What the #%$^ is Printmaking?

My work and process as a visual artist includes drawing, photography (alternative, film, & digital), and performance, but primarily manifests itself as an original print. What is an original print and what is printmaking?

Printmaking as a fine art conceptually means using a matrix to create an image. The matrix carries the information of the image and transfers it onto paper. Depending on the printmaking discipline, the matrix could be a metal or plastic plate (intaglio), a stone or aluminum plate (lithography), a wooden, linoleum, or plastic block (relief), a screen (silkscreen/serigraphy), or a sheet of plastic or glass (monotype).

The print is a multiple original in which the artist has conceived the work to be a print and has taken the matrix through the process to result in a fine art limited edition print.

Printmaking continues to be defined and redefined as printmaking grows as an artform, utilizing ever-evolving technology. In many communities digital printmaking has become accepted as another discipline of the artform. Print installation and 3D printing have also gained much traction.


+ Intaglio: Printmaking discipline in which the image is incised into a metal surface (traditionally), filled with ink and transferred onto paper. This includes engraving, etching, drypoint, mezzotint, and collagraph.

+ Lithography: A planographic discipline of printmaking, where the image is created on the surface of a stone (traditionally) or aluminum plate using a waxy or greased based medium, and then transferred to paper. This technique is based on the fact that water and grease do not mix.

+ Relief Printing: A printmaking discipline where the image is printed from the raised surface, with non-image areas removed by cutting and carving.

+ Silkscreen: Another term for serigraphy, silkscreen is a printmaking discipline that is a stencil process, using a fine mesh screen on a stretched frame. Stencils can be applied or attached in a variety of ways; ink is then scraped through the openings in the stencil to transfer the image to paper.

+ Monotype: A one-of-a-kind print created from a matrix; it cannot be recreated. Often interchanged with monoprint (more on that later…)

+ Digital Printmaking: An image output onto paper by digital means.


For a visual and interactive definition, visit http://www.moma.org/interactives/projects/2001/whatisaprint/print.html.
For more information and terminology, check out the Glossary section (coming soon).