Discovering Print at Bradford Industrial Museum

Glossary of printing techniques

This glossary will help students to understand the materials and processes used in printmaking.  See also the related video clips - links below).



This method or technique involves the artist making marks on a metal plate with a special tool called a burin. When ink is put onto the plate it settles into the grooves made by the burin. When the print is taken the paper is pressed onto the surface which absorbs the ink from the grooves. You can often see the platemark around the edge of an engraving. This is known as intaglio printmaking.



Instead of cutting into the metal, acid is used to bite into the metal plate. The plate is coated with a substance known as a ground, usually wax or resin, which the artist draws into with an etching needle. The whole plate is immersed in acid, which 'bites' into the metal where the ground has been scratched away. The ground is then cleaned off, the plate inked and paper is pressed onto the surface usually through a heavy press machine. This is another intaglio method.



This method involves the artist making marks in a block of wood. In this method, the design the artist wants is left standing out from the surface whilst the unwanted material is carved away. The ink is rolled over the surface of the block and paper pressed onto the surface. This is known as relief printmaking.



With this method the artist cuts the design into lino leaving the area to be inked in relief, as with the woodcutting technique above. The ink is rolled over the surface of the lino and paper pressed onto the surface. Ruth Fettis produces prints and books on different types of paper using this method.



This method is a kind of stencil printing. A fine mesh screen in a wooden frame is laid on top of a sheet of paper and the ink is forced through the holes of the mesh. Areas of the design where no ink is required are blocked out with another substance, which sets in the holes and doesn’t allow any ink through. For each colour in a screenprint a different screen is used. Shahzia Sikander has used screenprint combined with other media.



This method is based on the principle that oil repels water. Marks are drawn on a surface with a greasy marker. The surface is then dampened with water, which settles only on the unmarked areas. Then a roller with greasy printing ink is rolled over the surface. The ink only sticks to the drawn marks as the water repels it from the rest of the surface. To get a print the paper and the surface are run through the press together. Roy Lichtenstein sometimes made prints using both of Lithography and screenprinting methods.



The artist uses a pencil or other drawing tool to take a rubbing from a textured surface.


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