Printmaking is an art form that has been around for centuries with it first developed in China in the fifth century. Printmaking was originally designed to apply patterns to textiles, as time developed the process was then used on paper. Other processes such as engraving, and etching were then created in the 15th century.
Within fine art printmaking, there are many different printing techniques that you can use. We run several printmaking courses that will teach these different printmaking techniques. To read about some of the printmaking techniques that you can learn, keep reading!
Intaglio is used to describe plates which are made either by hand or with acid. Lines, tones and textures are incised in a plate, ink is pushed into these areas, the surface of the plate is then wiped and the plate is printed using an etching press. Etchings, dry-points, photo-etching and some forms of collagraph are known as Intaglio printmaking. Follow this link to see Jenny Gunning printing a large 20” x 28” intaglio etching.
In all of our workshops, you will learn some intaglio techniques, as well as many other printmaking techniques.
Relief printmaking techniques are the opposite of Intaglio. The protruding surfaces of the plate are covered in ink using a roller or brayer on a glass slab to charge the ink before applying it to the plate, with the recesses remaining ink-free. Lino and woodblock are relief plates, however, they can be inked up in Relief or Intaglio and more. The photo on the right of Lino reduction by Jenny GunningBA(HONS) GCF. Follow this link to see some short movies inking and printing using our Gunning Arts etching presses.
Whichever workshop you book onto, you will be experiencing relief in some form or another.
This is a specialist traditional form of printmaking – during the workshop, you will be shown both traditional and contemporary methods. Grounding your plate, etching different variations of line and tone as well as 3 different forms of Aquatint, then printing in both traditional intaglio and relief and contemporary methods. You can choose to use traditional or non – toxic methods and materials!
These are excellent printmaking techniques to learn or to specialise in. This is because it will teach you the beauty of printmaking in its almost original form! It is my favourite printmaking technique. Even if you have been etching for years you will always learn something new when you work with a full-time printmaker!
Framed etching of the Ironbridge by Jenny Gunning BA(HONS)GCF.
Drypoint uses intaglio printmaking techniques. The plate – usually zinc, aluminium, copper or styrene, is scratched into using intaglio tools. Tones are created with sandpaper or cross-hatching and different variations of line are created by pressing harder or wider. The printing plate is traditionally inked up in intaglio and printed with a printing press. However, it can also be inked using other printmaking techniques as well. Drypoint on the right on the press bed by Carrie-Anne.
Mezzotint printmaking techniques are becoming increasingly popular. It allows you to buy the plates already prepared and ready to burnish, eliminating the need for acid. A plate is “rocked’ with a rocker tool that creates indentations into a plate, these have to be exact as the marks create a solid black tone across the plate when printing. The image is created by burnishing (polishing) areas of the plate back to create depth of tone. When performed, the final effects are beautiful! There are also many other printmaking techniques that create the plate without having it rocked. If you would like to learn more, please book a workshop.
This is where a photograph is transferred onto a plate using a UV light-box and UV sensitive film or photo-emulsion. The variation you are using will determine whether you etch the plate or not, it will also determine whether you get a variation of tone. This is a wonderful way of creating plates quickly, however, a good understanding of your materials is needed otherwise it may become frustrating! It is best to do a workshop and be shown how to do this before you get started yourself. If you are experienced in photo-etching and would like to develop your skills further book a workshop with us.
Image of a photo-etching plate using photo-emulsion by Jenny Gunning BA(HONS)GCF.
Carborundum grit is a strong grit which can be used for sprinkling, or alternatively different variations of this grit can be mixed in with plaster or glue and painted with, forming a grain ink to sit in. This is an excellent way of creating a plate in its own right, however, when combined with another process of printmaking, it can produce some fantastic results.
Picture of a carborundum plate by a student of Jenny Gunning BA(HONS)GCF.
There are many forms of collagraph and we do them all here. The most commonly used is the collage – sticking different textures of materials on top of a plate, which when inked up using lots of different colours, provides both the textures and the shapes of the cutouts that you have created. If you would like to learn any other forms of collagraph you would need to book onto one of our workshops.
We provide great workshops for teachers, showing them how to produce 8 different forms of collagraph plates without using acid – allowing them to happily put their hand to making plates and printing from them with their students. Find out more about our Collagraph Printing here.
The picture above of a collagraph plate by Jenny Gunning BA(HONS)GCF.
Lino is a fantastic printmaking technique and is easily set up at home, allowing hand printing without a press. Although the results achieved when using a press are second to none! Use traditional hard lino, or soft easy-cut lino and types of vinyl. We have developed runners for our presses that help the user to change from printing from intaglio to relief plates in no time at all. If you would like to learn more about this system, please book onto one of our workshops.
When you move onto reductions the use of our registration bed allows you to focus your concentration on just the plate, colours and printing.
Photo of three framed pieces by amazing printmaker Lindsay Martin of the London Skyline.
Reduction printmaking techniques use one plate and reducing it (cutting out of it) over and over again, each time registering your plate over previous prints. By using different coloured inks each time and drying agents you can quickly create a multicolour print run. This is commonly known as suicide printing because as soon as you start cutting after you have done your print run you can never reproduce that print again!
Woodcut and reduction of woodcut are very similar printmaking techniques to Lino, but more specialist. There are many types of beautiful woods that you can use depending on the image you wish to create. The different kinds of wood have to be treated differently using the appropriate tools. This is a superb way of making plates, it does, however, require much time and patience. You can print any thickness of wood engraving or woodcut on our presses.
Monotype printmaking techniques are a quick way of producing one print, using a glass, plastic or metal plate, your ink is rolled or painted onto the surface. You can if you wish, create an image or just put colour anywhere on the plate. Put a wet or dry (wet will give you a greater variety of tone) piece of printing paper on the top and then either run through a press or, using rags and paintbrushes, draw on the backside of the paper. Either way, you will be transferring the ink onto the paper.
Mono-printing is the same as above, however, uses the glass, plastic or metal plate with an image on it so that when you transfer the ink from the plate to the paper, the image remains. There are other printmaking techniques that will create these kinds of prints but these two are the most popular.
Image of a Monotype print by Richard Green.
For more information about printmaking techniques, and to book your workshop that will allow you to learn these printmaking techniques, please get in touch.
Below are short descriptions of commonly used printmaking terms and processes that we use here at Gunning Printmakers.
Marbling is an effect you can create using stop-out varnish with water. You apply this to zinc, steel or copper plate which has an aquatint on it. This creates a better tooth for the marbling liquid to sit in. The plate is placed in acid and the effect is etched into the metal. It is then printed using intaglio or relief printing process.
Sugar lift is a sticky liquid that can be homemade or purchased. It is painted onto steel, aluminium, copper or zinc plate and left to dry. Then using stop out varnish or liquid ground you pour over the whole plate, again leaving it to harden, then run the plate under warm water and the sugar liquid previously painted on, lifts from the plate. The plate is then etched in the appropriate acid and then printed using the intaglio or relief method.
There are several different aquatints that can be used, these can be applied in different ways. The aquatint is an acid resist that helps you create a grain on the plate as you etch the tones.
The most traditional aquatint would be the rosin powder and the aquatint box. This distributes the aquatint across the plate evenly. Another way to apply the aquatint powder would be to use a salt and pepper pot, this is more haphazard and not as consistent as the box but one of my favourites and still very effective. Another way is to grind down the aquatint and using a blow torch melt it into the plate, this is an exciting way to use the rosin although caution must be taken and wearing a mask is extremely important! Spray paint is amazing to use, about 25 years ago Dave Gunning started using different kinds of spray paint to get different effects, he was generous enough to share his ideas and today it is now a commonly used aquatint amount printmakers.
Several different acids are used for etching plates. the most traditional being Nitric Acid – this can be used to etch zinc, steel and copper. Ferric Chloride can also be used to etch Copper, this is the non-Toxic alternative to Nitric Acid. Copper sulphate and the salt mix has become very popular, as its non-toxic and can be mixed too many different strengths.
Acid is also used in printmaking in other areas such as the preparation of lithographic stones.
Burnishing is polishing an etched or mezzotint rocked plate to make your whites whiter, or to create different tones in a mezzotint plate.
A mixed media print is one whose design is created on a single plate using a variety of printmaking techniques, for example drypoint, collagraph and etching.
Spit-bite is etching a plate using neat nitric acid – other acids can be used depending on which metal you are etching.