“You can't stop people printing what they want to print.” - Lord Alan Sugar
Soooo maybe the quote above is not being used in the right context and we’re taking liberties, however, if you take it at face value, it’s absolutely true.
Printing is a medium with limitless possibilities with prints playing an enormous part in the art world. However, there are so many different types it can be confusing and sometimes discouraging because you just don’t know what you’re looking at. Bearing that in mind, this is our attempt at explaining some of the different types to you, which will (hopefully) make the world of prints a little clearer.
Each week we’ll go into a little more detail about the types listed below and how to identify them. So, without further ado:
Carpe Print-em! What Are The Different Print Types? A Quickie Guide
Prints can be produced using a wide range of techniques. There are those created using your fingertips which are kept in a very large database held within the FBI (geddit?). Or there is the classic potato print, where one traumatizes ones vegetable with a carving knife and paint to create a masterpiece. Just ask Martha Stewart, she knows stuff. There's also imprinting like in the Twilight movies - but I digress…
To get all informative on you, here is some handy information about print types used in the art world (without the potato wielding vampire criminal).
When Two Become One…
When one surface is transferred to another and a two-dimensional image impression is left behind, that artwork can be described as a print.
It’s such a RELIEF knowing I’m learning about prints ;)
Relief printing, in art printmaking, is a process consisting of cutting or etching a printing surface in such a way that all that remains of the original surface is the design to be printed. Examples of relief-printing processes include woodcut, anastatic printing (also called relief etching) linocut, and metal cut. (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Woodcuts (a relief print)
The earliest type of artistic print is the woodcut, which is a type of relief print with Far Eastern origins, using - as the name suggests - a wooden plate.
In a woodcut some areas of the plate are recessed – typically using a gouging technique - which allows the raised areas to take ink and when pressed against a surface, create an impression.
Metalcuts and Linocuts (more variants of the Relief family)
These work by much the same principle as woodcuts, except that they use metal and lino plates.
In a linocut, a sheet of lino is used for the relief surface. For this technique, a design is cut out of the lino using a sharp knife, v-shaped chisel (I remember using this at school with much artistic disaster – LOL!) or a gouge.
An inked roller is run over the uncarved or raised areas. The inked sheet is then impressed onto paper or fabric by either a press or by hand.
A metalcut is essentially like a woodcut or linocut – it just uses a thin metal plate. Like the above, the areas which don’t make it to the final print, have been cut away.
O Intaglio, Intaglio! Whatfore art thou Intaglio?
Intaglio printing is the opposite of relief printing, in that the printing is done from ink that is below the surface of the plate.
The design is cut, scratched, or etched into the printing surface or plate, which can be copper, zinc, aluminium, magnesium, plastics, or even coated paper. (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Engravings (an intaglio print)
Engravings are created using a hardened steel tool known as a burin, which cuts grooves into a hard, normally flat surface like a metal plate.
To produce an image, ink is applied to the plate then wiped off so the ink remains only in the engraved lines. The plate is then pressed onto paper to produce a print.
The number and thickness of engraving lines on a plate will determine how detailed an image will be.
Etchings (more on the intaglio)
Etchings, like engravings, are based on the principle of indentations for holding the ink – however, etchings are created rather differently.
The metal etching plate is coated in a waxy surface in which the artist then 'draws' onto this plate with an etching tool, exposing the metal underneath.
The plate is then placed into acid that 'bites' into the exposed metal to create an image that can then be inked and printed.
Over the course of your collecting, you may hear about intaglio print types such as the mezzotint, aquatint and drypoint. Don’t get frazzled, these are variations on the basic engraving and etching formulas.
But wait, there’s more…other types of prints
Monotyping has often been described as the closest printmaking process to pure painting. It is also one of the easiest printmaking methods for inexperienced artists to get to grips with, simply involving a drawing or painting on a smooth plate that is then transferred onto paper to create a one-off piece.
A screen print is a very popular type of print on account of the bold colours and high levels of detail it can capture.
Screen printing involves the use of an inked, meshed screen with a blade or squeegee (to squeeze the ink through the mesh) to print the image onto paper. While the results do not provide the level of photographic detail that digital prints are capable of, the process has long been popular for creating more comic or poster-like effects.
Lithography is a very traditional printmaking process. It was invented by Alois Senefelder in the Kingdom of Bavaria at the end of the 18th century, based on the mutual repulsion of oil and water with printing being from a smooth metal plate or stone.
It is important, however, to differentiate between an artist's hand-made lithograph and commercial offset lithography, which is done by a mechanical process.
As the name suggests, this type of print involves the printing of a digital image, which has led to its frequent use for digital photographic prints, as well as the faithful and high quality reproduction of already-existing artwork.
Today, there are many forms of digital printing - including dye fusion printing, electrophotographic printing, chromogenic and inkjet printing, to name just a few.
So, this ends our hopefully informative overview on print types. Is there one that’s your favourite? Or one you want to try yourself? Whichever it is, go out and explore or create. Just print it! :D