Research – Printing techniques

Printing techniques
Monoprinting and collograph techniques have similarities, but subtle differences. Monoprinting takes one print initially. However, ghost prints can be made where the ink depletes leaving a faint image of the original print, making it look surreal.

This technique uses a brayer to evenly spread ink onto a gelliplate, acrylic, glass or metal and is called the additive method. Marks can be made on the plate (but care needs to be taken especially with the gelliplate or can result in damage to the surface), which is not the case on glass. Paper is laid over the plate and pressure applied. The paper is then lifted carefully of the plate revealing the printed image and allowed to dry. I found that some papers took weeks to dry, whilst some haven’t dried at all and are still sticky. This is a consideration if producing for an exhibition where time is limited. Pattern can be introduced with lace, bubble wrap etc in fact anything with a surface texture.

The second method is subtractive or dark field. This is where the printing plate is covered in ink and using a cloth, fingers etc take away some of the ink to form a picture. Paper is then applied as before and then the plate is run through a printing press with dampened paper resulting in an image being transferred onto the paper. Both of these methods could also be applied together. Ink is easily washed off the brayer and printing tray with water and it is non toxic.

Collograph printing uses a printing plate with various materials, (bubble wrap, string or whatever material that comes to mind), glued on to it covered with a protective coat of PVA and allowed to dry. Paint is applied and a print taken.

The raised detail is different to a monoprint, which is flat in design. Collograph can create depth and can allow for multiple printing, which can then be hand coloured for further development.

Intaglio is a group of techniques, where incisions are made on the surface. Examples are below

Suzie MacKenzie: Wiping the plateSuzie MacKenzie: A finished plate - ready for printing!Dounreay from Sandside

This technique uses an etched plate which is inked up and a print is taken. Because it is easy to wipe, can produce multiple prints.  Which can be reworked before and after printing by hand.
Mezzotint plate inked                        Mezzotint plate finished

I particularly like this artist’s work as the colour tones are simple, but very effective and hope to achieve this in my own work. I am not sure how I would achieve this level of detail but would enjoy the challenge.

Aquatinting is similar to etching, but has areas that are etched rather than linear marks on the plate. A dusting of resin (that is powdered or melted) or asphalt is put onto the plate and heated, allowing the dust to adhere to the metal and resistant to acid. Acid is poured over the plate leaving tiny holes that remain in the dusting, which has the appearance of tiny dots.

Tomiyuki Sakuta

This is an example by Tomiyuki Sakuta, printed leaves who uses this method. I find I relate to his way of thinking, with negative views of the world and in myself. He uses his art as a ‘self portrait’ and I like this concept. He tries to put his feelings onto paper and something that I find myself doing. In my brighter moods my art appears light, but on other days, darkness and darker colours shape my work.

Leaf printing is something that i would like to try as its simple, but as this technique requires expensive and corrosive material, not sure if i would like to use these materials at the present time.

Mezzotint is similar to etching having dense lines which are applied by a rocker. At this stage it is only black, but colour is added in certain areas creating various tonal qualities and shadows, especially good for portraits.

The metal printing plate has lines cut into it using a Burin or graver. This is inked and cleaned, leaving the ink in the grooves. Paper is then dampened and pressed onto the plate absorbing the remaining ink. Originally it was a copper plate but the disadvantage was only a few prints could be made.

Using a drypoint needle, lines are scored into the plate (either tin or copper) creating a burr (rough edges). This is particularly useful for holding the ink and produces a fuzzy edge. Then pressure is used to print the image, usually through a roller. This pressure gives an even print, something that when doing by hand can miss some of the detail. Despite this, it can reveal hidden patterns.


Small dots are cut into the plate which were grouped together to form continuous pattern. I wonder if this is something that could be achieved by creating dots on a page with pva as a collage block.

Either limestone or metal plate has a design drawn onto it and coated with greasy ink (tushe) or crayon, dampened with water and ink applied. the ink is absorbed by the grease only. Then a chemical fluid is applied and put through a press. This would usually be a single colour. For coloured lithographs a chromolithograph is used where there were multi plates with different colours.

Jane Furst - photo etching print, transparency and plate

Plates used for printing have a photo-sensitive resist. The resists becomes hard when exposed to UV light. Before exposure, a picture on a transparency sheet with heavy lines of black and white is laid on the plate. After exposure, some areas remain soft and can be removed with a solution. It is then etched with acid leaving metal exposed, where the resist is removed. It is possible to achieve high detail in the work. I would definitely like to try this and maybe it could be used with photo editing software.



Author: huggywitch

I have been doing textiles for a number of years and recently started my degree. I have always had an interest in theatre costume design and this is where my passion lie.

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