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Learn More About Prints
A print is a replication of an original graphic artwork, typically one that has been created by transferring it from one surface to another. There are four main types of printmaking: relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil, each using different techniques and materials to create and replicate an image. Regardless of type, prints can include text, imagery, or both and fit in frames just like a painting for your wall or side table. Prints often include artist signatures or numbered editions for collectibility.
Relief and intaglio printmaking are when an artist etches or carves an original artwork into a block of material—called a matrix or plate—which is then layered in ink, essentially making a fine art stamp. In relief printing, the artist removes what they don’t want to be seen—also known as negative space—before applying ink to the raised surface. Intaglio printmaking is the opposite: Artists carve the desired image out of the plate and apply ink beneath the original surface for printing.
Relief cuts made from linoleum plates are called linocuts, while wood relief cuts are simply termed woodcuts. Both wood and linocuts can create stunning images with deep blacks and fine detailing. Intaglio artists predominantly use plates made of malleable metal like copper.
Letterpress prints are a form of relief printing that uses metal plates to stamp onto paper just like how old newspapers were made. They are often text based but can be used to create other images like drawings, maps, and more. Lithographs are cut from limestone and use grease and water to produce images.
Planographic prints are printed onto the same plane like music and movie posters, giclée prints, and digital prints. Giclée prints are made from photographing original work like a painting or drawing and reprinting them using extremely sophisticated, professional printers. Despite being reprinted into multiple copies, giclée prints are considered fine art prints due to the high quality and superior precision of the printers used. Giclées are therefore different from digital prints which refer to taking a digital-based image and printing it out.
Some planographic artists also make monotypes by making an ink or painted image directly on a smooth surface—usually glass or metal—and then hand printing the art onto paper. Monotypes only create a single image, however, as the printing process removes the ink artwork. So each one is truly one of a kind.
One of the most popular stencil prints are screen prints which uses light sensitive emulsion and a mesh screen to create a stencil. Through a technique known as burning the screen, a design is placed over an emulsion-covered screen, burned with intense light, and then washed. The stencil allows you to print images onto any canvas as artwork ready for display or onto other materials like wood or fabrics.