Basic Printmaking Techniques


Stone Rubbings were the first examples of the conception of printing.  The rubbings were made by engraving large, flat, stone, slabs; after which, the artist would place a damp piece of paper onto the engraved slab and let it dry so that the paper would mold into the engraved areas.   With the paper held in those areas, ink would be added to the surface with the result being a white outline on a black background.  


Using a smooth, flat surface, such as wood, the artist cuts away all of the flat surface except that which he wants to print.  With the image now raised from the background, he applies ink to the raised image only and then prints it onto paper by either rubbing the paper onto the block using his hands or by running it through a press.  The image appears in reverse on the paper.  

Relief printing techniques include: woodcuts, wood engravings, relief etchings, metalcuts, linocuts and some forms of collography.


Lines and textures are incised or etched into a smooth, flat plate after which ink is added across the plate, allowing it to seep into the incisions.  The ink on the flat surface is then wiped away leaving only the incisions filled with ink.  Moistened paper is placed on top of the plate and then they are pressed together.  The image appears in reverse.

Intaglio printing techniques include: engravings, etchings, drypoints, mezzotints, aquatints and photogravures.  


This means printing on a flat surface that has neither been raised or recessed in order to retain the ink.  The most common form of planography is lithography or “stone-drawing”. 

Lithographs were originally made by etching an image into a wax coating or by applying an oily material to a flat and smooth stone plate.  An oil-based ink was then applied to the surface after which the image was printed onto paper.  

Modern day lithography is far more complex.  A coat of a polymeric or grease-based substance, or tusche is applied to an aluminum plate while keeping the area not intended for print wet using water.  An oil-based ink is then applied to the plate.  The ink will only adhere to the greasy design where the water has been repelled.  It is then printed using direct pressure or by offsetting.  

Planographic printing techniques include: stone lithography, offset printing, collotyping, di-lithos…


This refers to when an image is printed on one surface before being transferred to its final surface.  A plate is printed onto a paper and then the wet ink on that paper is transferred onto a final paper.  This technique is popular when using multiple colours on multiple plates.