LITHOGRAPH: A design is drawn with a greasy crayon on a thick slab of polished limestone or specially prepared metal plate. It is then fixed, or prevented from spreading, by applying a chemical mixture of gum and nitric acid ... in order to make a print the stone is thoroughly dampened, since the key principle behind a lithograph is the natural antipathy of grease and water. When ink is rolled over the damp areas of the stone ... it will attach itself only to the greasy areas of the design. When a piece of paper is pressed against the stone, the ink on the greasy parts is transferred to it; to create a color lithograph a separate stone is used for each color and must be printed separately.

ETCHING: In order to create an etching, an artist coats a metal plate, usually copper, with an acid-resistant etching ground. With a fine needle, he then draws a design on the surface of the plate, through the ground, thus exposing areas of the metal. When the plate is immersed in an acid bath, these lines will be affected, while those areas covered with the ground will not. When the plate is bitten to the artist's satisfaction, it is dried, cleaned of its ground, and inked. The ink applied to the surface settles into the lines or low areas of the plate and the surface is wiped clean so that the ink remains only in the incised design. Wet paper is then placed on top of the plate and together they are pulled through the press. The great pressure required to pick up the printing leaves a visible plate mark within the margin of the uncompressed paper.

AQUATINT: Instead of lines being bitten by the acid bath, whole areas are exposed to the acid. The plate is first prepared with a resin, usually in a powdered form, which is dusted on an area, heated from below the plate to make it adhere and then given an acid bath to bite the tiny areas not covered by the granulated resin. Varied tones are achieved by stopping out some areas of the plate and by biting others more deeply. The final effect is an image on a finely pebbled background (imparted by the porous ground). Aquatint is usually employed in combination with the line etching.

SOFT-GROUND ETCHING: The plate is covered with an etching ground consisting of at least half tallow, which gives the ground a greasy, tacky quality. When a sheet of paper is laid on such a plate, and drawn on with a pencil, the ground under these strokes adheres to the paper and is lifted off the plate when the paper is pulled away. The plate is then bitten in acid. Different effects can be produced by using various papers and fabrics. A soft-ground etching is characterized by a softness of line and a grainy texture, similar to the crayon strokes of a lithograph.

HAND SIGNING AND NUMBERING: A print does not have to be signed and numbered to be original. Signing and numbering prints is a relatively modern practice. The most common method used today is to record on the left side of the print the size of the edition and the number of that particular proof. For example, 11/150 means that there were 150 impressions in the edition of which this is number 11. The signature usually appears at the right margin of the print. An ARTIST PROOF is an impression not part of the regular edition. These usually become the property of the artist, his printer, his dealer, etc. Such proofs are usually identified in the left margin (in place of a number) by one of the following markings:"Artist Proof" written in longhand; A.P. (abbreviated version of the same) or Epreuve d'artiste.

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
©1996 Toby Altman