Over the coming months I have decided to include blogs about the more technical aspects of particular artforms and as I love all kinds of printmaking, I thought this week I would start with an overview of printmaking and, in particular, the areas of printmaking which I love to teach.
The following information is pretty much taken from my website with a few tweaks. This year I am planning to produce a series of on-line classes teaching different types of printmaking, starting with Mono-printing simply because this can easily be done at home without a printing machine. I want to be able to make the art of printmaking more accessible to people who are interested but don’t want to make a huge financial commitment before they get started.
There are four main categories of printmaking: relief, intaglio, lithography, and screen-printing. Relief prints are created from a raised surface, and intaglio prints are created from a cut surface. Each colour in a print usually requires a separate stone, plate, block, or stencil, and any of these basic processes may be combined in the creation of a finished work
I work in relief, intaglio and screen-printing methods. This covers linocut, reduction linocut, collagraph or collatype, dry-point etching, copper plate etching, aluminium plate etching and screen-printing.
The following paragraphs explain a little about each method and show examples of my work to illustrate the results it is possible to achieve. I don’t teach all of these methods as the aluminium and copper plate etchings require chemical baths which, as yet, I have not invested in. When I want to make these types of artworks, I go to a print studio and pay for time and space. I also get the luxury of having other printmakers to hand who are more experienced than me as they have been producing work, in some cases, longer than I have been alive (and I am no spring chicken)!
Mono, meaning one, is a method of inking interesting shapes, colours and lines, to produce a unique print. This can be done by simply drawing on the reverse side of a sheet of paper on an inked sheet of glass or plastic, or by placing the inked items on a sheet of paper and then putting that through a printing press. The beauty of this form of printmaking is that you don’t have to just print it once.
Layering different inks and inked items onto the paper gives far more depth and interest but you can only make one version, hence the name.
A linocut is a relief printmaking technique in which a sheet of linoleum is cut into to create an image. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. Care needs to be taken when cutting the lino as once cut it cannot be mended if a mistake is made.
The owl piece below was printed as a simple black ink on white watercolour piece and then painted using watercolour. Paints or ink could also be used to add colour.
The reduction lino print method is a technique used when wanting a multi-coloured print. Using the same piece of linoleum block or plate, through a succession of cutting and printing in layers a coloured print emerges, and the piece of linoleum is destroyed.
You can also make multi-coloured/multi-layered lino prints by creating different plates for different colours. In both reduction and multi-plate methods, registering the plates to ensure the next layer of colour prints in the correct place, is key to a successful outcome.
Four Colour Reduction Lino Print
A collagraph is made when a collage of materials including (but not limited to) wallpaper, leaves, eggshells, fabric, tape, string, tin foil etc., is glued to a ‘printing plate’ which is made from pieces of cardboard.
When the glue is completely dry, a layer of shellac or varnish is painted over the plate so that paint can be pushed or rolled onto the plate.
The joy of using this method is that it can be used as a relief print or an intaglio print. The paper is then pressed onto the surface of the plate to produce the print, so very versatile.
The plate below was predominantly made using PVA glue. The paper was placed so that the shadows of some sweet-pea flowers fell on it and the glue was used to fill the shadows. Once dry this glue surface is excellent for using in printing methods.
Dry-point, copper plate and aluminium etching with the intaglio method
Intaglio printing is the opposite of relief printing, in that the printing is done from ink that is below the plate surface. 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.
Dry Point Etching
Copper Plate Etching
Aluminium Plate Etching
Screen printing or silkscreen printing is a technique whereby a mesh is used to transfer paint or ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the paint or ink by a blocking stencil. A squeegee is pulled across the screen to fill the open mesh apertures with paint or ink, by pushing it through the holes in the screen. Screen printing is a stencil method of printmaking, but I often paint directly onto the screen producing a mono or once only print which I repeat in layers, so no two pieces are alike.
Screen Printing – Stencil Method
Screen Printing – Painted Method
All the photos here are of print works I have made over the past three years. As you can see, results are very different depending on which type of printmaking method you decide to use.
Where it becomes even more interesting is when a combination of different methods are used together. Ultimately, you are only limited by your imagination.
The above piece uses collagraph, lino cut and mono-printing methods