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Glossary

A

Aquatint. An intaglio printmaking technique, used to create tonal effects rather than lines. Fine particles of acid-resistant material, such as powdered rosin, are attached to a printing plate by heating. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, just like etching. The acid eats into the metal around the particles to produce a granular pattern of tiny indented rings. These hold sufficient ink to give the effect of an area of wash when inked and printed. The extent of the printed areas can be controlled by varnishing those parts of the plate to appear white in the final design. Gradations of tone can be achieved by varying the length of time in the acid bath; longer periods produce more deeply-bitten rings, which print darker areas of tone. The technique was developed in France in the 1760s, and became popular in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is often used in combination with other intaglio techniques.

Aquatint Box. Also known as resin box, is a tall and narrow furniture piece to raise the resin by means of a rotating platform with a hand crank.

Artist's proof. Print intended for the artist's personal use. It is a common practice to reserve approximately ten percent of an edition as artist's proofs, although this figure can be higher. The artist's proof is sometimes referred to by its French name, epreuve d'artist (abbreviated E.A.). Artist's proofs can be distinguished by the abbreviation A.P. or E.A., commonly on the lower left corner of the work.

 

B

Bevel. A 45-degree angle established on the edge of a metal intaglio place to prevent damage to printing felts.

Biting the plate. The process by which a metal plate is etched in a diluted bath of acid or other etchant solution.

Bon à Tirer (B.A.T.). When the artist is satisfied with the graphic from the finished plate, he works with his printer to pull one perfect graphic and it is marked "Bon a Tirer," meaning "good to pull." The printer then compares each graphic in the edition with the BAT before submitting the graphic to the artist for approval and signature. There is typically one BAT which becomes the property of the printer or workshop printing the edition.

Burin. A pointed engraving tool that comes in many different profiles.

Burnisher. A hard tool that is used to smooth rough or scratched areas of a metal plate.

Burr. Is a raised edge of the metal plate in drypoint technique, being its main feature.

 

C

Chalcography. Technique made in copper or in any other metal support using one of the direct or indirect engraving techniques.

Collagraph. A combination of the words “collage” and “graphic” to describe a print made from a matrix built with collage materials. Also encompasses intaglio matrices made with photo-sensitive films or emulsions applied to non-metal substrates.

 

D

Drypoint. An intaglio process in which incised lines are drawn on a plate with a sharp, pointed needle-like instrument (not the engraving burin). Drypoint is usually done on copper plates as the softer metal lends itself to this technique. The process of incising creates a slightly raised ragged rough edge to the lines, known as the burr. Both the incised line and specifically the burr receive ink when the plate is wiped, giving the printed line a distinctive velvety look. Due to the delicate nature of the burr, drypoint is usually made in small editions, stopping before the burr is crushed by the pressure of the intaglio press. Drypoint is often combined with other etching techniques.

 

E

Edition. A series of identical impressions from the same printing surface. Since the late nineteenth century the number of prints produced has usually been restricted and declared as a 'limited edition'; before this prints were often produced in as many numbers as the process would allow. Modern artists' prints are usually limited to a specified number, anything between 2 and 1000 or more. Sometimes the quantity is dictated by the process - the plate wears out - but more commonly it is restricted by the artist or publisher, in which case the printing surface is usually destroyed. Edition prints are usually signed, numbered, and often dated by the artist. An edition of twenty-five will be numbered 1/25, 2/25, etc. These are usually accompanied by a number of proof prints, identical to the edition; those produced for artist are marked 'AP' (artist's proof), those for the printer or publisher 'PP' (printer's proof). A number of working proofs may also be made. 'Bon a tirer' (good to print) proofs provide a standard to guide the printer.

Etching. An intaglio printmaking technique which uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate. The plate, traditionally copper but now usually zinc, is prepared with an acid-resistant ground. Lines are drawn through the ground, exposing the metal. The plate is then immersed in acid and the exposed metal is 'bitten', producing incised lines. Stronger acid and longer exposure produce more deeply bitten lines. The resist is removed and ink applied to the sunken lines, but wiped from the surface. The plate is then placed against paper and passed through an intaglio press with great pressure to transfer the ink from the recessed lines. Sometimes ink may be left on the plate surface to provide a background tone. Etching was used for decorating metal from the fourteenth century, but was probably not used for printmaking much before the early sixteenth century. Since then many etching techniques have been developed, which are often used in conjunction with each other: soft-ground etching uses a non-drying resist or ground, to produce softer lines; spit bite involves painting or splashing acid onto the plate; open bite in which areas of the plate are exposed to acid with no resist; photo-etching (also called photogravure or heliogravure) is produced by coating the printing plate with a light sensitive acid-resist ground and then exposing this to light to reproduce a photographic image. Foul biting results from accidental or unintentional erosion of the acid resist.

 

F

Felt Dauber. A rolled up strip of felt used to ink collagraph plates; works best for very physical plates.

 

H

Hand colouring. It means the artist will apply ink or any other water based colour directly on a finished print work. It is also named hand detachment or hand foil.

Hors de Commerce Proof. Print identical to the edition print intended for dealers and galleries. Hors d'Commerce (abbreviated H.C.) proofs may or may not be signed by the artist.

 

I

Intaglio. Each one of the grooves, lines or mark of a chalcography plate. It is also named incision.

Intaglio Print. A print from an incised surface where the ink lies in the incisions and not on the surface.

 

L

Linocut. A relief print produced in a manner similar to woodcut. The lino block consists of a thin layer of linoleum (a canvas backing coated with a preparation of solidified linseed oil) usually mounted on wood. The soft linoleum can be cut away more easily than a wood-block and in any direction (no grain) to produce a raised surface that can be inked and printed. Its slightly textured surface accepts ink evenly. Linoleum was invented in the nineteenth century as a floor covering; it became popular with artists and amateurs for printmaking in the twentieth century.

 

M

Margins. The paper areas around the printed area.

Matrix. The plate, block, screen, stone or other surface from which the print is made (that carries the information for the print)

Mezzotint. A form of engraving where the metal printing plate is indented by rocking a toothed metal tool across the surface. Each pit holds ink, and if printed at this stage the image would be solid black. The printmaker works from dark to light by gradually rubbing down or burnishing the rough surface to various degrees of smoothness to reduce the ink-holding capacity of areas of the plate. The technique was developed in the seventeenth century, and became particularly popular in eighteenth century England for reproducing portrait paintings. It is renowned for the soft gradations of tone and richness and velvet quality of its blacks.

Monoprint. It is basically a unique variant of a conventional print. An impression is printed from a reprint block, such as an etched plate or woodblock, but in such a way that only one of its kind exists, for example by incorporating unique hand-colouring or collage. The term can also refer to etchings which are inked and wiped in an expressive, not precisely repeatable manner; to prints made from a variety of printing elements that change from one impression to the next; or to prints that are painted or otherwise reworked by hand either before or after printing.

Monotype. A unique image printed from a polished plate, such as glass, metal, painted with ink but not a permanent printing matrix. A monotype impression is generally unique, though a second, lighter impression from the painted printing element can sometimes be made.

 

N

Numbering. Is used to justify and determine the limits of the edition. It’s normally written in pencil is the bottom left side of the paper. The numerator indicates the print’s number in the edition and the denominator the total number of prints of the limited edition itself.

 

O

Original Print. An original print is a work of art created by hand and printed by hand, either by the artist or by a professional assistant (often called an artisan), from a plate, block, stone, or stencil that has been hand created by the artist for the sole purpose of producing the desired image. The plates or stencils it is printed from bear no resemblance to the finished work of art, which means it is not a copy or a reproduction of anything. In fact, in all print media but two, the image on the matrix (what the print is produced from) is mirror image or backwards from what the finished work will be. The image reverses in the printing process so the artist has to think and draw backwards. Each print produced is technically a unique work although produced as a signed and numbered multiple. The original print is usually produced as a limited number of impressions, another word for print. The term for this group of prints is the edition. Although there are many of the same image in an edition, each print is an individual part of the whole, the whole being the edition. An original print is actually one piece of a multiple original work of art.

 

P

Plate Mark. In chalcography language, is the name given to the mark in the paper, resulting from the passage of the bevel in plate borders.

Press. Main machine in printing process which prints the necessary pressure in the paper, in order to transfer the ink into it.  There are several types of press machines depending on the kind of work made (chalcography, engraving relief prints, etc)

Printer's proof. Print retained by the printer as a reference. Artists often sign these prints as a gesture of appreciation

 

R

Registration. To align paper to printing machines so that colours print in correct position. Systems include punch or pin, guide sheets and various combinations.

Resin. Powdered resin is used for aquatints in intaglio and to prepare drawings for etching in lithography.

 

S

Scrapper. A rigid tool with a sharp point and edges that is used to remove marks on a metal intaglio plate.

Signature. Used since the end of the XIXth century (especially after 1940) in the form of an autograph made by the author with a pencil directly in the print.

Spit bite. Applying acid directly to an aquatinted plate to create subtle smoky tonal information.

 

T

Tarlatan. A loosely-woven starched cheesecloth used to wipe intaglio plates.

Trial proof. Pre-cursor to a limited edition series, these initial prints are pulled so that the artist may examine, refine, and perfect the prints to the desired final state. Trial proofs are generally not signed.

 

V

Varnish. Polymerized oil used to modify tack of lithographic inks.

 

W

Woodcut. A method of relief printing from a block of wood cut along the grain. The block is carved so that an image stands out in relief. The relief image is then inked and paper placed against its surface and run through a press. It is possible to make a woodcut without a press (Japanese Ukiyo-e prints for example) by placing the inked block against a sheet of paper and applying pressure by hand. Woodblock printing was used in Europe from the twelfth century, at first for printing textiles, though images were printed on paper by the late fourteenth century.