At Bath Artist Printmakers we offer facilities for a range of hand printmaking, including intaglio, relief and simple screenprinting.
An intaglio printing plate carries ink in the scratches and other texture on its surface.
Printing plates are traditionally made of metal (often copper or zinc) but other materials (e.g. perspex) can be used. When it comes to printing, ink is spread all over the plate - making sure it gets well into the texture - and then carefully wiped off all the high points leaving the ink only in the scratches and dips. The ink is then transferred onto the paper under the considerable pressure of the press. This can be repeated to create an edition of prints, all essentially the same.
The image is scratched directly into the printing plate using something hard and sharp (maybe somethng as simple as a steel nail). Both the scratches and burrs of metal pushed up by this action hold the ink which tends to produce a characteristically soft line quality.
Rather than scratching the image directly, as in drypoint, the texture is bitten into the metal surface using an acid or other corrosive chemical. The printing plate is initially covered with a protective layer called a ground which prevents the acid from attacking the metal. The design is scratched into this barrier layer, exposing the metal underneath. When the plate is placed in acid only the exposed metal is eaten away leaving grooves and dips to carry the ink.
This is an etching process that creates tone rather than lines. A fine dust of rosin is sprinkled onto the metal surface, melted and then allowed to harden. This means the metal surface is protected under the dots of rosin and exposed elsewhere. When the plate is etched a stippled texture results which holds onto the ink. Light and dark tones are created by varying the amount of rosin and/or how deep the metal is bitten. Line etching and aquatint are often combined on the same plate.
Photopolymer or Solar Plate Etching
Using a light box and precise timing, a complete image is photographed directly on to a special steel plate coated with photographic film, and developed in water, as with traditional photography. This method precludes the need for chemicals and so is less toxic. Where there is abundant natural sunlight, this can also be used to transfer an image on to a plate in a longer process.
A relief printing plate carries ink on its highpoints. Parts of the 'plate' are cut away using gouges and other tools. Ink is rolled on but doesn't get into the cut away areas so these parts don't print. Different aterials can be used.
A wood cut has its design carved into a sheet of wood (e.g. plywood or MDF). Sometimes an impressions of the texture of the wood grain is incorporated in the image. Wood engravings are typically intricate and precise, and often small. Here the image is cut into dense end grain using a sharp little tool called a burin.
Lino is smooth and relatively soft to cut. By cutting away more and more of the surface between repeated prints from the same block a reduction print in several colours can be created.
Relief processes don't necessarily need a press: hand pressure on the back of the paper using a smooth tool (such as a spoon) is very effective. An edition of many identical prints can be made using these techniques.
The artist makes an inky image on a smooth, featureless printing plate. This is done by putting ink on with brushes and cloths, or rubbing it off from a previously inked surface with cloths, cotton buds and fingers. The inky plate is put through the press and the image is transferred to the paper. Only one impression can be made.
This is a print taken from a collaged block or plate. A backing sheet (metal, board, plastic, card or wood) forms the base and materials such as cut-out shapes, or found objects are glued on. Designs can also be drawn on the plate using glue or other pastes, to which may be added carborundum grit or sand to provide a texture which holds the ink.
A collagraph can be printed intaglio (with the ink in the dips) or relief (ink rolled on the highpoints), or even both.
Have a Go
If any of this sounds like something you'd like to try, why not join one of our courses?