PROCESSES, continued

A word about printmaking:

Intaglio is an all encompassing word for many printing techniques such as etching, engraving, aquatint, drypoint, mezzotint, etc. It is simply the method used to get the ink from the plate to the paper. In intaglio printing the ink is applied to the surface of the plate (usually zinc or copper) and forced into the lines and textures. The plate is then carefully wiped (with a stiff type of "cheesecloth" called tarletan) so that the surface is clean but ink remains in the lines and textures. Dampened unsized or lightly sized paper is then placed on the plate, along with felt blankets, and run through a press with about 2000 lbs of pressure. The paper is pushed into the depressed or recessed lines and the reversed image on the plate becomes "normal" again as it is printed onto the paper.

The lines and textures are traditionally created by applying an acid resist to the surface of the plate, revealing the plate surface by removing the resist with an etching tool or by the use of a solvent. The plate is put into an acid bath letting the acid bite (or “eat”) into the opened areas. The word “etch” is from the German word “essen” which means “to eat”. The depth of line or darkness of the tone is determined by the length of time the plate is left in the acid. The coating is then removed, the plate inked up and a print is made.

Most etchings are printed as intaglios, although an etched plate can also be printed as a relief. In this case the ink would be applied with a roller (or "brayer") to the surface of the plate only, leaving the lines and textures inkless. Woodcuts and wood engravings are commonly printed by the relief method.

A woodcut is done on the plank grain of the wood and a wood engraving is done on the end grain. A wood engraving block is traditionally made up from many small blocks of end grain wood ( fruit wood, maple or Turkish boxwood) glued carefully together and planed down to the height of lead type.( Many early illustrations were created as wood engravings and were set onto the press bed along with the text to be printed together as one unit.) The tools used for a woodcut are usually various kinds of gouges to “carve out” the “whites”. The tools used for wood engravings are called gravers and are flat at the tips in the shape of elongated triangles. The marks are “pushed “ out and can be very refined. The density of the marks determines the light and dark values.