Search the Collection:

Artwork copyright Christie Tirado. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Prints and Printmaking

What Is a Print? A print is an artwork made up of ink on paper and it can be made multiple times. The artist begins by drawing on a surface or “plate.” A sheet of paper is placed on the drawn surface and is run through a printing press, one time or many times (with more ink as needed), to transfer the creation onto paper or another surface. The artist decides how many times to print the plate and that total number is called an "edition." They are signed and numbered by the artist.

Each print in an edition is usually a little different from the others. Artists are often attracted to printmaking because the process can add unexpected results in an interesting way.

“I really love printmaking. It's like a mystery and you're trying to figure out how to rein it in.” –Kiki Smith (American artist, born 1954)

Printmaking Terms:

Block prints involve a design that is carved in wood or linoleum, and the raised surface is what creates the print.

Collagraphs are made by printing a collaged surface that creates a relief surface with a variety of textures.

Engraving involves carving into a metal plate to create the design.

In an etching, a strong acid is used to dissolve away parts of the metal surface that were exposed by drawing on the plate. The etched plate is inked and wiped, but the ink stays in the carved lines, and is transferred to paper to create the print.

In lithography, the artist uses greasy lithographic crayons to create an image on a stone or metal plate. The inks will only stick to the greasy areas and that is what creates the image.

Monotypes prints can only be made once. Paint is applied to a smooth surface and then printed onto paper. Monoprints are made by adding paint in a highly unique way to any type of printing plate (woodcuts, lithography plates, or even etched plates). For both, most of the paint is removed during the first printing, so only one true print can be made.

Screenprinting or serigraphy is a type of stenciling. An image is designed on a screen and then paint or ink is applied through the “silk screen.” The edges of the stencil block the ink to create the image.