Printmaking Techniques

Printmaking Techniques and Terms

Original Print -a  definition

An original print is “an image that has been conceived by an artist as a print and executed solely as a print in a limited number under his or her artistic control. Each print in the edition is an original, printed from a plate, stone, screen, block, or other matrix created for that purpose. There is no one original print from which copies were made. Each is inked and pulled individually; it is a multi-original medium. The unique qualities of each matrix influence the nature of the images created by the artist. Regardless of the technology used, an original print is conceived and executed as a print, not as a reproduction of work in another medium”
Canadian Artists Representation quoted in Artists Prints and Reproductions by Mark Graver

Printmaking techniques

Glossary of printmaking Terms


Acrylic Resist Etching (ARE)

Acrylic resists replace the traditional oil/solvent based etching grounds. A range of products is available from hard and soft resist to wash resists and aquatints. Some household floor polishes can also be used.

Acrylic Hard Resist

An acrylic resist that is poured (flow coated) or painted onto a metal plate then drawn through in the traditional manner. Specialist hard resists are available and a recipe has been  specially developed by Mark Graver for the Wharepuke Print Studio.

Wharepuke Print Studio Acrylic Resist

Acrylic Soft Resist

An acrylic soft ground. A small amount of water soluble relief ink + copolymer binder, is roll-coated onto a copper plate. While the ink is wet soft-ground textures are pressed into this ink-ground after which the ground is dried and plate etched in ferric chloride. Specialist soft resist products are also available.

Acrylic Aquatint

First documented by the late Keith Howard in his 1991 publication “Safe Photo Etching for photographers and Artists”. A number of Acrylic Aquatint inks are now available and some hard resist products can also be sprayed with an airbrush to make aquatints.


A method of creating tonal variations in an etching. Traditionally a fine rosin layer is applied to a plate and fixed by heat. This creates a porous ground that can be stopped out and bitten at different intervals to control tone. Non toxic printmaking replaces rosin powder with acrylic resists sprayed onto the plate with an airbrush.

Spraying acrylic aquatint


Silicon Carbide, a mineral substance used as an abrasive grit. Can be applied to plates in a number of ways to create tone and give dense areas of black (colour). Also used to grain (sand) plates as part of plate preparation for applying acrylic resists

Chine Collé

The application of thin layers of paper into the final print. Plate is first inked and positioned on press, papers to be collaged are glued on back and placed glue side up onto the plate; the printing paper is placed over the plate and run through the press.


A collaged plate made of card etc. The surface is built up using a variety of materials – plaster, acrylic paint, card, cloth, leaves etc. Surface must be sealed before printing. Can print intaglio or relief.

Computer numerical control (CNC)

The automation of machine tools (routers, lasers etc) controlled by a computer.

Lift Resists

A lift resist process in which positive marks are made with melted vegetable fat, coated with acrylic resist, aquatinted, and then etched.
No aquatint is needed with aluminium etching.

At Wharepuke we use Kremelta for this process.

Digital Printmaking

Original prints made with a computer and specialist archival inkjet printer.  A distinction is made between original digital prints and reproductions of works that already exist in a different medium.

Mark Graver Collage IV 2016 archival inkjet


The technique of scratching or scoring directly into a plate. This creates a characteristic burr which holds the ink unlike engraving where no burrs are present.

Edinburgh Etch

A mixture of ferric chloride and citric acid, developed by Friedhard Kiekeben at Edinburgh Print Workshop, Scotland in 1997. A metal salt solution used to etch copper and brass it produces no toxic fumes.

Edinburgh Etch
Edinburgh Etch in vertical tank


A chemical free intaglio technique requiring great control. The plate is cut into directly using a sharp-pointed tool called a burin. The engraved line is unique, with a crisp, precise character and clean edges.

Chris Pig – Over London by Rail, engraving, chine-colle 200 x 200 mm


An etching is produced by the action of mordant on a metal plate. A metal plate is coated with a resist or ground which is then drawn through to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in a mordant and where the metal has been exposed the mordant will bite into the plate. Traditionally nitric and hydrochloric acid are used. In non toxic printmaking ferric chloride and copper sulphate (metal salts) are substituted for acids.

Copper Sulphate for printmaking


A posh name for ink jet – see digital printmaking above


Printing ‘in the line’ .A line, cavity or textured effect, incised, scratched or corroded down into the surface of, usually a metal, plate.


A planographic process – the printing and non-printing areas lie in the same plane. Relies on natural antipathy between water and grease. Traditionally uses a stone to print from, but also zinc and aluminium plates, these being the only two effective metals at retaining grease. Printing surface is grained and drawn onto using specially prepared, high grease content inks and crayons. The plate is sponged down with a gum arabic solution which bonds to areas not drawn on. The drawing is then washed away with turps leaving a fine grease residue which is then built up with asphaltum. The gum is rinsed away in water and the plate is then inked up and printed.


The plate, wood block, silkscreen or computer screen from which the print is derived.


A spiked roller called a rockeris used to create a textured pitted surface all over the plate, so that if it was inked and printed it would print in solid black. The picture is then developed in chiaroscuro with a scraper and a burnisher; the artist works from “black” to “white” by flattening (burnishing) areas so that they do not hold ink. No line drawing is employed in pure mezzotint, the result being soft without the sharp lines of an etching.

Pre-rocked mezzotint plates are also available


A Monotype is basically a one off transfer from a painted surface. A Monoprint is a print from a matrix that has been altered ie an etching with added hand colouring or chine-collé.

Relief Prints

Wood Cut/Lino Cut – image is cut into a block of wood or lino and the surface inked. The lines appear white. Or wood/lino can be cut away to leave just the lines raised above the plate surface. Lines print black (coloured).


An image produced by photographic means, copied, scanned etc. Often sold as artists prints or limited edition prints and even open edition unlimited prints they are usually no more than photographic copying of an existing work and should not be confused with original prints


A term coined by Dan Welden to describe an artistic use of flexographic printing plates for intaglio and relief printmaking, described in the 2001 book “Printmaking in the Sun” by Dan Welden and Pauline Muir.

Screen Printing/Serigraphy

An image is created by squeegeeing ink through a fine mesh. Photographic and/or paper stencils can be used to mask areas of the screen.

Sugar Lift/Lift Resist

A lift ground to create a positive image. Sugar solution with Indian ink is painted onto a plate. The plate is covered with a hard ground and placed in warm water. The image will lift away as the sugar dissolves leaving exposed metal which is then etched. Combined with aquatint when etching copper.  At Wharepuke we use Kremelta for lift resists.

Kremelta lift ground

Vegetable shortening (Kremelta, Crisco, Cookeen etc,) lipstick, PVA, Vaseline etc can used to create list resists – when etching aluminium no aquatint is required

Vertical Etching Tank

Used for etching a vertical tank saves space and avoids the need to be pouring ferric chloride into trays. Plates are hung vertically in the tank and an aquarium pump bubbles the mordant over the plate surface.

Wood Engraving

An extremely fine form of woodcutting using blocks made from the end-grain of the wood, great detail and tonality can be obtained.

Photopolymer film

ImagOn. Photopolymer film
ImagOn. Photopolymer film on aluminium plates

UV sensitive film such as ImagOn and Puretch.  The films are laminated to a flat surface, usually a metal plate.  Images printed onto acetates via laser copier are placed over the film which is them exposed to a UV light source.  The plates are developed in a mild soda ash solution then etched.

Mark Graver Last 2014 Photopolymer etching, 200 x 200 mm