Art News & Views

A Basic Glossary of Print Media

Concluding Essay

compiled by Lina Vincent Sunish

Relief Method: The surface from which the image is printed stands 'in relief' above the rest of the block. The ink is applied on this surface and is transferred to paper under light pressure. The five main relief methods are explained below...

Woodcut: The wood surface surrounding forms or lines to be printed are cut below the surface so that the areas or lines stand out in relief, and can take ink from a roller.

Linocut: A relief technique exactly like woodcut but using linoleum rather than wood.

Collograph: A process by which a textured surface is created on a rigid base by layering of material. This low-relief surface can be inked and the image transferred to paper.

Wood Engraving: The burin cuts into the end grain of a hardwood to create the desired image. The surface of the block is inked and printed, and can produce white lines on a coloured background.

Intaglio Method:  The image is printed from a recessed design incised or etched into the surface of a plate. The ink lies below the surface of the plate and is transferred to the paper under pressure. The printed lines of an intaglio print stand in relief on the paper. Five main intaglio methods are explained below...

(i)    Engraving: Lines are directly incised into a copper plate with a sharp pointed tool called burin. The curls of copper displaced at the sides of the furrows are cleaned away with a scraper, leaving a clear printable surface.
(ii)  Drypoint: The drawing is made directly on the metal plate with a sharp point, creating a rough ridge of metal called burr along the furrow. When the plate is inked, the burr catches the ink, producing typically dark, velvety lines.
(iii)    Etching: A metal plate is coated with varnish-like "ground" that is acid resistant. The drawing is made by scratching through this layer with a needle tool, exposing areas of metal. The plate is immersed in acid until the exposed lines are sufficiently bitten, producing grooves in the metal that will hold the ink. The ground is removed, and the plate is ready to be inked and printed.
(iv)    Aquatint: Fine particles of acid-resistant resin are deposited on the plate and heated so they stick on to the surface. The plate is submerged in acid which bites into the plate around each particle. The tiny depressions retain the ink and when printed give the effect of a soft grain comparable to watercolour.
(v)    Mezzotint: The surface of the metal plate is systematically roughened with a spiked tool called 'rocker'. If inked in this state it will print a solid black. A scraper is used to smooth out areas and produce graduated highlights. The smoother the area, the less ink it will hold, creating an image in a range of tones.

Viscosity: A multi-colour printmaking technique using principles of intaglio, relief and planographic printing. It is based on the principle that inks of different viscosity or thickness will not mix. Rollers of varied density and softness are used to apply ink on different levels of the etched plate.

Surface method: In planographic printing, as opposed to relief or intaglio printing, there is no difference of levels between the inked and non-inked surface. The three main surface methods are explained below...

(i)    Lithograph: A method based on the principle that water and grease repel each other. The image is drawn on a stone (or certain types of plates) with a greasy crayon or ink. Water adheres to the bare stone and not the greasy areas, while the printing ink rolled on sticks to the greasy areas and not the wet stone--reproducing the image on paper when put through the press with it.
(ii)    Stencil: Prints that are hand-coloured through specially cut stencils.
(iii)   Silkscreen: Silk or synthetic mesh is stretched tightly over a frame. A stencil or a liquid blocker is adhered to the fabric blocking the nonprinting areas. Ink is smoothed over the mesh and forced through unblocked areas with a squeegee, recreating the image on paper or other material.

Digital method: Images printed using a digital printer instead of a traditional printing press. Common technologies used to produce digital prints include inkjet, electrophotography, thermal transfer, and laser imaging (digital photo printing) on photographic paper. These images are usually processed through a computer can be printed to a variety of substrates including paper, cloth, plastic or canvas.

Offset Lithography: The image is transferred from the stone or plate to a roller on the press which then prints the inked image onto the paper.

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