Hello! I’m here in the printmaking room, and I just wanted to give you a quick overview of this artistic media. Printmaking basically involves working with some type of surface, applying ink to that surface, and then being able to make multiple images or prints. There are four basic types of printmaking: relief, intaglio, lithography, and silkscreen. Relief printmaking is when you make a print from some kind of raised surface.
The concept is as simple as dirty shoe prints on the floor or marks made by pressing a rubber stamp into ink. Relief prints are often made using material like wood, linoleum, and Styrofoam… or really anything that will allow the artist to cut away the white areas or the areas that they do not want to receive ink.
A roller is then used to spread ink over the raised areas and the design is transferred to paper through applying pressure. The intaglio process describes prints that are made by cutting the lines of an image into the surface of a smooth sheet of metal. To make a print, ink is pushed into these incised lines and then the whole surface is wiped clean so that the only areas with the ink are the lines of the design. The plate is then pressed onto a wet sheet of paper, transferring the inked design onto the paper. Lithography is a little different in that no incisions are made into the surface.
This process works on the principle that grease attracts grease but it repels water. So when working with lithography, a design is drawn on the surface of a flat stone with a greasy material – usually a grease crayon or something like that – and then water and printing ink are applied. A design can be made based on the fact that the greasy parts absorb the ink and the wet parts don’t. Silk screen or screenprint is a type of stencil printing process.
The artist makes a stencil of their design, places it under a sheet of silk and then uses a squeegee to spread the ink over the stencil and onto the surface below.
Artists don’t have to make an external stencil, they can actually block out their images directly onto the screen using glue, gum arabic, shellac or through the photo emulsion process. When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450, it completely changed the world. All of a sudden, books didn’t have to be copied by hand and there was a way to disseminate information, news, and imagery to the masses. Fine art printmaking is important because it has allowed artists to take this media of multiples and to express themselves visually in a way that is different from all other artistic media.
I hope that you found this overview to be helpful as you continue to explore the various ways people have used art to change the world.