Aquatint – A form of intaglio in which the metal plate is dusted or covered with acid-resisitant powder (rosin or asphaltum). Areas not covered by the coating when the plate is immersed in acid are etched, creating a pitted or grainy surface. These tonal areas can be further manipulated and are often used in conjunction with line etching.
Baren – A handheld burnishing tool traditionally used in Japanese printmaking. Constructed of bamboo and laquered paper, this slightly convex tool is about five inches in diameter and is used to apply pressure to the paper when using woodblock and woodcut techniques. Rubbing the baren over the back of the paper transfers the ink from the block to the paper.
Burnish – In intaglio printing, the process of rubbing or smoothing the raised metal surface of the plate, using a metal tool to compact teh tooth of the printing surface. It is used in mezzotint to create the whites and is sometimes used as a method to correct mistakes. In relief printing, burnishing refers to the printing process, in which an image is transferred from an inked block to paper by hand rubbing.
Chine Collé – A chine appliqué or chine collé is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of China paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine appliqué prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints. Proof prints are often done as chine appliqués.
Etching – An intaglio process that uses acid to bite an image into a metal plate. The plate is coated with an acid-resistant emulsion or ground, through which the image is drawn or scratched with a needle. The plate is then placed in an acid bath that penetrates or bites into the exposed areas, creating the depressions that will hold the ink.
Handmade Paper – The traditional technique of papermaking, in which a selected fiber (cotton, linen, or another plant fiber) is macerated and then suspended in water to form a pulpy liquid, or slurry. The slurry is contained in a vat. A wood framed mesh screen in lowered into the vat. When lifted from the vat, the screen is shaken as the water drains off to acheive an even distribution of fibers. The pulp can also be applied to the screen by hand. This formed sheet is then dried by air, so the sheet contracts, or in a press, using different backings to create varied effects.
Lithography – The planographic printing method in which an image is drawn, using greasy ink or litho crayons, directly on the flat surface of a limestone or aluminum plate treated to accept ink and repel water. The image is fixed to the surface by a coating of acid and gum arabic, which lightly etches the stone or plate, not altering the height of depth of the stone. This mixture enhances the ability of the sections of the stone or plate that are not drawn on to hold water. During printing, the plate or stone is kept wet at all times by sponging. Oil-based ink is then rolled over the surface. The wetness of the negative areas of the plate rejects the ink, ensuring that the ink will stick only to the drawing. Images are transferred from plate to paper by means of a press.
Mezzotint – Meaning “half-tint” or “half-tone”, it is the mechanical intaglio technique in which an entire metal plate is roughened to create a burr that holds ink, producing a dark background. The artist works from dark to light, using a rocker to burnish or smooth the surface to create areas that hold less ink. In this way, a full range of tones is produced. Because this method is so labor-intensive, mezzotints are usually small. This printing process, though relatively uncommon today, was widely used for portraiture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Mylar – A transparent plastic sheet used for registration of the print or as a surface for an image to be drawn on in order to transfer the drawing to the plate photographically. Mylar is specifically used for these purposes because it is dimensionally stable, not stretching or shrinking when exposed to water.
Silk Screen – A form of stencil printing in which an image is produced by using a squeegee to push ink through a stretched mesh fabric (historically silk). Nonprinted areas of the screen are blocked off using a resist.
Soft Ground – A method of etching in which a nondrying or pliable acid-resistant ground is applied to a plate that produces softer lines and textures than hard-ground etching. The artist draws on a piece of paper placed over the plate. The pressure of the pencil or pen lifts the ground off the plate, exposing the plate for etching in acid.
Ukiyo-e – The classic Japanese form of woodblock printing, historically used for making large quantitiies of popular images. In this type of relief printing, many individual blocks of wood are carved, often by a professional woodcutter, and then fitted together to form the printing surface. The use of water-based inks results in delicate, translucent colors similar to the effects of watercolor painting. The printing paper is placed on top of the inked blocks, and an impression is made by hand rubbing wiht a baren, rather than using a press.
Woodcut – The oldest form of relief printing, in which portions of a woodblock are cut away using knives, gouges, and chisels. Ink is rolled over the elevated areas of the block, and absorbent paper is pressed onto the surface, transferring the image.