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Introduction to Printmaking Intaglio. Union Grove High School Kirby Meng.

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introduction to printmaking intaglio

Introduction to PrintmakingIntaglio

Union Grove High School

Kirby Meng


An original print is an image on paper or similar material made by one or more printmaking processes. Because more than one impression of each image is possible, "original" does not mean "unique." Prints are multiple originals as each one will vary slightly from the others. The development of printmaking was connected to the development of movable type and the printing press in the fifteenth century, although woodblock printing had been done on textiles since ancient times.

In contemporary printmaking, artists frequently number their prints. The total number of prints made of one image is an edition. The number may appear on the print with the individual print number as a fraction such as 5/25 meaning that this particular print is number 5 of 25 prints made.

Prints in color require two or more blocks, plates, screens or stones, one for each color, printed sequentially on top of each other to produce the final work of art. This process is called registration.


Relief Prints are made using a raised printing surface. Woodcuts are the most common type of relief print, a linoleum block print is another (modern) type of relief print. Relief prints are usually made on soft wood and the area that are to remain white are carved away. When inked, only those areas that were left will be inked and therefore will print. Wood engraving is a similar process but uses a much harder wood that allows the artist to engrave a much finer line than traditional woodcut printing.

  • Albrecht Durer used this technique in many of his works.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1497, approximately 15” X 11”

The Seven Angels with Trumpets – 1498, approximately 15” X 11”


Lithographyis aplanographic technique based on the idea that oil and water don’t mix. The artist draws directly on a flat stone or specially prepared metal plate usually with a greasy crayon and then the stone is dampened with water and then inked. The ink clings to the greasy crayon marks, but not to the dampened areas. When a piece of paper is pressed against the stone, the ink on the greasy parts is transferred to it. Toulouse Lautrecand Picasso are among the artists shown who used this technique.

Mademoiselle Marcelle Lender, Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895

Carnival by Pablo Picasso, 1958


A stencil is another type of printmaking and Silk screen is a type of stencil. This technique first came into use in the early 20th century. The artist prepares a tightly stretched screen, usually of silk and usually on a wooden frame. Areas not to be printed are blocked out by filling the mesh of the screen with a varnish-like substance (or any number of other materials which would block up the pores of the fabric). Paper is placed under the screen and ink forced through the still-open mesh onto the paper. This technique is also widely used on textiles, including T-shirts. Robert Rauschenberg andAndy Warhol are examples of artists that used silkscreen.

Robert Rauschenberg, Retroactive I, Oil and Silk Screen on Canvas, 1964

Andy Warhol, Marilyn, Silk Screen, 1967


Intaglio printing was invented in Germany in the 1430’s well after woodblock printing. Intaglio printing involves the use of a plate. Intaglio printing is the opposite of relief printing, in that the printing is done from ink that is below the surface of the plate. The design is cut, scratched, or etched into the printing surface or plate, which can be copper, zinc, aluminum, magnesium, plastic, or even coated paper. The printing ink is rubbed into the incisions or grooves, and the surface is wiped clean. This type of printing requires considerable pressure so wet paper is laid over the inked plate on the bed of the printing press, covered with a blanket to ensure even pressure and they are passed between two metal rollers to create the print. The paper is forced into the sunken areas to receive the ink. The pressure of the plate going through the press will force the plate into the paper leaving an impression called plate mark . The plate can be incised by one of several methods:

  • Engraving
  • Etching
  • Drypoint
  • Intaglio

Engraving The design is cut into the plate by driving furrows with a tool called a burin. The careful control required by the cutting method results in a rather stiff, controlled style of image, with shading accomplished through the use of parallel lines, or "hatching." Hogarth (18th c.) is an artist who often created engravings.

  • Etching A metal plate is coated with a material called a ground. The artist then draws his design on the ground with a sharp needle, that cuts through the ground to the metal below. When the plate is put in an acid bath, these exposed areas will be etched (or eaten away). This produces the sunken line which will receive the ink. The artist etches on the plate those parts which will appear in the finished print as black or colored areas. Since the ground is soft, the artist is able to work more freely than is possible with engraving, displaying a freer, more relaxed quality of line. The length of time the plate is left in the acid bath will affect the darkness and character of the lines. Rembrandt(17th c.) did many etchings.
  • Drypoint In this technique, the sunken lines are produced directly by diamond-hard tools pulled across the plate. The depth of line is controlled by the artist's muscle and experience. The method of cutting produces a ridge along the incisions, called burr. This gives the dry-point line the characteristically soft, velvety appearance absent in the clean edged lines of an engraving or etching.
  • Aquatint A copper plate is protected by a powdered ground that is melted onto the surface of the plate. It is acid resistant, but covers incompletely, resulting in a grainy surface texture. The longer the plate is left in the acid bath, the darker and heavier the texture will become. It is usually combined with a standard etching ground that permits lines and clear white areas as well. The final effect is an image on a fine pebbled background (imparted by the porous ground). Aquatint is usually employed in combination with line etching when subtle value gradations are desired.

Some examples of Intaglio prints….

St. Christopher, Albrect Durer, 1521

The Holy Family, Albrecht Durer, 1512


Caprichos, Francisco Goya, 1797, 6” X 8.5”, etching and aquatint

Melancolia, Albrecht Durer, 1514


The Disasters of War, Francisco Goya, 1512

Zandamm, The Netherlands, James Whistler, 1889


Woman with dead child, Kathe Kollwitz, 1903

The Milkmaid, Luccas van Leyden, 1510


Rembrandt van Rijn

Christ Preaching, 1649

Self Portrait, 1630

Three Crosses, 1653


Self portrait with Raised Sabre, 5” X 4”, 1634

Self Portrait with Saskia, about 4” X 4”, 1636

Self Portrait, 8” X 7”, 1639


Dead Sentry in the Ditch, Otto Dix, 1924

The Grenade, Max Beckman, 1914

House Destroyed by Bombs, Otto Dix, 1924


Intaglio Images by VitalyGubarev…

Hoar Frost, 1987, 20” X 27”

Willow Herb, 1985, 21” x 25”

Ice Float at Oka, 1991, 30” X 37”


Near the Brook, 1981, 17” X 17”

Thaw, 1988, 29” X 33”

The Island, 1988 30” X 32”


Haymaking Time, 1996, 26” X 29”

Forest paradise, 1994, 24” X 36”