Etsy shoppers are often on the lookout for affordable original art, and hand-pulled prints are a great place for art lovers to start building a collection. I won’t delve into too much detail regarding the different techniques, but if you’re interested in learning more, please take a look at the links listed below.
Put simply, printmaking is the process of making an artwork by transferring an image from a surface on which ink is applied – a plate, block, screen or stone – to another (usually paper). Often multiples are printed, which is known as an edition, but each impression is an original artwork, handmade by the artist. Limited editions are signed and numbered by the artist, which makes the print more valuable.
Sometimes only one print is made, called a monoprint or monotype.
What determines the different types of printmaking, such as an engraving, etching, lithograph, linocut, woodcut or screen print, is the material the inked surface is made from, the way the image is created on its surface, and the way the ink is applied and transferred.
For example, with relief prints, such as linocuts and woodcuts, the block is carved away by the artist until the image is left in relief, then the ink is applied to the surface with a roller (called a brayer), and pressure is applied — by using a baren, a press, or even the back of a humble spoon — to transfer the ink to paper (or sometimes fabric, or other surfaces).
Mixed Media Prints
Artists also like to mix it up by using different printmaking techniques in the one artwork, or applying other media such as paint or collage, to create something truly unique.
Find collographs in the Etsy Art Category.
With intaglio printmaking, the image is carved into the plate. The intaglio printmaker can make her markings through various methods, such as engraving or etching. After the artist inks the plate, she wipes off the excess ink so that only the marked areas will transfer ink to the paper (or fabric, or other surface).
Find more intaglio prints on Etsy.
Serigraph and silkscreening are other words for screenprinting, the technique of forcing ink through a screen with an image burned into an emulsion layer. (For an in-depth look, check out this Screenprinting and You video). Gocco is a Japanese machine using the screenprinting technique with a built in flash bulb (see a How-To video Etsy made about Gocco printing).
Can all prints be defined as printmaking? The short answer is no. While browsing original prints on Etsy, you may also stumble on reproduction prints. Reproductions are copies of original artworks, such as paintings and drawings. They are not printed by hand, and most often printed digitally, such as inkjet or giclée prints. To add to the confusion, digital art and photography fall into distinct categories of their own. Although they are often printed digitally, they are not reproductions because they are not copies of existing artwork, and yet they don’t fit within the printmaking category either. Confusing? Luckily, most Etsy sellers are very friendly and helpful, and will happily answer your questions about the techniques and printing processes they use, so please don’t hesitate to contact the artist for clarification.
Enough details! Luckily, you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the beauty of an original print. And even better, you don’t need to be a millionaire to start a collection of original art – printmaking is the perfect place to start!