Dictionary of Print Making Terms studbig

Index: [ A | B | C | E | F | G | H | I | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | V |W ]

Go to: [ Reference Library home page | Glossary of abbreviations | What Is A Print? ]

After: A print is made after an artist if the printmaker copied the image from a drawing or painting by that artist.

À la poupée: A print is printed in color à la poupée when colored ink is applied directly to a plate’s surface and worked into the appropriate area of the design using cotton daubs called dollies, or in French, poupée.

Antique print: Any print printed and published prior to 1900 is considered an antique print. A modern reproduction of an old print is not itself an antique. The cut-off date of 1900 is not firmly fixed, however, and in many circumstances original prints made before World War II are also considered to be antiques.

Blind stamp: A blind stamp (also “chop mark”) is an embossed seal impressed onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution, or a collector.

Block: A {wood} block is a piece of wood used as a matrix for a print. Wood blocks are used primarily for woodcuts or wood engravings.

Broadsheet (broadside) An unfolded sheet of paper printed on one side only. A broadside is an advertisement or announcement printed on a broadsheet.

Catalogue raisonné: A catalogue raisonné is a documentary listing of all the works by an artist which are known at the time of compilation. It should include all essential documentary information.

Chine appliqué (chine collé): A chine appliqué or chine collé is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of China (or other similar) paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine appliqué prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints. Proof prints are often done as chine appliqués.

Edition: An edition of a print includes all the impressions published at the same time or as part of the same publishing event. A first edition print is one which was issued with the first published group of impressions. First edition prints are sometimes pre-dated by a proof edition. Editions of a print should be distinguished from states of a print. There can be several states of a print from the same edition, and there can be several editions of a print all with the same state. For limited editions, cf. below.

Fine Art & Historical Prints: Prints can be separated into two general types, fine art prints and historical prints. These types can best be understood through a differentiation of their emphasis. The distinction between the two types of prints is not clear-cut nor is it understood by all experts in the same way, but generally a fine art print is one conceived and executed by an artist with as much or more concern for the manner of presentation of the print as for its wp-content, whereas the concern of the maker of an historical print is focused more on the wp-content of the image than on its presentation.

Gum arabic: A secretion of the acacia tree. Used on the surface of some antique hand-colored prints to add depth/texture to the image. Can be seen by holding the print at an angle to the light.

Impression: An impression is a single piece of paper with an image printed on it from a matrix. The term as applied to prints is used in a manner similar to the term “copy” as applied to a book.

Intaglio: An intaglio print is one whose image is printed from a recessed design incised or etched into the surface of a plate. In this type of print the ink lies below the surface of the plate and is transferred to the paper under pressure. The printed lines of an intaglio print stand in relief on the paper. Intaglio prints have platemarks.

Lettering or Letterpress: The lettering of a print refers to the information, usually given below the image, concerning the title, artist, publisher, engraver and other such data.

Limited Edition: A limited edition print is one in which a limit is placed on the number of impressions pulled in order to create a scarcity of the print. Limited editions are usually numbered and are often signed. Limited editions are a relatively recent development, dating from the late nineteenth century. Earlier prints were limited in the number of their impressions solely by market demand or by the maximum number that could be printed by the medium used. The inherent physical limitations of the print media and the relatively small size of the pre-twentieth century print market meant that non-limited edition prints from before the late nineteenth century were in fact quite limited in number even though not intentionally so. German printmaker Adam von Bartsch, in his 1821 Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde, estimated the maximum number of quality impressions it was possible to pull using different print media.

  • Engraving: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images)
  • Stipple: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images)
  • Mezzotint: 300 to 400, though the quality suffers after the first 150
  • Aquatint: Less than 200
  • Wood block: Up to 10,000

It was only with the development of lithography and of steel-facing of metal plates in the nineteenth century that tens of thousands of impressions could be pulled without a loss of quality. These technological developments led to the idea of making limited edition prints, by which printmakers created an appearance of rarity and individuality for multiple-impression art.

Matrix: A matrix is an object upon which a design has been formed and which is then used to make an impression on a piece of paper, thus creating a print. A {wood} block, {metal} plate, or {lithographic} stone can be used as a matrix.

Mixed Method: A mixed method print is one whose design is created on a single matrix using a variety of printmaking techniques, for example: line engraving, stipple, and etching.

Numbered Print: A numbered print is one which is part of a limited edition and which has been numbered by hand. The numbering is usually in the form of x/y, where y stands for the total number of impressions in this edition and x represents the specific number of the print. The number of a print always indicates the order in which the prints were numbered, not necessarily the order in which the impressions were pulled. This, together with the fact that later impressions are sometime superior to earlier pulls, means that lower numbers do not generally indicate better quality impressions. As with signed prints, the numbering of prints is a development of the late nineteenth century.

Original Print: An original print is one printed from a matrix on which the design was created by hand and issued as part of the original publishing venture or as part of a connected, subsequent publishing venture. For fine art prints the criteria used is more strict. A fine art print is original only if the artist both conceived and had a direct hand in the production of the print. An original print should be distinguished from a reproduction, which is produced photomechanically, and from a restrike, which is produced as part of a later, unconnected publishing venture.

Paper: Laid paper is made by hand in a mold, where the wires used to support the paper pulp emboss their pattern into the paper. “Laid lines” are made by the closely laid wires running the length of the frame; these are crossed at wider intervals by “chain lines,” which are made by the wires woven across these long wires to hold them into place. This pattern of crossing lines can be seen when the paper is held up to light. Laid paper often has a watermark. Wove paper is made by machine on a belt and lacks the laid lines. False laid lines can be added to machine-made paper. Though wove paper was invented in the eighteenth century and laid paper is still produced, the majority of prints made prior to 1800 are on laid paper and the majority of prints made subsequently are on wove paper. China paper is a very thin paper, originally made in China, which is used for chine appliqué prints.

Planographic: A planographic print is one whose image is printed off a flat surface from a design drawn on a stone or plate using a grease crayon or with a greasy ink. In this type of print the printing ink is absorbed by the greasy design on the stone and is transferred to the paper under light pressure.

Plate: A {metal} plate is a flat sheet of metal, usually copper, steel or zinc, used as a matrix for a print. Metal plates are used for intaglio prints and for some lithographs.

Platemark: A platemark is the rectangular ridge created in the paper of a print by the edge of an intaglio plate. Unlike a relief or planographic print, an intaglio print is printed under considerable pressure, thus creating the platemark when the paper is forced together with the plate. Some reproductions have a false platemark.

Pochoir: Hand-printed image using a stencil. Sometimes used to apply color to a printed image.

Print: A single print is a piece of paper upon which an image has been imprinted from a matrix. In a general sense, a print is the set of all the impressions made from the same matrix. By its nature, a print can have multiple impressions. [Cf. What Is A Print?]

Print Cabinet: A term used for a print collection in a museum or library. In French, Cabinet des estampes; in German, Drucke kabinett.

Proof: A proof is an impression of a print pulled prior to the regular, published edition of the print. A trial or working proof is one taken before the design on the matrix is finished. These proofs are pulled so that the artist can see what work still needs to be done to the matrix. Once a printed image meets the artist’s expectations, this becomes a bon à tirer (“good to pull”) proof. This proof is often signed by the artist to indicate his approval and is used for comparison purposes by the printer. An artist’s proof is an impression issued extra to the regular numbered edition and reserved for the artist’s own use. Artist’s proofs are usually signed and are sometimes marked “A.P.”, “E.A.” or “H.C.” (Cf. glossary of abbreviations) Commercial publishers found that there was a financial advantage to offering so-called “proofs” for sale and so developed other types of proofs to offer to collectors, generally at higher prices.

  • Proof before letters (Avant les lettres): An impression pulled before the title is added below the image.
  • Scratched letter proof: An impression in which the title is lightly etched below the image.
  • Remarque proof: An impression pulled before the remarque is removed.

Relief: A relief print is one whose image is printed from a design raised on the surface of a block. In this type of print the ink lies on the top of the block and is transferred to the paper under light pressure.

Remarque: A remarque is a small vignette image in the margin of a print, often related thematically to the main image. Originally remarques were scribbled sketches made in the margins of etchings so that the artist could test the plate, his needles, or the strength of the etching acid prior to working on the main image. These remarques were usually removed prior to the first publication of the print. During the etching revival, in the late nineteenth century, remarques became popular as an additional design element in prints and were also used in the creation of remarque proofs.

Reproduction: A reproduction is a copy of an original print or other art work whose matrix design is transferred from the original by a photomechanical process. A facsimile is a reproduction done to the same scale and appearance as the original.

Restrike: A restrike is a print produced from the matrix of an original print, but which was not printed as part of the original publishing venture or as part of a connected, subsequent publishing venture. A restrike is a later impression from an unrelated publishing project.

Signed: A signed print is one signed, in pencil or ink, by the artist and/or engraver of the print. A print is said to be signed in the plate if the artist’s signature is incorporated into the matrix and so appears as part of the printed image. Proof prints were originally signed as “proof” that the impression met the artist’s expectation. Later proof prints were signed in order to add commercial value to these impressions. In the late nineteenth century, in response to the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques, fine arts prints were signed by the artists in order to distinguish between original prints and reproductions. Seymour Haden and James McNeil Whistler are usually credited with introducing this practice in the 1880s.

State: A state of a print includes all the impressions pulled without any change being made to the matrix. A first state print is one of the first group of impressions pulled. Different states of a print can reflect intentional or accidental changes to the matrix. States of a print should be distinguished from editions of a print. There can be several editions of a print which are the same state, and there can be several states of a print in the same edition.

Stone: A {lithographic} stone is a slab of stone, usually limestone, used as a matrix for a print. Lithographic stones are used to make lithographs and chromolithographs.

Verso: Strictly speaking, “verso” refers to the left-hand page in a book, in contrast to the “recto” page on the right. It is used with prints, however, to refer to the back side of the print.

Vignette: A vignette is an image that does not have a definite border around it. This term also applies to a small image that is part of a larger print.

Watermark: A watermark is a design embossed into a piece of paper during its production and used for identification of the paper and papermaker. The watermark can be seen when the paper is held up to light.