Explanation of Printmaking Process
Intaglio printmaking is a process that involves a metal plate that goes through various transformations before prints are made. Usually zinc or copper, the metal plate is first covered with a waxy substance that will repel acid used later to etch an image onto the plate. An etching tool is then used to draw an image onto the plate. When the drawing is done, the plate gets submerged in a vat of acid diluted in water for a period of time necessary to etch the image deeply enough into the plate. This process can be done repeatedly until the artist is satisfied with the final image. Once the plate is completely etched, the waxy repellant is cleaned off and the plate is hand inked. In order for the ink to sit deeply into the etched lines and be absent from the rest of the surface of the metal plate, it is wiped by cheesecloth and then by hand. The plate is put through a press along with heavy watercolor paper that has been previously soaked and nearly dried. It is hand rolled through the press, and a print is made. Depending upon the integrity of the metal used, up to 50 prints can be made from one plate before it deteriorates too much to reproduce a satisfactory image.
Wood-cut or linoleum cut printing is a process that involves carving on wood and then printing an image of the surface that remains. In this process, the artist is carving out whatever will remain white, using the uncarved surface to hold the ink. After carving, the ink is hand rolled onto the wood. Most any kind of paper can be used to make the prints from woodcuts, but rice paper is often chosen. The paper is laid on top of the wood. The method I use to get the ink from the wood to the paper involves a wooden spoon. I rub the back of the paper on top of the wood with the back of the spoon to evenly transfer the ink onto the paper. With wood, up to 25 prints can be made without the image showing deterioration, and linoleum degrades sooner than that. A press can be used also to transfer an image off wood or linoleum to a print.
A reduction print is a complex process in which the artist reduces the wood, printing multiple times as it gets cut away. First, the artist inks the uncut wood and prints the lightest color. If this color is white, there needs to be no first printing. Then she cuts for the next lightest color. The wood is inked again and run through the press. The ink must be cleaned off each time, but this process can go on for many colors. By the time the last color is printed, the wood is a mess of cuts and isn't even good for firewood due to the toxicity of the printing ink. In order to make more than one reduction print, each print must go through each step at the same time.