At a recently-visited museum of art, I enjoyed an exhibition titled American Women Printmakers: 1895-1965. That prompts this theme of terms of printmaking.
intaglio – printmaking: printing done with a plate bearing an image carved into the plate (rather than a raised image, as on a typewriter key)
[The word, which has meanings outside of printmaking, is pronounced with the g silent.]
– Ronald Kessler, In the President's Secret Service [etc.]
In 2006 I saw an entry on "glicée,"
Since I had not yet signed up, I made bold to send an old-fashioned email:
"Your note brought to mind a taxonomy from when I first learned about printing...
INTAGLIO (ink in the incisions)
Etching / Aquatint
RELIEF (ink on the raised surfaces)
PLANOGRAPHIC (ink on only part of the flat surface – oil and water as separators)
SCREEN (ink passes through fine mesh)
[Rotogravure – pressing intaglio plates with cylinders]"
In most intaglio printing, the image is made by ink trapped in lines that have been cut into the plate. The difficulty is that if the plate-material is hard enough (durable) to survive printing, it is hard (difficult) to cut into. Thus the lines are often made by an indirect method, using acid.
etch – to produce (a design) on a hard material by eating into it with acid, etc. (You first coat the material with wax or the like, and cut the design cut out of the wax. The acid will act only on the parts where the acid-resistant wax has been removed.)
. . ."I know it's necessary for life."
. . ."It is now," Malcolm said. "But oxygen is actually a metabolic poison. It's a corrosive gas, like fluorine, which is used to etch glass. And when oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells–say, around three billion years ago–it created a crisis for all other life on our planet. Those plant cells were polluting the environment with a deadly poison."
– Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
A variety of the acid-dip technique of etching, much used by Goya:
aquatint – an etching method that produces a range of tones, from light to dark. So named because the prints often resemble a water color or wash-drawing.
The plate is coated with fine granular material, so that the acid-dip attacks between the grains, producing a pitting which will print as an even grey. The artist re-dips repeatedly, darkening the grey each time, and before each re-dip he "stops out" (coats thoroughly) areas he doesn't wish to darken further. The result is a print with light-to-dark shading.
How to mark a plate, for printing? The two methods we've seen involve applying acid through gaps in a protective coating. (In "etching" these gaps are scratch-lines in the coating, scratched by a stylus. In "aquatint" they are the sprinkling of minute pinprick holes between grains of a granular coating.)
Alternately, the plate can be scratched or pinpricked by the direct force of a tool upon it. The variations, as I understand them, are these:
drypoint – lines are inscribed directly into the plate by a sharp needle. This produces a soft, fuzzy line, from the metal burrs that the needle leaves in its wake. (Using a sharper or duller needle produces less or more burring.) The disadvantage is that the burrs wear out quickly in printing, generally limiting the editions to 50 prints or fewer.
. . .The needle is also called a burin or a graver.
engraving (as I understand it; not to be confused with etching) – lines are inscribed as in drypoint; then the burr is scraped away to produce a clean line
mezzotint – produces luxurious, rich gray-tones with fine gradations of darkness; almost of photographic quality. As in aquatint, the plate is roughened with thousands of tiny pinpricks; unlike aquatint, the pinpricks are made by the metal teeth of a handtool, the rocker. Advantage: the artist has a great deal of control: he can make pitted areas less pitted, by burnishing, or more pitted by extra rocker-application. Disadvantage: the pits in the plate are shallow, and they degrade during printing. Often only the first couple hundred impressions are of high quality.