Acid- Free Paper  ( archival paper / specialised paper ) ~ At the point of manufacture the paper will have had a pH of 7 (neutral) or slightly above 7 (alkaline). If paper is made from cotton, linen, or hemp, the longevity of the paper greatly increases. Made to last for at least a hundred years.


Aquatint ~ A form of etching that creates areas of tone through the use of powdered resin that is sprinkled on a plate prior to being bitten by the acid. The result is a finely textured tonal area whose darkness is determined by how long the acid remained. Acid can also be painted directly onto the plate.


Artists Proof ~ Formerly, when an artist was commissioned to execute a print, she was provided with lodging and living expenses, a printing studio and work people, supplies and paper.  The artist was given a portion of the edition to sell as payment for her work.  Today, although artists get paid for their editions, the tradition of the ‘artist’s proof’ has continued and a certain number of impressions are put aside for the artist to do with as she will.  Artist’s proofs are annotated as such as A.P or EA which stands for Epreuve d’artiste.


Baren ~ A round, smooth pad, either flat or slightly convex used to press paper against an inked wood or linoleum block to lift an impression from the block.


Blind Printing ( blind stamp / chop stamp ) ~ A blind stamp is an embossed seal impressed onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution or a collector.


Bon a Tirer Proof ( printers proof / b.a.t. ) ~ Simply means ‘ok to print’. Formally if an artist was not printing her own edition the bon a tirer is the final trial proof. The one that the artist has approved or to put it another way the print to which the rest of the edition will be compared.  There is only one b.a.t. for an edition.


Brayer ( roller ) ~ A hand-held tool used to roll out ink evenly onto ink slab and block before printing.


Burnisher ~ A bent rounded tool used with oil to smooth out marks or make changes on a metal plate after it has been scored or worked on.


Burr ~ A displaced metal or plastic, thrown up when a needle has been used to draw into the plate. A burr will create distinctive soft lines in a finished print.


Chine-Collé ~ Formally used to tone areas in a print. A technique for gluing smaller thin pieces of Chinese paper into a print.


Collagraph ~ Taking its name from the French word meaning glue and the Greek word meaning drawing. It is a print made from a plate that is composed of other materials in a collage manner. This plate may be printed as an intaglio, a relief or both.


Deckle ~ The untrimmed feathery edge of handmade or specialists paper.


Drypoint ~ Similar to etching, but the lines are simply scratched into the plate manually using a needle or other sharp tool. The hallmark of a drypoint is a soft velvety line somewhat like that of an ink pen on moist paper. Drypoint plates can wear more quickly that etched or engraved plates. There can also be great differences from the first impression to the last.


Engraving ~ A technique of drawing into a plate without the use of acids and without creating a burr. Engraved lines are wiry and clean looking. Using a tool called a burin the artist pushes rather than drawing. Imagine a plow in a field. A burin has 2 sharp edges to remove metal from the plate creating elegant swellings and tapering lines.


Edition ~ An edition is the total number of identical prints pulled then signed and numbered by the artist. Prints in an edition are very similar to one another if not exactly the same.


Etching ~ A method similar to drawing with a pencil or pen. It’s been a favourite technique for artists for many centuries. The artist scratches their design with a stylus or needle to reveal the bare metal beneath an acid resin. The plate is then immersed in an acid fluid that chemically dissolves the exposed metal.


Gum Arabic ~ Used on the surface of prints to add depth and texture to an image. A secretion of the acacia tree, it can be seen by holding the print at an angle to the light.


Intaglio Print ~ Any print that has derived from lines or textures scratched or etched is known as an intaglio print. This includes engraving, etching, drypoint etc ..  A finished plate is covered with ink then wiped clean leaving ink only in the grooved  lines. From the Italian word intagliare meaning to incise.


Limited Edition ~ A limit placed on the number of impressions pulled in order to create a scarcity of the print. Limited editions are numbered and signed.


Linocut ( linoleum cut ) ~ A relief print carved from a linoleum block rather than wood.


Lithography ~ A process that is dependent on the fact that oil and water don’t mix, an image is drawn on a flat slab of limestone or a metal plate with a greasy substance. The surface is then chemically etched so that some areas only attract the greasy ink and the non-drawn areas attached only waters.


Matrix ( plate ) ~ From the Latin word mater, meaning Mother, the matrix is any surface such as a woodblock or metal plate on which the major information will be created and prepared.


Mezzotint ~ A technique of using a tool called a rocker that will rough up the entire surface of the plate. The rocker is a large curved blade with very fine teeth. Rocked back and forth across the plate repeatedly putting courses of fine dots into the metal. When the plate is covered with fine stipples the next process is to scrape away any areas where lighter tones are needed.


Monoprint  ( monotype ) ~ Is a print from an edition of one. An image that is usually painted on glass then transferred or stamped onto paper.


Plate ( see matrix )


Printing Press ~ A heavy device that applies pressure between a sheet of paper and an inked plate.


Consisting of a flatbed, the inked plate passes between heavy rollers. It produces prints one copy at a time.


Proof ( artists proof / trial proof / working proof  )  ~ A proof is a print outside the edition but not necessarily different from it.

  • Artists proof – same as the edition retained by the artist and quite often sold
  • Trial proof – usually pulled in advance of the edition, quite often does not differ from the edition
  • Working proof – pulled during the course of the development of the plates

Reduction Method  ( suicide method ) ~  When a single plate is printed many times, removing a portion and changing the tone or colour each time.


Registration ~ A system to ensure that several plates can be printed in accurate alignment, one on top of the other to make a single print.


Relief Print ~ Is the oldest of all print processes. The image is printed from raised areas of a plate or matrix. Ink is applied to the raised surface then transferred to paper. The common techniques are woodcuts, wood engraving and linocuts.


Screen-printing  ( serigraphy / silk screen ) ~  A versatile process  of stencil printing in which the stencil is adhered to a fine screen for support. Ink is then applied to the screen using a squeegee. Screen printing can have a hard edged quality caused by the crisp edges of the stencil. It was made famous in the 1960’s when artists such as Andy Warhold used it for its bold flat colours to make pop icons.


Solarplate ~ Is a light sensitised steel backed polymer material used as an alternative to hazardous printing techniques. It is a simple, safer, and faster approach than traditional etching and relief printing.


Stencil ~ A printing method where ink is forced through a matrix using a squeegee.  It is a process by which areas are blocked out to keep the ink away from the non-image areas.


Woodcut ~ A relief print usually carved in the plank grain of a piece of wood. It is the earliest and the most enduring of all print techniques. A very popular medium for mass distributed religious imagery in Europe as early as the 14th century.


Wood Engraving ~ A relief print carved in the end grain of a block of wood, usually boxwood. Not to be confused with woodcuts which are made from the side-grain of planks of wood.


Vignette ~ An image that is faint, does not have a border around it and blends with its background. It can also mean a small image that is part of a larger print.

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All images © Debbie Williams Art 2018