The second part of our exploration of print making, this time we're looking at techniques such as letterpress, monoprint and Giclée.
After researching for our first blog post on print making techniques (which you can read here) we quickly realised that this was no ‘one post’ topic. In this second half of our exploration we will be looking at even more hand printing methods and also touching on some of the digital techniques often favoured by artist and illustrators today.
Devised in the mid 1400’s, for centuries letterpress was the only practical way of creating reproduction prints. This process is very labour intensive and requires great patience and skill. The process often begins with the printer laying out the text letter by letter onto a metal plate, also ensuring that they do so backwards to when printed it reads the correct way. The text is then transferred using inks and rollers. This process has remained pretty much unchanged up until today however active letterpress studios are a rare find due to the rise of digital print making and word processing. This process can also be used to create embossed images.
A technique similar to etching in many ways but often generating a much smaller number of prints. The artist uses a needle or sharp pointed tool to scratch the design directly onto the surface of the plate before running the plate through a roller press. Due to the shallow nature of the line work often the prints will have a softer appearance and the design on the plate will begin to wear down a lot quicker than other print methods.
Designed in Japan and originally intending for high volume photocopying, Risograph printers quickly caught on in the art world as a way of quickly and cheaply generating large quantities of low value prints. The original drawing is scanned into the Risograph and a master copy is created by tiny heat spots burning holes into the master. The master is then wrapped around the
drum through which ink is forced through the holes created by the heat. Often Risograph printers will have interchangeable colour drums meaning that, for multiple shades, a print will have to be passed through twice, however this remains a highly effective way of generating multiple quantities at low cost.
To create a collagraph, the artist often begins by gathering together various objects with interesting textures and shapes, this can be anything from lace to paperclips to feathers. These items will then be laid out and glued down to create the desired image. As long as the print isn’t built up to high or something is likely to damage to printing press, pretty much anything can be used when creating a this type of print. Collagraphs are usually highly textured and of a limited run.
Although still considered a print making technique, mono-printing is unique in the fact that only one copy is created, whereas with other methods the
print run can be endless. There are two techniques for this method. The first is where the artist uses printing inks to paint the image directly onto a glass (or easily cleanable smooth surface) and then gently lays the paper on top before applying gentle pressure. The second method is to cover a smooth surface entirely with ink before gently resting a light weight paper such as newsprint over the ink, ensuring not to apply any weight or press it down. The artist then takes a blunt pencil or tool and drawings onto the paper, the pressure of the pencil will transfer the ink onto the other side often creating a soft, textured impression of the drawing. Monoprints are very atmospheric and unique.
Giclée or Archival prints are digitally created and are a method greatly favoured by contemporary artists. Often created using fade resistant inks and an inkjet printer, there is no limit to how many copies can be created and often is a method used to create reproductions of paintings or drawings. The word ‘giclée’ has become synonymous with high-quality, however as there is no set method or regulation, this unfortunately is not always the case.
So from the very beginnings of print making right up to todays computerised versions, we’ve tried to give you a basic breakdown of every method we could think of. Of course, we can’t claim to have covered everything and if there are any more methods that you would like to hear about or techniques that you love that we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments, we would love to expand our knowledge!