Glossary

AQUATINT

An intaglio process (See below). Like etching (See below), this is a chemical process of biting into a metal plate surface. It differs from etching, a linear or mark making process, by laying down areas of tone that can, depending on the fineness of their texture, look like ink or watercolor wash. Traditionally, a metal plate is dusted with rosin (An acid resist) that then is fused to the plate surface by heat or other means. Areas not to be etched at all are “stopped out” by brushing on a liquid acid resist. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath where the exposed portions of the plate, between the dots of rosin, are etched away. Length of time in the bath and strength of the acid solution determine the depth of the aquatint bite. But over etching can actually loose the tone. At its most refined, extremely delicate aquatints can be accomplished using spraying lacquer paint with an airbrush.

BIBLIOPHILIC BOOK

A limited edition book, usually including original prints as illustrations. Often, it is hand printed and hand bound.

DRYPOINT

An intaglio process (See below). Marks are scratched directly into the plate surface, often leaving a burr which can hold ink in such a fashion as to print a soft velvety line or mark. Little or no material is actually removed from the plate surface. Material is simply displaced. Traditionally, metal plates were employed, but many sorts of plastic and synthetic plates have been used more recently. Generally speaking, drypoint plates wear out relatively quickly and usually cannot sustain large editions (See below).

EDITION

The total number of impressions printed from a plate or matrix (see below). Modern practice often indicates the number of impressions in an edition and the sequence of the edition with a fraction, where the upper number is a unique indication of the sequence in the edition and the lower number indicates the total number of impressions, e.g. 7/100 meaning the 7th impression of an edition of 100. There is, however, a good deal of variation in this practice. Examples of some, but not all, edition notations one might be likely to encounter are as follows:

A.P. (E.A.)
III/XXX or 3/XXX
H.C.
Proof
1/1
State 2

EMBOSSING or BLIND EMBOSSING

An uninked intaglio (See below) print. The image remains the color of the paper on which it is printed and the surface appears like a shallow relief sculpture.

ENGRAVING

An intaglio process (See below). Marks are gouged directly into the plate surface with the gouged material being removed. The printed marks tend to be sharply defined, with lines often showing an elastic ability to expand and contract in their thickness. The technique takes a high degree of skill, but usually can sustain large edition sizes, if the artist so chooses. The apogee of the craft is often seen in currency and postage stamp engraving, but there are artists whose work more than equal that standard.

ETCHING

An intaglio process (See below). A metal plate is coated with an acid resist. The artist scratches an image through the resist using a fine needle or other mark making tools. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath where the exposed portion of the plate is then etched away. Length of time in the bath and strength of the acid solution determine the depth, width and coarseness of the corrosion into the surface. The lines made by this technique tend to be uniform in thickness along their length, unlike engravings.

EX LIBRIS

Latin for “from the library.” We may know ex libri best as the book plates pasted into the inside front cover of books as marks of ownership. It is from this practice that the modern commissioning and making of small editions of prints called ex libri has evolved. Sometimes, they are designed as gifts for friends, homages to other artists or celebrations of events and things. Contemporary ex libri are often small format commissioned prints where the commissioner gets the whole edition while the artist prints a more limited number for themselves, usually identified as artist’s proofs (A.P. or E.A. the abbreviation for the French, Épreuve d’Artiste, meaning the same thing). Ex libri may not literally be intended for pasting into a book. Nevertheless, they retain the words ex libris, or an abbreviation of them as well as the commissioner’s name or initials. Often their subject matter still retains a literary connection.

F.I.S.A.E.

(FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DES SOCIETES D’AMATEURS D’EX LIBRIS)
The International Federation of Societies of Lovers of Ex Libris, in existence since 1953, sets standards of practice for the labeling of small format graphics. It has evolved a series of abbreviated codes for processes employed in printmaking. Because Ex Libris are often small, abbreviations are necessary because of the lack of space. The most common of their codes are as follows:

CAD: Computer Assisted Design
C1: Steel Engraving
C2: Copper Engraving
C3: Etching
C4: Drypoint
C5: Aquatint
C6: Softground Etching
C7: Mezzotint
X1: Woodcut
X2: Wood Engraving
X3: Linoleum Cut
X6: Plastic Engraving
L: Lithograph
S: Screenprint
P6: Photolithography
P7: Offset
T: Typography

INTAGLIO

The class of inking and printing processes in which incisions and other depressions in a plate surface are filled with ink while the plate surface is wiped relatively free of ink. A piece of, usually, dampened paper is placed on the inked surface backed by one or more soft blankets. This “package” is then run through a press which forces the paper into the depressions in the plate surface effecting the transfer of the ink. Because the paper has been forced down into the plate to extract the ink, intaglio surfaces have a three-dimensional quality when examined closely. Marks can appear almost like welts or ridges on the paper surface.

LETTERPRESS

A relief printing (see below) press employed in the printing of type and images. The name is also used to refer to printing from hand set type.

LINOCUT

A relief printing process where the plate is made of linoleum – commercially used in floor covering. Knives and gouges are traditionally used to carve away the non-image areas. A similar approach can be taken to a variety of synthetic materials in sheet form, so long as they are sufficiently soft to be carved in a similar way.

LITHOGRAPH

The earliest planographic process (See below). A plate surface, traditionally limestone, is drawn upon with waxy or greasy materials. It is then chemically sensitized to accept ink where the drawing has been and, when dampened with water, to reject ink from those portions of the plate surface not drawn upon. While the plate processing can be chemically quite complex, the initial drawing process is quite direct, yielding a variety of qualities from close to pencil drawing, through fine pen work and ink or watercolor-like wash. Properly processed, it is capable of yielding large editions.

MATRIX

The place where the repeatable information in a printed image is to be found. In traditional printing processes, the matrix is usually the carved or processed plate surface. In non-traditional processes, e.g. digital printing, the matrix can be data stored electronically.

MEZZOTINT

An intaglio process (See above). Similar to drypoint in that marks are scratched directly into the plate surface. But it is traditionally used for tonal rather than linear effects. A variety of tools from toothed rockers and roulettes(toothed wheels) and, more recently, even machine tools like orbital sanders, are employed to rough up the plate surface to the point that, if printed, the entire surface would hold so much ink as to print a uniform velvety dark tone. The artist then uses burnishing tools to selectively smooth down the tooth of the plate or scrapers to actually selectively remove the plate tooth in order to yield lighter effects within the darkness. The French call this a manière noir technique, because the artists moves from dark to light. Well handled, it yields a luminous feel. Like drypoint, plates wear out relatively quickly and usually cannot sustain large editions.

OFFSET PRINTING

Most typical of high speed commercial printing processes like offset lithography, the image on the inked plate is offset to a rubber blanket and then to the paper. This allows the image on the paper to read the same direction as the plate in as much as printing mirror reverses the image to the blanket and then mirror reverses it back again on the paper. In fine art processes, a flatbed offset press (Kontra Press) can be employed to achieve very precise registration of multiple color press runs so long as the printer can “kiss print” the blanket and paper without “smashing” the image in the transfer from blanket or plate.

P.F.

French, Pour Feliciter, meaning for greeting. When this designation appears on a print, it means that the print has been prepared as some sort of greeting card.

PLANOGRAPHIC PROCESS

A printing process whereby an essentially flat plate surface is differentially sensitized to accept or reject ink. The first planographic process was lithography. There the sensitization is chemical. Electrostatic printing, e.g., Xerox, is a planographic process as well, In this technology, the paper is photo-electrically sensitized to attract toner which is then fused to the paper by heat.

PRINTMAKING

Really just the term used for printing when the matrix is made by an artist rather that reproduced from an artwork.

RELIEF

The class of inking and printing processes in which only the top surface of the plate is inked while all depressions in the plate surface remain unlinked. Relief printing plates can be as refined as wood engravings or a simple and crude as potato prints. Transfer from the inked plate to the paper can be achieved through the use of a variety of presses, or, as in traditional Japanese woodcut, be accomplished by rubbing the pack of a sheet of paper placed on the inked plate. Common forms of relief printing and the plates employed are letterpress, linocut, rubber stamp, woodcut, wood engraving. Like intaglio and planographic printing, the image always prints mirror reverse for the image on the plate.

SCREENPRINT

(SERIGRAPH)
A stencil printing process, where a fine mesh is used to support the isolated or floating elements of the stencil in printing (Think about the support for the center of the letter “O” in a stencil.). Screenprinting stencils can be made from cut paper and film. They can be hand drawn on the screen or applied photographically. They can vary from coarse and bold to fine and nuanced. A squeegee is usually used to force ink (Paint) through the mesh of the screen. Screenprints often have relatively thick deposits of ink and, when examined closely, very sharp edges to the ink deposits.

STENCIL PRINTING

(POCHOIR)
Cut stencils are used to isolate areas of an image to selectively have color applied to them. Usually characterized by flat even deposits of color.

WOODCUT

A relief printing process in which the plate is a plank of wood. The image is carved into the plank surface with the non-printing areas all being cut away. The remaining surface is then inked and paper pressed against the surface to receive the inked image. Frequently, the images have a bold and contrasty look.

WOOD ENGRAVING

A relief printing process in which the plate is end grain wood. The image is carved and printed as in a woodcut. What is different is that a finer and tighter image can be cut and engraving tools can be used to readily carve white lines into the much more dense and hard end grain surface. This allows for a ready mixing of white line with inked line and edition sizes far greater than can be sustained by the linear plank grain.