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Printmaking is an incredibly creative process. It’s based on the basic principle of transferring images from a matrix onto a different surface, say for instance a t-shirt, canvas bag or paper. When it comes to printmaking, there are traditional techniques that include the likes of etching or engraving, woodcut and even lithography. There are also more modern, contemporary techniques that we now know as screen printing.

When we use the term matrix, we’re basically talking about a template of some description otherwise known as a plate. These matrix’s or templates can be made from lino, metal or wood. The design is worked into the matrix using tools and or chemicals to cut or burn it away. Once the design is complete. It’s then used to transfer that design onto the desired surface.

In order to transfer this design, or print from a matrix, one needs to exert some form of controlled pressure. This can be done using a printing press. A printing press creates an even impression of the design that’s been created on the matrix, onto the flat surface of paper or fabric. If you’re utilising the more contemporary techniques such as screen printing however, you’ll be surprised to know that you don’t actually need a press.

It’s always important to remember that the resulting image on the paper or fabric will be a mirror image of that on the matrix. This is extremely important to remember, especially if your design encompasses lettering or numbers, as you’ll need to initially design these back to front on your matrix.

Printmaking is an extremely popular art form. Not only is it enjoyable but it also allows someone to make multiple impressions / editions of the same design from one single matrix (plate). Once that matrix (plate) is complete, you can make virtually an endless number of designs, unless of course you’re working with monotype. Printmaking has multiple benefits however, in order to truly enjoy this creative process, it’s best to find the right type of printmaking for you.

Different Types Of Printmaking

As we touched upon previously, there are many different methods of printmaking. Finding the right one for you will depend greatly on your design, the method you prefer working with and of course, what you’re hoping to achieve with your design. Here are a few different types of printmaking that you may come across as you experiment…

Today we’re focusing on two specific methods known as relief printing and intaglio printmaking.

What Is Relief Printmaking?

Relief printmaking is considered a collection of what’s known as negative techniques. This is where the wood or Lino is cut into and a design on said matrix is basically cut away. The area that is uncut or left is what will be printed. It’s this print that will make the finished product and what is essentially a mirror image of the design on the wood or Lino matrix (plate). The wood or Lino block can be printed by hand with a barren or by using a press and should the final image need multiple colours, several blocks can be created in order to produce multiple coloured prints or even the desired layered image.

Relief printing, otherwise which uses methods such as woodcut or Lino printing can actually be very expressive, creating dramatic effects.

Want to find out more about Lino printing and the necessary tools you’ll need? Check out our lino printing guide and tool reviews here…

What Is Intaglio Printmaking?

The term Intaglio printmaking actually encompasses a number of different techniques, four in fact. Intaglio printing, then from the Italian word ‘intaglio’, which means to engrave or cut, is carried out on a metal plate or acrylic sheet. The metal plate is etched upon with acids or scratched and it’s the lines that are created from this marking method that will print.

This is known as a ‘positive’ method as the print is created from the cut outs or marks whereas the other method we’ve spoken about, Relief printing, would be considered a negative technique. It’s worth noting that the image will still be a mirror image. This particular type of printmaking would be carried out on an etching press.

Choose The Method That’s Right For You

There are several methods of printmaking and finding the right one for you is imperative to ensure your final design is exactly what you want.

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