With so many technical terms regarding print techniques, we decided to put together the basics to help you pin down a better understanding.
It is thought that printmaking originated in China as early as 105 AD. The process was introduced in Western Europe from Asia particularly in the 18th century; even so, for much of its history fine art printmaking has been regarded as a private art activity, peripheral to painting or sculpture.
From the Old Masters period through modern times, many great artists embraced printmaking as part of their artistic practice, but it is especially in the 20th century that printmaking really became an art expression in its own right.
Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg popularised the technique by appropriating the medium and exploring its potential in works that would stand alongside painting and sculpture as a primary means of expression.
Many things have changed since then in the printing world and the process is constantly evolving. There are many different types of print. Below we outline some of the most widely used.
Digital prints are used to make common reproductions. They are created with a computer and usually use an ink-jet printer. The digital information is fine-tuned to ensure that it matches the original work.
Giclée prints are a form of digital fine art print. Giclée literally means to ‘squirt or spray’. The process involves spraying pigmented ink in mists of minuscule dots onto canvas or high quality paper.
Screen printing is perhaps the most omnipresent printing technique today.
The process involves using an ink blocking stencil, which is added to the screen to act as a barrier. When the ink is passed across the mesh screen, the blocking stencil only allows selected areas to pass onto the surface.
Lithography is usually seen as the most complex printing process. It makes use of the chemical process of the immiscibility of oil and water when they come into contact.
The artist draws directly onto a flat stone or metal plate; this is covered with a greasy ink, then coated with a water-based liquid. The ink only adheres to the lines of the drawing and it is repelled by the wet areas. Paper is then applied to the slate and pressed. The image is transferred onto the paper, revealing a mirror-image of the drawing on the stone.
Woodcut printing uses a relief technique and is the oldest type of print. This technique involves removing the non-printing parts of an image, leaving the printing parts level with the surface, by carving into a wooden block.
Linocut printing is a very similar, but more modern, technique to woodcut printing. Linoleum is used as opposed to wood. This material is far softer, which allows for more fluid, sharp lines.