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Printmaking is the artistic process of transferring an image onto a surface, usually paper. An amazing variety of techniques and processes, both hand and machine produced, have been created. Here are just some of the techniques that are used to produce art prints.

Aquatint

Aquatint

Aquatint is a printmaking technique that produces tonal effects by using acid to eat into the printing plate creating sunken areas which hold the ink.

The process of an aquatint is similar to that of an etching, but the results of an aquatint are focused less on line, and more on shapes.

This technique originated in the late 1800s and became a popular form of printmaking because its visual qualities mimic that of watercolor, hence the name aquatint.

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Digital

Digital

Digital printing is the process of printing digital-based images directly onto a variety of media substrates.

Digital printing differs from traditional, analog printing methods such as offset printing because digital printing machines do not require printing plates. Instead of using metal plates to transfer an image, digital printing presses print the image directly onto the media substrate.

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Etching

Etching

Etching is a printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines (cuts) in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image.

Etching is one of the most commonly used intaglio techniques. Unlike engraving, where you gouge out lines with a hand tool, etching involves incising marks into a plate through a process called “biting.”

The plate is then varnished on the back, and like aquatint, placed into an acid bath where the acid only affects the incised marks and not the wax and varnish.  Delicate effects can be achieved by playing with the bath’s level of acidity, the amount of time it bathes, and a technique called “stopping out” which involves removing the plate and applying varnish to certain areas before bathing it again.

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Foiled

Foiled

A technique where metallic or pigmented foil is applied to a surface using a heated die carrying the design. The die is pressed onto the surface, permanently applying the design.

Foil printing is similar process to letterpress printing.

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Giclée

Giclée

Pronounced – “gee-klay”, the word giclée is a based on the French term meaning “to spray”, referencing how an inkjet printer applies ink to paper.

Originally referring to prints using an Iris printer, the term now refers more loosely to an inkjet print produced using fade-proof pigment inks on archival quality paper.

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Letterpress

Letterpress

A type of relief printing where a metal plate carrying text or a design is used to press ink onto a substrate, usually paper. Plates can be formed of single letters through to entire designs. Individual plates carry different colours which are printed one at a time.

Letterpress was the standard form of producing books other high-volume printed items from the 15th to 19th centuries after it’s invention my Johannes Gutenberg. The introduction of letterpress printing and its capabilities is considered to be one of the most important milestone in modern history.

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Linocut

Linocut

A linocut is a relief print method that uses linoleum as the surface into which the design is cut and printed from.

They have a graphic quality because the relief process forces you to create images with flat planes of colour and fluid lines.

The smooth material has no directional grain, so you are free to carve in any direction you like, unlike woodcut printing. The cut surface is rollered with ink before being printed.

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Monotype

Monotype

There are many methods for creating a monotype, but generally they are made by drawing on glass, or a plate of smooth metal or stone, with a substance such as ink or oil paint. The inked surface is placed onto a piece of paper and rubbed to create the print.

Monotypes are prized because of their unique textural qualities. Unlike other printmaking techniques, they only produce one impression.

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Risograph

Risograph

A risograph is a digital duplicator (a form of copier) which produces high volume affordable prints with a small footprint.

Riso brand digital duplicators were invented by the Riso Kagaku Corporation in the mid-1980s in Tokyo, Japan. The Riso internally creates a stencil that is laid onto a drum filled with ink which then spins at high speed, forcing the ink through the stencil onto the paper.

Risograph prints are known for their intense colours and unique texture.

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Screenprint

A type of stencil printing, using a screen mesh made from fabric stretched tightly over a frame.

A stencil is created from a sheet of plastic film which is attached to the bottom of a mesh screen, then placed on top of a piece of paper. A squeegee is used to pull ink across the top of the screen and is applied to the paper in the areas not blocked off by the stencil.

Screenprints can be can be made up of multiple colours, applied one at a time using a different screen for each colour.

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Screenprint

Woodcut

Another method of relief printing using a block of wood cut along the grain.

Woodcut is the oldest technique used in printmaking. The expressive and organic qualities of woodcut are a big part of the process’ appeal.

The artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges —leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts. Areas that the artist cuts away carry no ink, while characters or images at surface level carry the ink to produce the print. The block is cut along the wood grain (unlike wood engraving, where the block is cut in the end-grain). The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller, leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.’

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Woodcut

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