The term printmaking refers to the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper, which is done by a printmarker.
Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. The number of copies is often open-ended. A print may be known as an impression. Prints are created from a single original surface, known technically as a matrix. Common types of matrices include: plates of metal, usually copper or zinc for engraving or etching; stone, used for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts, linoleum for linocuts and fabric plates for screen-printing.
Relief printing techniques include woodcut or woodblock as the artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges—leaving the design in relief; metalcut, where the artist uses knives or other tools to remove metal from a plate to leave the design in relief; lino- or linocut, where a sharp knife is used to remove material from a block of linoleum, resulting in a design in relief; and wood engraving, where the artist uses a variety of tools to remove material from the end grain of a block of wood—again resulting in a design in relief.
Intaglio techniques include engraving, where the artist uses a tool to remove material from the surface of a metal plate to create lines sunk below the surface; etching, where the artist uses an acid to “bite” into the unprotected parts of a metal plate so that when ink is applied to these etched areas it is drawn into the grooves, resulting in lines raised above the surface; and mezzotint, where the artist roughens the whole surface of a metal plate so that when ink is applied it will only adhere to the highest points, resulting in very dark areas.
Planographic techniques include lithography, where the artist draws an image directly onto a limestone or zinc plate using an oil- or fat-based crayon or pen, and the raised areas are coated with a water-repellent substance, while the recessed areas attract and hold ink; and screenprinting, where the artist creates a stencil (a negative of the image to be printed) on a fine mesh screen, and ink is forced through the holes in the stencil onto the printing surface below.
The stencil-based technique of serigraphy (also called silk-screening) is similar to screenprinting, but a different stenciling method is used—typically involving hand-drawn or photographic images on transparent film—and the resulting stencil is used to block the flow of ink on a screen Printing techniques are generally divided into the following basic categories: relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil.