What are Prints?

Our fifth and final post in a series of five on Printmaking.

“Prints, Prints, and more Prints” at the WCI Arts Center ended yesterday, I hope everyone was able to see it!

For the last two weeks we’ve discussed the four main types of traditional printmaking and how each technique influences the appearance of the final print. The four types are relief, intaglio, planography, and stencil or serigraphy.

Relief printmaking is the oldest of the four and is created from a raised surface. A simple example might be a rubber stamp on an ink pad pressed on a piece of paper. The matrix, traditionally made from wood or linoleum, is created by cutting away unwanted sections to reveal the image to be printed. The completed print is then a mirror image of the original woodcut.

Intaglio is a printmaking process in which the image is cut into the surface of the printing matrix, typically smooth thin pieces of metal made of copper or zinc. The print is made by pushing ink into the lines of the design. The surface is then wiped clean so only the areas to be printed, the grooves, have ink. A dampened piece of paper is placed on the matrix and, using pressure, the paper is forced into the grooves to transfer the image.

The images made with the methods of relief and intaglio are made under pressure, an amount of force is needed to create the images. Planography, commonly called lithography, is printmaking on a flat surface and needs no pressure. This printing method is derived from the natural revulsion between grease and water. Grease attracts grease and repels water while water attracts water and repels grease. Each color desired will need its own stone or plate. Modern day offset lithography, or offset printing, accounts for more than 40% of all published, packaged and printed material.

The last type of printmaking we discussed was stencil, also known as screen printing, silk printing or serigraphy. A screen printing stencil is a sheet of mesh stretched over a frame. The mesh has been treated with an emulsion that creates a resist for the ink where the artist does not want the ink to be printed. The image to be printed is “burned through” the emulsion with a specialized light and ink is forced through the opening onto the surface to be printed, traditionally paper. This method is quite versatile and allows for almost anything to be screen printed.

Printmaking is an amazing art form that has evolved through the ages. I enjoyed doing a little research and learning more about the various techniques. I hope the readers of this Blog learned something as well. The WCI Arts Center has excellent examples of lithography by local artist, Peggy West, and screen printing by the WIU emeritus professor of art and local artist, Sam Parker, in our Fall Raffle. Tickets can be purchased to win either or both of these images at one for $5 or five tickets for $20. Stop by and get yours today!

The next exhibit at the WCI Arts Center opens this Friday, October 19. “Photo Narratives” will have a public opening reception on that evening at 6:30pm. Hope to see you all there!