There are many printmaking methods available to artists, and as a collector, it helps to know a little about how your piece was created. Each process uses specific printing techniques that artists make their own, depending on the desired effect. The most popular methods of printmaking today are screen printing, lithography, etching, and linocut printing.

Screen printing

A stencil-based technique in which the first step is to stretch and attach woven fabric tightly over a wooden frame to create a screen. Areas of the screen that are not part of the image are blocked out with a stencil. A squeegie is then used to press ink through the unblocked areas of the screen and directly onto the paper. These prints typically feature bold and hard-edged areas.

Barbara Brash
(Bird and Plant) 1953
linocut
Sold for $3,000

Lithography

The desired image is applied to a grained surface (traditionally stone, though now aluminium is most commonly used) using a grease-based medium such as ink, crayon, pencil or synthetic material. A solution of gum arabic and nitric acid is then applied over the surface, producing water receptive and non-printing areas. The aluminium surface is kept wet so that the roller with oil-based ink can be passed over the surface. The ink will only stick to the grease receptive image area. Paper is then placed against the surface and the plate is run through a press. After the print passes through the machine, the paper is removed to reveal a mirrored image to the design on the stone.

Etching

The plate is prepared with an acid resistant ground. The artist then draws directly onto the ground, exposing the metal. Once done, the plate is then immersed in acid and the exposed metal is ‘bitten’, producing incised lines. The plate is then removed, and ink is applied to the sunken lines, with the remaining ink wiped from the surface. The plate is then placed against paper and passed through a printing press with pressure to transfer the ink. This is one of the oldest and most used printing techniques.

Linocut

A similar variant of a woodcut print, in which a sheet of lino is used as the relief surface. The artist carves a design into the lino surface using a V-shaped chisel with the raised areas representing the design that will be printed. The lino sheet is then inked with a roller and pressed onto paper.

HANNAH RYAN / Prints & Multiples Specialist

Banner Image: Dean Bowen, The Strange Cloud, lithograph 1/6. Sold for $687

May 2021