Printmaking [ˈprɪntmeɪkɪŋ] is a form of art in which an artist repeatedly transfers an original image from one prepared surface to another. The process is capable of making multiple copies of the same artwork. Each individual piece is called a “print” or an “impression”. The set of prints is called “an edition”, a signed and numbered edition thus becomes “a limited edition”. Printmaking originated in China around AD 105. Relief printing appeared in Europe in the 15th century when the process of papermaking was imported from the East.

Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotype, the process is capable of producing multiples, prints, of the same piece.

There are four basic manual processes used in traditional printmaking:

  • Relief printing [rɪˈliːf ˈprɪntɪŋ] is printing like wood-cut, wood, linoleum-cut. A relief print is any print in which an image is printed from the raised portion of a carved, etched, or cast block. Ink is applied to the surface of the matrix. A simple example would be a rubber stamp. The most common relief prints are woodcuts.
  • Intaglio printing [ɪnˈtalɪəʊ ˈprɪntɪŋ] includes dry point, engraving, etching, and aquatint. The intaglio method of printing involves cutting or incising an image into a metal plate with various tools or acids. The wide variety of methods used gives this medium enormous range. The two basic typed of intaglio printing are engraving and etching. In engraving the image is cut into the plate with tools called needles, burnishers, scrapers or rockers. The incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of a relief print. Ink is applied beneath the surface of the matrix. In etching the image is cut into the plate with acids.
  • Planography printing [pləˈnɒɡrəfi ˈprɪntɪŋ] includes lithography, monoprinting. Planographic means printing from a flat surface. Lithography is a method of printmaking based on the chemical repellence of oil and water. It is a process of printing from a smooth plate; the printing and non-printing surfaces are all at the same level, as opposed to intaglio or relief processes in which the design is cut into the printing block. It uses the same principle that later developed offset printing.
  • Monotype printing [ˈmɒnə(ʊ)tʌɪp ˈprɪntɪŋ] is the odd one out and therefore gets a separate category although it’s regarded as planography printing. Monotypes are the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques, a unique print that is essentially a printed painting. Every print is unique and cannot really be reproduced, although it is sometimes done the sharpness cannot be reproduced, these inferior prints are referred to as “ghost prints”.
  • Stencil printing [ˈstɛns(ə)l ˈprɪntɪŋ] refers to screen print (silk-screen, serigraphy). Stencils are used to create the design or image. In its simplest form, screen-printing involves forcing ink through a stencil that is embedded to a silk or synthetic mesh screen. The screen is tightly stretched on a wooden or metal frame. Viscous ink is squeegee through the screen depositing the ink on the paper or textile under the frame. A separate screen is used for each colour and selected parts of the stencil can be blocked out, if desired, during the reprinting.

Giclée printing [ˈʒiːkleɪ prɪnt] is a form of digital printing which is a relatively new and exciting form of fine art reproduction. It is a French term, pronounced “zhee-clay”, meaning “that which is sprayed”. This plateless fine art printing method was developed in 1989, and was used mainly for printing posters and proofs. Giclée prints are sometimes referred to as Iris prints due to the fact they were printed on an Iris printer, one of the first high-end digital printers. Giclée prints can be original works of art generated with a computer, multiple originals based on artwork (created with or without a computer) made with the giclée process in mind, or high quality reproductions of original artwork.

I have studied printmaking in Copenhagen and although I mainly work with printmaking as a graphic art form, I also do letterpress printing and digital printing.

“Printmaking is about discovery
about experimentation
art itself is about discovery and experimentation”

– Brian Jones.

1. Picture 1-3 is part of a book – La Linea. The blind embossing illustrations have been cut in linoleum and then pressed by hand.

1. Picture 1-3 is part of a book – La Linea. The blind embossing illustrations have been cut in linoleum and then pressed by hand.

1. Picture 1-3 is part of a book – La Linea. The blind embossing illustrations have been cut in linoleum and then pressed by hand.

4. A simple Xerox transfer print of an illustration by Adrian Frutiger.

5. Picture 5-7 displays a book with one of my own designs, printed on book cloth, with an accompanying dustjacket.

5. Picture 5-7 displays a book with one of my own designs, printed on book cloth, with an accompanying dustjacket.

5. Picture 5-7 displays a book with one of my own designs, printed on book cloth, with an accompanying dustjacket.