Art Principles and History

Art Fundamentals

What is printmaking?

Printmaking is a mechanical process that allows an artist to make multiple copies of an image. One of the earliest types of printmaking is woodblock printing, a process popular in Japan and China for over a thousand years. To make a woodblock print, an artist carves a relief image into a block of wood, inks the raised surface of the wood, and then presses the block against paper to make the printed image. Polychrome prints, or prints with multiple colors, can also be made by carving additional blocks, lining up the image (a process called registering), and pressing again. Contemporary artists continue to use this process; linoleum is a popular alternative to wood and prints made this way are called linocuts.

Other types of printmaking include intaglio, which was invented in the fifteenth century. Intaglio involves incising an image, usually into a sheet of metal such as a copper plate, and filling the grooved lines with ink before pressing the image. In intaglio printing, the printed image will be the reverse of the image on the metal plate. Common intaglio techniques include engraving, etching, drypoint, and aquatint.


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