About Prints
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What is an original Print?

What is an original Print?
Stephen Chambers RA in front his screenprint, Ordeal of Richard Feverel

An original print is an image produced from a surface on which the artist has worked, such as a stone or wood block or a copper plate. This surface is intended by the artist to be a stage in the creation of the artwork. Thus the original work of art in this case is the print itself rather than the block or plate from which it is printed.

Why buy prints?

Why buy prints?

Because there is generally more than one ‘impression’ of any one printed image, it is inevitable that it is often easier to find - and afford - an original print than an oil or watercolour by a certain artist. The price will depend on the quality and the date of the printing.

Intaglio prints

Intaglio prints
Emma Stibbon RA, Blast, intaglio print, Rabley Contemporary

These are prints where the image is cut into a surface or plate. When the plate is inked, the incised lines hold the ink and the image is transferred to a second surface, usually paper. The inked lines on the finished surface are often slightly raised and there is generally a visible line around the image where the plate has been pressed into the paper, called the platemark. Engraving, etching, drypoint, mezzotint and aquatint are types of intaglio printmaking.

Engraving

Engraving
Jan Muller after Rubens, Portrait of Isabella Clare Eugenie, Infanta of Spanish Netherlands, 1615, engraving, Christopher Mendez

The image is engraved directly onto a metal plate, usually made of copper, with a sharp tool called a burin.

Etching

Etching
Julian Trevelyan, (Legend from Jane Austen's) Love and Friendship, 1932/3, etching with fabric pressed into soft-ground, Austin/Desmond Contemporary Books

The plate is covered in an acid-resistant layer of wax called an etching ground. The image is then drawn into this surface with an etching needle. When covered with printing ink the lines hold the ink whilst the rest of the plate repels it.

Drypoint

Drypoint
Ana Maria Pacheco, An Ancient Dark Night Descended Upon my Soul I & II, 2010-12, drypoint, Pratt Contemporary | Pratt Editions

As in an engraving, the drypoint needle draws the image directly onto the plate. The residue copper is left on the side of the etched lines, which then collect the ink, creating a furry effect called burr.

Aquatint

Aquatint
Jaako Mattila, Vibration, 2015, aquatint, Himmelblau Printmaking Finland

The whole plate is covered with grains of resin called an aquatint ground, allowing acid to bite into the entire area, creating an overall grainy, tonal effect. This technique is often combined with etching.

Mezzotint

Mezzotint
C.R.W. Nevinson, The Wind, 1918, mezzotint, The Fine Art Society

Like aquatint, this technique is used to create a tonal effect over large areas. The whole plate is worked with a rocker, creating a rough surface which will hold ink and produce an overall black velvety effect. A second tool is used to burnish out areas which are intended to be white in the final image. Thus this process works from dark to light.

Relief prints

Relief prints
Sybil Andrews, Bringing in the Boat, 1933, linocut, The Redfern Gallery

These are prints where the areas around the image to be printed are cut away, leaving the image on the block in relief. The raised areas are then inked and transferred onto a second surface, usually paper. The most common relief prints include Woodcut and Linocut.

Lithograph

Lithograph
C.R.W. Nevinson, In the Air, 1917, lithograph, Gerrish Fine Art

From the Greek lithos, stone and graphe, writing. This printing process is unlike intaglio and relief processes, both of which involve cutting into the plate. Lithography relies on the principle that grease and water will repel each other. The image is drawn in a greasy substance onto a lithographic stone. The stone is then dampened with water and the greasy printing ink adheres only to the drawing.

Screenprint/Silkscreen

Screenprint/Silkscreen
Joe Webb, Kissing Magritte II, 14 colour screenprint, Jealous Gallery

A form of stencil printing, in which ink is pressed through a fine-mesh screen, traditionally silk, onto a sheet of paper. A design can be applied to the screen in various ways to produce an image. Screenprints are often produced in colour, using different screens for each colour.