All About Printmaking (A Summary!)
Printmaking is an exciting art form which enables you the artist to take an image or idea and, through a number of skilled printmaking techniques, to produce both striking and unique prints.
The printmaking lesson plans that we teach combine both methodical precision with expansive room for creativity. Results can be very quick and there is endless potential for experimentation within the medium.
In many ways, printmaking is unique in expressing skilled control of a technique with a certain element of what can be termed the ‘happy accident’ to create impressive and distinctively unique printmaking art prints.
discover printmaking with magenta sky
Despite all of the above benefits, the printmaking art is still a relatively well-kept secret with many people believing it requires expensive equipment to practice. In fact, the printmaking techniques that we teach do not require a printing press and all of the methods can be performed at home with inexpensive printmaking tools.
The truth about printmaking is that any artist can incorporate its techniques into their practice, or for complete beginners it can be a rewarding first step into artistic expression. In addition, printmaking can be used as a sketching tool – for trying out ideas and providing a series of concepts for a larger general body of work, whether the finished work is printmaking based or not.
types of printmaking
There are 4 main categories that the various forms of printmaking fall into:
(etching, drypoint, mezzotint)
Intaglio printmaking (from the Italian word intaglione meaning to engrave or cut) is traditionally carried out onto a metal plate. The metal plate is marked in some way by etching or scratching and the lines that are created are the marks that print i.e. it is a positive technique, although the print will still be a ‘mirror image’ of the original plate. These printmaking techniques are usually carried out using an etching press.
(lino/woodcut, wood engraving)
Relief printing is a collection of negative techniques where the block e.g. wood/lino, is cut into. The area that is uncut is what prints. The final print will be a ‘mirror image’ of the original plate. The block can be printed by hand or using a press and several blocks can be prepared to produce multiple coloured prints. Woodcuts can be very expressive, e.g. the dramatic effects in Japanese woodcut prints.
A stencil is created onto a screen (a fine mesh of fabric stretched over a frame) before ink is pushed through using a squeegee. Where the stencil is placed (by hand painting, paper stencil or exposed emulsion) the ink will not pass through. This method produces images that are the same way around as the stencils. Screen printing is also used for printing onto fabric signmaking and t-shirts.
Lithography works on the basis that oil and water do not mix. The image and non printing parts are on the same level but the image is drawn with an oil based material onto either a metal plate or litho stone, is then set and printing is done either by direct contact or offsetting. Lithography requires specialist presses.
printmaking methods that we teach
All of the printmaking methods which we teach, whether in our printmaking classes and workshops or in the Introduction to Printmaking distance learning course, can be printed by hand and require no specialist presses or expensive printmaking tools.
The techniques which we specialise in on Magenta Sky printmaking courses include:
Monoprinting is a fairly simple technique that involves rolling out or drawing with ink on to a printing surface/plate and creating a mark in several ways. A sheet of paper is laid over the top to take a print. It can be a very painterly and free way of printing and if you have previous experience of painting this technique may suit your style of working.
Collograph (collage prints) are simple relief prints created from printing from a collage block. The block is created by sticking various items into a cardboard base using PVA glue or similar which is then left to dry. The textured surface created is what generates the light and dark areas of the print. The plate can be inked using either the relief or intaglio method of inking.
Linocut is a form of relief printing that uses linoleum as the printing block (a composite flooring material made from cork and linseed oil with a hessian backing). This is then cut into using v tools or gouges to create an image. It is a negative technique where the cuts that you make do not print. Prints can be made from one or more blocks of lino. We love linocut so much we even wrote a book about it called Learning Linocut!
Similar to linocut, woodcut is another relief printing technique that is created from cutting out areas of a printing block to produce a design. The method is a negative one and the final image will always be a mirror image of the cut block. The images created whether from one block or several can be either very detailed or use bold broad cuts.
The screen printing we teach utilises simple stencils in combination with a screen to produce an image. Hand cut paper stencils, found objects and handpainted filler are all used to stop the ink from passing through the mesh of the screen in areas onto the paper below. The resulting prints often have large flat areas of colour.
Drypoint is the only intaglio technique that we teach and requires no acids, chemicals or press to print the image. A sheet of perspex is used for the block, then scratched into using a drypoint needle to create a linear image and ink worked into the scratches (and burrs). The resulting prints, whilst limited in number, can prove highly detailed and effective.
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