Intaglio Printing, a Highly Skilled Printmaking Method.

Intaglio printing is a little different to other printmaking methods of reproducing an image.

Like relief printing, this method uses a block (in this case a sheet of metal), which is carved into with sharp tools. However, it is the incised lines themselves which hold the ink. 

After ink is applied, the plate surface is cleaned with a cloth. The image is then transferred to paper, under considerable pressure, in a printing press. Sometimes the artist will treat the block as a relief print by inking up only the surface of the plate so that the incised lines show up white. Or he/she may combine methods with the one plate. If the metal is removed using an engraving tool, it is called an engraving.

Should a burr be caused on either side of the furrow by the use of force, the burr itself takes up the ink, which is transferred. This is known as a dry-point, characterised by the slight blurriness and softness of its lines. Editions are usually small as the burr is easily worn down. 

Another method is to coat a sheet of zinc or copper with wax . An image is drawn in the wax with a sharp metal tool, right through to the metal. The metal is then eaten away, wherever the lines are drawn, by being immersed in nitric acid. The waxed areas remain protected.

After the wax is cleaned off the plate, it is inked up and the surplus wiped off. It then is passed through a printing press, where the pressure transfers the image to a sheet of heavy paper.

The deeper the mark, the darker the line produced.

The result is an etching. Check out etchings by Leon Pericles.

Leon Pericles also often makes collagraphs, which result in a freer, more spontaneous looking print with less detail.

A collagraph can be both a relief and an intaglio print. The “plate” can be any flat surface – a sheet of cardboard, perspex, timber, metal or plastic – anything which can be passed through a press.

Instead of the image being carved into the plate’s surface, various materials, such as string, and, fabric, gesso or PVA glue are collaged to the plate. It can be cut away, incised or generally treated in a creative way. The resultant block is then inked up and printed through a press.

Quite often, collagraphs are hand-coloured, usually with water-colour paint.

Planographic Printing

Lithographs are neither relief or intaglio prints but are known as planographs as the whole plane is not incised or built up but its flat surface is used to print from.

· A limestone or simulated stone surface is painted with tusche or drawn onto with greasy crayon.

· The stone is then chemically treated so that it will absorb moisture.

· Water is applied to it.

· Ink is drawn across the surface, adhering only to the oily, painted sections.

· The plate is passed through a press and the ink image transferred to paper.

· If lithographs are to be coloured, a separate stone is usually required for each colour.

Here's a clear

video description of the lithographic process.

Serigraphic Printing

· Screen prints or serigraphs are neither relief nor intaglio prints. The printmaker uses a fine meshed screen, usually made of nylon, through which inks are pushed, using a squeegee.

· It is one of the few processes in which the resultant images are not mirror images of their plates.

· A master image is drawn up.

· If more than one colour is to be used, separations are drawn up from the master for each colour.

· Each colour will need a separate screen and registration must be exact.

· The screen is blocked, where colour is not required, by a stencil, by photographic emulsion or, for a more painterly effect if water based inks are used, by a special wax.

· Ink, either water or oil based, is pushed through the screen, using a squeegee.

· After the first colour has dried, the second may be applied and so on until the print is finished.

· Screen prints have a flat, even quality and usually fairly large sections of colour. However, quite intricate images may be printed in this manner.

· Screen printing is also often used for fabric, using inks or dyes.

Stencil Printing

Stencils can be made using heavy paper or plastic. Sections are cut away and ink or paint is applied with rollers or brushes in quite a simple process.


Can you find a class where you could learn intaglio printing, stencil or relief printing? See Classes in Tropical North Queensland for a venue near you. Visitors are usually very welcome.

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Tropical Artists

Leon Pericles - Etchings

Relief Printing

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