The Art of Printmaking
Artists can choose from a wide range of materials with which to work, and Printmaker’s enjoy the particular and unique qualities of the print medium in all its diversity. Making an etching, a woodcut or silkscreen for instance, calls for quite different skills, and it may take some time for an Artist to become proficient with their chosen method. Once practiced and at ease with the craft of making the printing plate, ideas and personal plate making techniques combine to produce unique and original work.
Making an intaglio print usually involves working into a thin metal sheet, (‘the plate’ ) where the surface is invested with detail that is either etched, cut, scratched or indented into the surface, and will become the ink holding matrix. The plate is inked over the whole of its surface, and carefully wiped by hand to remove all ink from the unworked areas, so that remaining ink is held in the details made below its surface (the intaglio areas) The image is then transferred to paper under the high pressure of a rolling press.
Other intaglio processes that are also printed on an etching press are dry point, engraving, mezzotint, and intaglio collograph.
Relief prints are made the opposite way to intaglio prints. Using this method, it is the areas that the Artist cuts away (the intaglio areas) that are not inked, so that the details of the image are carried by the raised areas, when the block or plate is surface inked, usually with a roller.
Popular relief methods include woodcut and engraving, linocut and collograph. In more complicated schemes, ambitious printmakers can combine printing methods to produce a single image. Not limited to the above techniques, combination prints often lead to sophisticated and quite striking results.
The ink I use in all work is oil bound pigment, of high permanency. The pigments are the same as used in Artist quality paints, but formulated with different grades of linseed oil to suit the method of printing.
Etchings and other intaglio plates require a drier wipeable ink, relief printing inks have added ‘tack’ for rolling up, and those for lithography and silk screen, again, have different viscosities.
Most of my printing is carried out on 100% cotton rag mould-made paper, usually featuring a deckled edge of a type shown here. The sheets normally bear the makers watermark, and come in a variety of surface textures and weights, to suit different print requirements.
Papers used for intaglio printing are normally dampened before use, and have been specifically developed to withstand the process.
The press featured is a hand rolling etching press, designed to print thin (usually metal) intaglio plates by providing a line of high pressure, cushioned with blankets, that advances slowly over the inked plate and dampened paper as the press bed is wound under the top roller. By contrast, woodblocks and typeface require less transfer pressure and are normally printed on a platen press which provides a static, downward, nipping action.