glossary / techniques

The MoMa has a particularly well done animated presentation on printmaking you may like to view on their website MoMa printmaking link


An intaglio method in which areas of color are made by dusting powdered resin on a metal plate and then letting acid eat the plate surface away from around it.

Chine Colle

Chine colle is a process that introduces color and texture into an etching without having to prepare and print additional plates. Any number of lightweight papers can be successfully used for chine colle, but good quality, natural-fiber papers with some degree of lightfastness are most compatible with general etching papers, which are also used in chine colle.

Chine colle papers are cut or torn into desired shapes, then dampened between blotters until uniformly moist. A printing paper used for the etching is then blotted to remove excess water. The chine colle papers are then brushed with a coating of wheat paste on one side and placed on top of the inked plate in their desired locations, paste side up.

The chine colle papers adhere to the plate enough to remain undisturbed when the dampened printing paper is placed on top. The pressure from the bed laminates both the chine colle paper and the etching paper. The ink from the plate prints on top of the chine colle papers, creating some interesting and unusual effects with lines, tones, and values.


A collagraph is a print made from a collage plate. The plate is created by attaching other material such as cardboard, aluminum, string, sand, and so forth, with the use of glue, acrylic, and/or paste. Dampened paper on top of the inked plate is run through the press. The resulting impression is that of embossing as well as printing. The process of collagraphy combines texturing with the layering of ink.

Dry Point

An intaglio technique like engraving in which the image is drawn on a metal plate with a needle, raising a ridge which prints a soft line.

Embossed Print

Uninked relief print in which dampened paper is pressed into recessed areas of a plate to produce a three-dimensional impression.


An intaglio process in which lines are cut into a metal plate and then filled with ink to transfer the image onto paper.


In the process of etching, a metal plate is coated by material that resists acid, called a ground. The artist then draws his design on the ground with a sharp needle, which removes the ground where the needle touches the plate. When the plate is submerged in an acid bath, only the exposed area is etched. The exposed parts will receive the ink: The plate, in contact with damp paper, is passed through a roller press and the paper is forced into the sunken bath-area to receive the ink. The artist's etchings appear in the finished print as black or colored areas. White areas are left untouched. The depth of tone is controlled by the depth of the etching. The etching process (in particular, the "Intaglio" style) became widely used in the latter half of the 15th century.


Giclée , also called Iris printing, is a relatively new printmaking process. It results in color and detail that are the truest ever to the original image. Briefly, giclée is a digitized print. Four million droplets of ink in 14-micron size are sprayed per second into a paper or canvas surface. This extensive coverage is part of what makes this technology unique. Through what is called stochastic screening, giclée uses minuscule, random dots to create higher image-detail, and allows greater ink-densities that greatly improve the tonal range and contrast.

The giclée print process begins by scanning the original work into, or creating it on a computer. The best results are achieved by having the actual artwork scanned. Once on disk, all aspects of the image can be manipulated to achieve the truest result. Because the images are sprayed into the paper, they become part of the paper's texture rather than sitting on top or embossing as with traditional prints.

Finally, giclée prints must be protected by a specific varnish that adds both ultraviolet protection and surface stabilization. Most inks are water-soluble; the prints thus should be treated with care in the same manner as original watercolor works.


Any work printed directly on paper or similar surface from a plate, screen or block.


Gouache is an opaque watercolor, but unlike ordinary watercolor, gouache has a definite thickness that creates a textured layer of paint. This thickness is achieved by using a larger percentage of ground pigmentation than is used in ordinary watercolor. The addition of chalk or blanc fixe improves the color and textural effects and creates an opacity, and together these features comprise the main distinction between watercolor and gouache.

Gouache paints have total "hiding" ability and do not become progressively transparent with age as do oil paints once applied to canvas.

Unlike transparent watercolors and translucent tempura paints, gouache does not depend on a highly reflective white ground for its brilliance and luminosity. It is most often used when colors are in a high chromatic key or when strong contrasts in color are used.

Hors de commerce (H.C.) (Fr. "Outside of sale")

A designation for prints not in the number series pulled for the use of the publisher or printer, normally limited to five or less.

Intaglio (Ital. "Incision")

Any technique in which an image is incised below the surface of the plate, including dry point,etching,aquatint,engraving,and mezzotint.


A process in which an image is cut in relief on a linoleum block. Embossed Prints are often created this way.


A planographic process in which images are drawn with crayon or a greasy ink on stone or metal and then transferred to paper.

The process of lithography, developed in the 18th century, comes from the Greek words litho, meaning "stone," and graphein, meaning "to draw." Although traditionally lithographs were created on limestone, artists have discovered many innovative materials that are more consistent than the original ones designed over two hundred years ago.

Many of today's artists use the mylar-to-aluminum plating process (which is a relatively new way to render original creations) with the collaboration of a master printer. The technique involves the use of clear mylar as the artist's working surface. Mylar is a semi-translucent plastic material of varying thickness, and its drawing surface is grained from very fine to heavy, at the artist's discretion. A "key" drawing is made on one sheet of mylar with stabilo pencils, and color plates (one for each color to be used in the lithograph) are drawn from this key by the artist. Each drawing may be used as a positive or negative image for the plating. Once it is exposed and developed onto photopolymer (i.e. light-sensitive) plates, the mylar may be stored, carried, or shipped easily.


An intaglio process in which the plate surface is roughened and then an image is created by smoothing the areas to be printed.

Monotype and Monoprint

A monoprint is one of a series, and therefore not entirely unique. A monoprint begins with an etched plate, a serigraph, or a lithograph. The underlying image on the plate, serigraph, or lithograph remains the same and is common to each print in a given series. Other means of additional pigment or design are then often employed to make each print in the series slightly different. The series of monoprints is limited, with each print sequentially numbered.

A monotype is one of a kind -- a unique piece of artwork. It is the simplest form of printmaking, requiring only pigments, a surface on which to apply them, paper, and some form of press. The qualities that make the monotype unique as a medium are its freedom, its flexibility, and the spontaneity of application that is inherent in the process.

Original prints, or multiple originals, are works of art that have been hand-pulled from a plate, a block, or a stone, upon which an image has been placed through any of various techniques by an artist assisted by a master printer. They are not copies of work that an artist has created in another medium, such as oil or watercolor. Original prints are created by an artist with the intention of producing an edition of original prints rather than one unique piece. Multiple originals are hand-signed and sequentially numbered in pencil by the artist.

Photomechanical Offset Reproduction

A process in which an image is transferred to a printing plate photographically and then on to a roller which prints on paper. An offset print is not an original print.


Any process of printing from a surface level with the plate, as lithography


A technique in which the portions of a plate intended to print are raised above the surface, as woodcut, linocut,etc.

Roman Numeral Edition

A smaller edition numbered with Roman numerals, usually a deluxe edition on a higher quality paper.


The terms "serigraph," "silk-screen," and "silk print" are synonyms for prints made by a stenciling method. The basic components of the screen print are the stencil, the screen, and the squeegee. The artist prepares a tightly stretched screen, usually made of silk or polyester, and blocks-out areas not to be printed by filling the mesh of the screen with a varnish-like substance. Paper is placed under the screen, and ink is forced with the squeegee through the still-open mesh and onto the paper. Each color is applied separately. The serigraph process was developed in the 19th century and is among the most popular forms of graphic creation used today.

Signed and Numbered

Authenticated with the artist's signature, the total number of impressions in the edition, and the order in which the impression is signed; "15/20" indicates the print is the fifteenth of an edition of 20 impressions.


A process in which an image is cut in relief on a wood block, then the block is inked and printed.