This is a technique similar to etching, but on wet paper. It is usually combined with etching or dry point, being very effective in colored inks when created from three or more plates. In the oldest, most common method, a clean copper plate is dusted with powdered resin and heated to allow the resin to melt. White areas are stopped-out, and the plate is etched. The resulting evenly pitted surface of the etched areas produces an even tone that may range from delicate gray to deep black according to the depth of the bite. Because acquatint plates are fragile, they should, like dry point plates, be steel-faced for larger editions.
There are three main methods of color printing: separate plate; single plate; and surface–rollup and viscosity. They can be combined and varied. Color is used seldom for engravings but frequently for mezzotint and aquatint.
In the separate plate method, a plate is made for each of the three primary colors and perhaps one for black, according to a drawing defining the color areas. Each plate may be developed in full-tone aquatint plus line etching. A different color is printed each day, or, if one prefers the colors to mix slightly, all may be done in one day. Great care must be taken that the different plates “register”, that is, are placed in exactly the same position on the press so that the layers of color will coincide. When printing on wet paper 1/10 tries is successful since it is very hard to place the wet paper exactly on the register. This is the most complicated and expensive type of printing.
In the single plate method, different parts of one plate are inked with little pads, of starched cheesecloth. Generally the different areas do not touch. This method works especially well when the artist uses a key plate with line etching and aquatint to indicate outline and shading and an aquatint plate to carry the color.
In the surface-rollup and viscosity method, black ink is rubbed into the lines of an intaglio plate, which is then wiped clean. Then various stencils, one for each color, are successively applied and inked. Each color ink preserves its identity because it has been mixed with a different amount of oil to change its viscosity. The plate is printed just once, yet achieves multiple colors.
The artist scratches lines in a plate with a steel, diamond or saphire-pointed tool. The burr is allowed to remain to catch the ink, thus giving a dry point its characteristic soft, slightly fuzzy line. Shadings can be made by cross-hatching or multiple lines and dots. If parts of the plate become too dark, they can be lightened by scraping away the burr. Dry point is freer and more direct than line engraving but is delicate and hard to control. Because a burr is fragile and is worn down in printing, a dry –point plate may give only 20 – 30 impressions, compared to hundreds for an engraving. If the burr is strengthened by electolytically facing the plate with steel or chromium, a plate may make up to 100 impressions. Generally, however, dry point is used in combination with other techniques.
This technique employs a metallic mold, shape or patterned plate, which is placed beneath the paper being printed, prior to being pressed, resulting in a low relief or “raised” pattern in the surface of the paper. The technique may be combined with a variety of printing methods but is typically used with etchings or lithographs. It is also known as chasing or stamping.
Considered an original graphic, they are produced as multiples. The artist, using a sharp implement (burin), scratches directly on the surface of a copper plate creating an image. Ink is rolled into the grooves, the surface wiped cleaned the plate is pressed into moist paper to release the ink onto the sheet. It differs from an etching that it does not rely on acid to create the design and that no corrections in design are possible. A slip of the “burin” and the whole plate is useless.
Considered an original graphic, they are produced as multiples. The artist draws on the surface of a copper or zinc plate, which is coated with an acid-resistant varnish or “ground”, using a sharp tool scribing into the ground and removing the varnish where the lines in exposed metal. The plate is dipped in acid, which etches the exposed metal, creating grooves or sunken channels, which will hold the ink. Ink is rolled onto the plate and fills the grooves. The surface is wiped clean and the inked plate is pressed into moist paper, which releases the ink creating the image in monotone. The longer the plate is in the acid, the deeper the grooves which can then retain more ink, creating a darker tone. After the desired number of prints has been “pulled” the plate is then defaced or destroyed preventing the creation of any additional prints. It is one of the most widely used intaglio methods today and is often combined with dry point.
Etching the plate
The back of the plate and any front areas scratched by mistake are coated with stopping-out varnish, an acid-resistant mixture of asphaltum and solvent. The plate is then placed in an acid bath to be etched. The traditional acid is nitric acid, which is quite strong. Many artists prefer milder Dutch mordant, because it bites more smoothly and makes very fine, delicate lines. Iron chloride is sometimes used because it bites a clean, straight, deep line. When the faintest lines have been etched, the plate is removed from the bath, rinsed, and dried. The faintest lines are covered with stopping-out varnish to halt further action by the acid. The plate is immersed and stopped-out again and again until the heaviest lines have been etched.
Inking and wiping
Ink is a mixture of two powders-French black and Frankfort black- and thickened linseed oil. It may be hand ground to a creamy consistency or bought already prepared. It is applied to the plate, usually warmed to make it flow more easily into the lines, with a dabber or squeegee. The plate is wiped with a series of three pads traditionally of starched tarlatan or cheese-cloth, or recently of paper towel. The wiping is done with a circular motion and no pressure until only the lightest film of ink remains on the surface. The plate may then be printed, or it may be wiped by hand until the surface is completely dry.
This is a print made by transferring to paper an inked image drawn with grease on a stone or metal plate. Lithography, which is based on the natural antipathy of grease and water, is a method of surface printing as distinguished from intaglio printing. The artist draws on the surface of a limestone block or metal alloy plate, with a grease pencil. The surface is dampened with water and oily ink is rolled over the drawn areas. The ink clings to the greasy marks, but not to the dampened areas. Paper is applied to the stone and the ink is transferred from the greasy, inked areas. Each color in the print requires a separate stone or plate and sometimes as many as fifty stones or plates are used.
The surface of the plate is roughed up with a mezzotint rocker, a curved blade cut with closely set grooves, and evenly rocked across the plate in four directions. It leaves a series of fine dots, each having a burr, which prints a rich soft black. The burr is scraped and burnished away to create all the tones from light to dark. This is a tonal technique, most often used in combination with other techniques. It is seldom practiced today.
As the name implies, these multiples are produced using any combination of the techniques described above, as well as collage and silkscreen.
The term (used here as an adjective) to define an artwork as a unique, one-of-a-kind image or to describe one of several media wherein the graphic is considered “original” as it is the end result of the artist’s work in that medium, not a photo-mechanic reproduction of a previously executed work.
Paper for printing may range from cheap wood pulp to fine, handmade rag, with a corresponding range in the quality of the print. Papers must be dampened, preferably 24 hours before printing. European papers are dampened with a sponge, placed between two damp blotters, wrapped in a plastic sheet, and weighted with a lithograph stone or similar object. Japanese papers are placed dry between dampened blotters.
Intaglio printing depends on many factors. The wiping of ink from the plate, the dampness of the paper, and the amount of pressure of the press all affect the final proof.
Serigraph or Silk Screen Print
An image is made by rubbing paint on a surface through openings in a stencil or stencil-like film applied to a mesh screen. The process employs silk or nylon mesh, which is blocked by a photoemulsive varnish. Various color separations are projected onto the photosensitive surface that create stencils through which ink is rolled, brushed or “squeegee’d” onto high-quality paper in multiple layers. Each color requires a separate “screen” and may number in hundreds; resulting in vibrant and richly textured silkscreen prints.
Signature and Edition Descriptions
Pencil signed denotes the hand signature of the artist in pencil.
Edition Size is the number of prints created of an image, annotated by a numeric code. The first number being the example number, or the number of the individual print in the edition and the second being the number of prints (examples) created. Thus 47/150 indicates that the example at hand is print #47 of 150 made. It is a misconception that lower print numbers are of better quality or higher value as the intent is to create each as identical and the example number no longer indicates its sequence in the printing of the edition. Editions are generally numbered in Arabic (5/100), but may also be annotated in Roman (V/C) numerals in Deluxe, European or International editions.
Artist’s Proof – Ideally, but not necessarily the first prints made. They are created outside the regular #numbered# edition, specifically for the purpose of the artist’s approval of the quality of the graphic ( AP or EA ), prior to the creation of the entire edition, but are identical to the regular “numbered” examples. Occasionally, the proofs are numbered using the same method described above and the quantity is traditionally 10% of the edition size.
Remarque is a unique addition to a graphic, usually appearing outside the image, and generally beneath the design. They are often hand applied by the artist after the graphics are produced and may increase the collectability of an item.
The press for intaglio printing consists of a flat metal bed, which passes between metal rollers. The plate is set on the bed and covered with the paper and a packing of three progressively heavier felt blankets. The handle of the press is turned evenly and slowly, and the print is slowly “pulled” (lifted) from the plate. If it is hung on a clothesline to dry, it will later have to be redampened and flattened under pressure. If it is put between two dry, weighted blotters, it will dry flat, but some of the ink will be absorbed by the blotters.