techniques. Interested readers should refer to a more exhaustive discussion of technical procedures than can be accommodated here. Finally, there are photo-reproductive techniques, such as heliogravure, gillotage, collotype, photo-lithography or photo-etching, the products of which are generally not considered to be original prints, but which may on occasion have been used in combination with other techniques to produce an original work.

Artists seeking representation
click here

Check out some of the latest pieces!

Thanks to everyone for inquiring about the launch date of our sister web site original black art.com devoted to investment art for collectors, corporations and museums. Since much of original black art.com will be devoted to acquisition, de-accession, tax benefits and advantages of buying and donating art - our lawyers and accountants are carefully reviewing everything. Thanks for your patience - we have found truly great art and can't wait to show it to you! RightColumnContent