Chemical solution used for biting into the non-blocked areas
of a metal printing plate. Nitric acid in solution is the
most usual but the slow action of ferric chloride is
preferred for the aquatint, etc.
Acid Free: Paper having a pH level of 7 or more.
Acidic: The unstable molecular state in paper which
causes progressive material breakdown (discoloration,
d'après): Lettering on a print
indicates that the design or image is a copy of a known work
by another artist.
Aging: Progressive deterioration caused by
atmospheric components such as oxygen, moisture,
temperature, any kind of light, particulates such as carbon,
dust etc. that eventually affect every artwork.
Alkaline Buffer: In paper products (e.g. framing
mattes, printing paper), an additive that raises the pH
level to counteract potential damage to the print over time.
Archival: For optimum print conservation, those
materials that have safeguards against the aging process due
to neutral or slightly alkaline pH.
Artist's proof (also A.P., E.A.):
proofs made by the artist during the creative process.
Nowadays this category is mainly a custom, where a certain
proportion over and above the total print run (generally not
exceeding 5-10%) is allotted to the artist for his personal
Aquatint: An intaglio method of printing in which
half tone gradations are created by etching around bonded
grains of resin. This produces a pitted plate that can, when
printed, result in highly painterly effects, much like a
Avant la Lettre: (see Proof Before Lettering)
The edge of a metal printing plate that is
honed at an angle so that it does not cut through the paper
Biting: In etching, the corrosive action of the acid
bath as it attacks the metal or stone matrix.
Block: The wood plate used in printing woodcuts or
Double or out-of -focus image that occurs
when an image has been misprinted due to faulty alignment of
paper and inked roller.
Bon a Tirer or B.A.T.:
(French, "good for
printing") The artist's notation in the margin which is
his approval that this print is the final contender in a
series of trial proofs that meets his expectations for the
whole edition. For the printer this is the key work-sheet.
It is his absolute reference point for the technical
execution of every print, which must have no variations, and
which is compared against this B.A.T. line for line, color
Burin: The basic tool of the engraver (adopted from
the silversmith) which is used to carve out the line, or
burin, engraving on the plate or block.
Burnishing: The flattening out of the raised dotted
surface of a mezzotint in order to create contrasting tonal
areas on the printing plate, using a steel mushroom shaped
tool. This burnisher is also used to knead ,"roll
out" and obliterate mistakes made on an etched or
Burr: The metal ridge thrown up when the burin or
drypoint tool is raked across the metal plate. This burred
edge is much appreciated for its rich and highly expressive
printed result. Unless the plate is steel-faced, the burr on
copper will quickly flatten and erode after 20-30
Also, the roughened area produced by the rocker tool in
Cancelled Plate: When the printing run is completed,
the print matrix is defaced, altered or cancelled in some
way (e.g. lines drawn through the image) as a safeguard that
the plate will not be resurrected for future editions. A
cancellation impression is taken as a visual guarantee of
the cancelled plate.
Carborundum Method: Intaglio variation invented by
Henri Goetz, who used powdered carborundum (a silicone
carbide) as an engraving agent: Sprinkling this mixture onto
the metal plate which is then pulled through a press, the
pressure would radically pit the metal. When printed, there
is a dramatic surface impression.
Catalogue Raisonne: A systematic and comprehensive
compendium containing all the known works of an artist.
"Raisonne" denotes that every piece has been
thoroughly and accurately appraised and described, as well
as illustrated whenever possible. Title, dimensions, date,
techniques, states, edition anomalies, printer, publisher
etc. are meticulously recorded and assigned a permanent
reference number: an indispensable aid for the collector,
student and professional.
Chiaroscuro: The rendering of light and shade,
highlights and contrast.
Chromo, or Chromolithography: A commercial type of
color printed lithography using different stones, one for
each color. Specifically applied to 19thC. color
lithographs, which were intended as reproductions and were
highly imitative of oil paintings. The large number of
printing stones to be coordinated demanded the best of
technically skilled printers.
(also "glass print"):
A type of photographic print made on sensitized paper from a
glass plate on which an image has been drawn with an etching
needle onto its darkened surface.
Clipped (also "trimmed"): The reduction of
the original margins of a print, often too close to the
printed area, especially in early intaglio prints, where the
image may have been so trimmed that the plate marks have
been removed. Such transgressions are "forgiven"
with incunabula. However, Whistler personally clipped most
of his prints in a radical fashion, while some contemporary
artists deliberately use over- large margins, so that
artist's intent comes into play here too.
Collagraph: (French "coller", to glue). A
collage of materials built up with glue as a matrix from
which an intaglio and/or relief print is taken.
Collotype: A photomechanical print process involving
the application of light to a gelatin coated plate. Used for
high quality reproductions, especially of watercolors,
because of the reticulated grain faculty achieved through
Color Print: A print produced in color by (i) using a
separate matrix for each color (ii) by hand inking separate
areas of the single plate (iii) by forcing the color
application through a stencil or (iv) by using inks of
different viscosities. Colors can be printed side by side,
or overprinted. Usually colors are printed from light to
dark, but often the blues are printed first.
Colored Print: After the printing process, a print
with color applied by free hand or with the use of a
Copper Plate: The most favored metal used in
engraving because of its suppleness in the dry point/burin
process, combined with its great strength under the press.
Copper is receptive to ink and is easy to wipe clean for
re-inking. It polishes up well and has a reliable
predictability in etching solutions. When steel-faced, it
takes on a powerful printmaking potential. However, because
of its expense, many artists turn to a copper plated cheaper
metal such as zinc. There are also other compromises, such
as aluminum, lucite (plexiglass), celluloid etc.
Counterproof: An impression taken from a freshly
printed, still damp sheet onto another paper. This produces
an image identical to the image and perspective of the
printing plate. With the confusion of the mirror image thus
eliminated, the artist has an immediate and unbiased
opportunity for assessment and final changes.
Crayon, Lithographic: A grease pencil used in
lithography that provides the areas of chemical affinity for
the greasy-ink roller printing process.
Crayon Manière ("crayon engraving"): A
process that simulates the softened effect of a chalk
drawing using various roulettes and needles. The effect can
also be achieved through etching when the image is drawn
with a "crayon" on a tissue placed on a
soft-grounded plate, is lifted, and then leaves behind an
exposed copper impression on the plate, ready for printing.
Very popular in the 18thC.
The drawing of intersecting lines to
form a grid which, depending on its density, gives tonality
and depth to an image.
Dabber: Inking pad, made of soft leather, cloth or
gauze (as in the "a la poupée" daubing method).
Dampening: Paper to be printed is moistened to break
down the sizing in its structure. This renders it softer and
more receptive to the pressure of the press and the printing
inks. Also: In lithography, the stone or aluminum plate is
dampened and water adheres to the non-greased areas, thereby
repelling the greasy ink.
Deacidify: To chemically stabilize acid paper
products in a dry or liquid bath treatment.
Deckle: The irregular edge that typifies hand-made
paper. It is created when the paper slurry seeps out from
the confines of the mould frame or "deckle."
Usually associated with good quality paper.
Delineavit: From Latin, with abbreviations of delin.,
delt., del.="he drew". Lettering on a print to
denote the conceptual creative artist of the piece.
Dotted Manner: From the 15thC - small round holes are
repeatedly stamped with punch and hammer into a metal plate,
to be inked and printed as a relief block. The printed
result of white dots surrounded by black achieves a basic
effect of tone.
Dot Work: The printing surface is dotted or grained
manually (see above), or etched into the plate or sprayed
onto a litho stone, etc…any such technique that produces a
Double Image: A printing error caused by misalignment
of successive overprinting plates in the coloration process.
Can also happen when there is slippage of the paper or press
Drypoint: Direct manual contact on a metal plate with
any defining tool, usually steel or diamond tipped, which
creates the furrows and furled-back burr of the line or
dotted image. It is called "dry" to distinguish it
from the "liquid" (acid bath) etching procedures.
Pressure printing of an image without ink
(a.k.a "blind" embossing") to produce a
raised three dimensional effect (Also, a "cast paper
Engrave: In print design or image creation, cutting
the lines directly into wood, metal, stone or lucite with a
graver, burin or electric engraving tool.
Etch: In intaglio image creation, etched lines are
the result of the corrosive biting (acid bath) of the
exposed (i.e. not protected by "resist") areas of
the plate. (Note that the Old English for "eaten"
Etching Ground: This is the acid resistant wax-based
or grease-based coating applied to the plate as a prepared
surface or "ground" for the image. With a metal
tool, the image is then scratched into the coating called
"hard ground" or, by applying the malleable
"soft ground" the plate receives the impression of
anything pressed onto it. The degree of hardness or softness
of the ground is easily adjusted according to age-old
"recipes" still in use today. Both the hard and
soft ground processes expose the underlying metal, which is
then ready for the acid bath.
Execudit: Lettering on a print, from Latin meaning
"he issued", or published.
Facsimile: In the 19thC, skilled workshops were set
up to faithfully recreate (but not "interpret")
hand-worked images such as paintings for mass distribution.
The primary technique they used was wood engraving (see also
Xylograph). This highly organized, labor intensive factory
method of reproduction was dealt a deadly blow with the
advent of photography.
Fading: The progressive deterioration of the color or
color balance of an image because of light exposure.
Fecit: Lettering on a print, from Latin meaning
"he made", usually referring to the engraver or
etcher who worked the image onto the plate.
Fillet: In framing, any spacer device that is placed
between the paper and the glass to prevent contact.
Foul Biting: In etching, an overbitten area in which
the metal surface becomes so eaten away or the lines
undercut in the acid bath that the image loses definition
and eventually crumbles. Foul biting usually occurs because
of lines being etched too close together, or the acid
solution being too aggressive or the acid bath timing being
miscalculated, or the etching ground being poorly prepared
or applied. However, it can also be used with artistic
intent, because of the resultant dramatic grain in the
exposed area when printed.
Foxing: Yellow to brownish spots (a mold) which can
appear over time on paper, caused by impurities in the paper
reacting with atmospheric conditions, particularly humidity,
and exacerbated by non-conservation framing. Often easy to
Gouge: A V or U shaped cutting tool used for wood and
A work rendered in monochromes (French:
Grain: The surface of wood, stone or paper, which
must be taken into account and accommodated before the work
begins. Also: The general patterned effect of etched or
aquatinted or otherwise dotted areas in the printed result.
Graphics: A generic term applied not only to line
drawings, but also to all categories of original prints.
Half Tone: Gradations in the dark-light continuum
achieved on the printing plate using specialized tools,
techniques and/or chemical solutions. (See also aquatint,
sugar lift, dotted manner, splatter technique.)
Heliograph or Heliogravure: A photomechanical process
used to create an intaglio plate by applying a
photosensitive gel to the plate, which is then exposed to
H.C. or Hors Commerce: Prints in an edition
designated as "not for retail". Usually reserved
for the publisher and shouldn't exceed 5% of the total
Impression: A print taken from a plate, stone or wood
Impressit (also Imp): Lettering on a print, from
Latin that denotes "he printed".
Incidit (also Incid. Inc.): Lettering on a print,
from Latin that denotes "he engraved".
Incunabula: (from Latin "cradle") Prints
from the earliest historical stages or waypoints of print
development, such as the "Nurnburg Chronicles" and
its moveable type. Any printed work before 1500 is generally
referred to as incunabula.
Inking: The process of applying ink to the relief
areas of a woodblock, the incised parts of an intaglio
plate, the grease markings on a litho stone, or the scraper
method in silkscreen.
Intaglio: The printing process whereby the image is
lifted under the great pressure of the press from the ink
pocketed in the engraved or etched grooves of a metal plate,
and thereby transferred onto dampened paper which has been
placed over the plate.
Inventit (also Inv. or In.): Lettering on a print,
from Latin to denote "he designed" (the concept).
A soft but strong and resilient tissue
from the Orient used for mounting as well as for printing.
Key Block: The primary or master block, which
contains the main outlines of the image. This anchor image
is progressively filled in with the overprinting of other
blocks in different colors.
Laid Paper: Hand made paper with the characteristic
parallel grid pattern (the impression from the interwoven
mould or matrix used in the paper making process). Imitated
in machine- produced paper via the cylindrical "dandy
Lettering: All the original printed inscriptions on
the print relating to the image, such as "inventit"',
"impressit", copyright, perhaps even the original
dealer's name, etc.
Letterpress: Generic category for all forms of relief
printing, as a distinct grouping from lithography, screen
Light Staining: With prolonged exposure to light an
artwork will deteriorate and can acquire a darkened and/or
Print taken from an incised linoleum tile
using the planographic printing method.
Lith.: Lettering on a print, abbreviation of "lithographit"
(from Latin = "he drew on stone".)
Lithograph: Printing technique based on the chemical
antipathy of oil and water.
A lithographic technique that imitates a
Mark: A personal logo that serves as the artist's
signature on a print (Whistler used a butterfly as his
mark). Also: a stamp or collector's mark that identifies the
previous owner of a print, often au verso.
Matte (also Passepartout): A cardboard or paper,
ideally of conservation or archival quality, with a cutout
window that frames the print and protects it from touching
the glass as well as providing an aesthetic element.
Maculature: Pulling a second proof without re-inking
the plate in order to thoroughly clear away residual ink.
Mezzotint: Intaglio printing process which works from
dark to light: the whole surface is roughened with spiked
rockers whose action pits the metal from all angles and
provides a stubbled background that prints as a rich and
velvety black. Stage two of the process involves bringing
forth an image using a burnisher and scraper, which now
flattens different areas of the rough burr background. When
printed this creates dramatic areas of highlight and half
ton, which defines the image.
Montage: The superimposition of various elements (e
g.. photomechanical design elements overlayed onto a silk
Monoprint: The single, unique print produced by
rubbing on a paper placed on an image freshly painted on a
polished glass surface or metal plate.
Mount: A protective backing, usually cardboard or
heavy quality paper, preferably archival, attached to an
artwork to provide both stiffening and protection from the
Multiple Editions: Different editions of the same
image, but on paper differing in quality, type of paper,
and/or size; or special editions published for a certain
country, or a special bound book edition. The catalogue
raisonnee will document all of this.
Oleograph: A color lithograph varnished and impressed
with a grainy texture to simulate an oil painting,
especially popular in the C.19.
Offset: See "Counterproof".
Offset Lithography: The transfer of any image in the
lithographic printing process through an intermediary, such
as the rubber blanket roller of the offset press machine. A
great advantage is that as the image is transferred from
plate to blanket to paper (or "offset"), the final
image is not reversed. One of the four major
"commercial" printing methods (see also
letterpress, photogravure and screen printing).
Original Print: A print whose concept and execution
on the plate is, by strictest definition, done entirely by
the artist, who usually signs and numbers the resulting
limited edition. This is distinct from an "arm's length
reproduction" which occurs with the transfer from one
technique to another, such as the offset printing of a
photograph of a painting. Direct involvement by the artist
is key here. In addition, the "original" image as
such exists only as the final printed version from the
printed plate or combination of plates.
The printing matrix, originally of metal, but
also used to designate the lithographic stone, or the glass
matrix in the collograph and in photography.
Plate Mark: The indented line that occurs around a
printed image caused by the intense pressure of the press on
the plate and thence onto the dampened printing paper.
(also "pinx"). Lettering on a print
(from Latin Pinx = "he painted it") that denotes
the original artist of the work for, or from, which the
plate was made.
Planographic: A print taken from a level surface
(lithograph or silk screen).
Pochoir: A French process where color is manually
applied to a print through a series of carefully cut metal
templates. Many artists of the School of Paris (Ecole de
Paris) used this technique.
Positive and Negative: As adopted from photographic
terminology - a positive design is black on white; a
negative is white on black.
a la Poupée: A French term for coloring an intaglio
plate by hand. The different colors are daubed on with a
cloth that is bunched into a shape that happens to resemble
a doll or "poupee". Also used in conjunction with
stencils (see pochoir).
Proof Before Lettering (Avant Le Lettre):
impression taken before the lettering on the plate
(notations re: artist, engraver, printer, etc.) has been
Provenance: A history of a print's ownership or
stewardship (e.g. libraries, museums, etc.) sometimes
traceable back to the time it was first printed.
Proof: (see Artist's Proof and State Proof)
Printing Presses: Three of the four main types of the
printing process require a specific type of press: (a) the
Relief or Typographic (Platen) press (b) the Intaglio
(roller bed) press (which can also be adapted for the relief
print) and (c) the Planographic press, which relates to both
lithography and offset lithography. (The fourth type of
printing, silk screen, does not involve a press.) Each press
can vary according to its manufacturer, country of origin
and historical period. For each type of press it is the
manual version that is most frequently used by the studio
au Recto: Refers to the front, or image side, of an
Registration: The alignment of the various plates
used in multiple plate color printing, so that each plate
prints in the correctly co-ordinated position. In intaglio
printing and lithography the paper is lined up with pins
pushed through tiny holes that correspond to matching
pinholes in the metal plate or litho stone.
Relief Print: Only the raised parts of the block are
inked with a roller and the carved out or incised areas are
left empty. This is opposite to intaglio printing where only
the grooves are inked.
Reproductions: A print is called a reproduction if it
has been made by someone other than the original artist of
the conceptual design. A reproductive print often passes
through a series of reproductive processes such as a
lithographic print of a photograph of an oil painting.
Nowadays some artists are a willing party to putting out a
limited edition of such a sequence, which are also duly
signed and numbered. The rules concerning
"originals" and "reproductions" are
often bent and expanded, so it is definitely a case of
caveat emptor. The best way to distinguish between
"originals" and "reproductions" is to
arm yourself with knowledge and experience.
Retroussage: An intaglio inking method of wiping the
inked plate so that some of the ink is "dragged"
out of the grooves and onto the plate surface, giving a
softened and feathered printing result.
Re-strike: Any reprint of a plate made after the main
edition, unsigned and unnumbered - often after the artist's
death. While a re-strike is always made from the original
plate, it is often an inferior impression owing to plate
wear and fatigue.
Resist: The waxy or greasy ground which, when bonded
to a metal plate, does not allow (resists) the penetration
of the acid etching solution. Resist is also used for
"stopping out" i.e. protecting certain parts of
the plate to allow for controlled deeper etching in other
parts of the plate.
Reverse: An image is reversed in all printing
procedures except for silk screen and offset lithography.
Part of the artist's challenge is to learn to work in mirror
image and to compensate for this. (It eventually becomes
The serrated, half-moon-shaped tool that is
rocked back and forth in all directions over the entire
plate in order to create the roughened surface for the
Roulette: The engraver's tool comprising of a
revolving wheel and serrated edge of various widths and
designs that is used to create dots on the plate, either
directly, as in dry point, or indirectly on an etching
Screen Printing, Silk Screen, or Serigraph: A print
produced by the process of inking a stencil with a squeegee
through a silk mesh screen.
Size: A gelatin additive that is included in the
paper making process to give the final product a heightened
integral strength and stiffness, as well as a certain amount
of water resistance.
Soft Ground Etching: The process in which a drawing
is made on a sheet of paper placed on a plate covered with
"soft" (i.e. pliant) ground. Removal of the paper
means that the soft ground adheres to the back of the paper
where the sketched pressure marks occurred. The
corresponding exposed area on the metal plate can now be
Splatter: A method of creating the image in
lithography. Litho ink is brushed through a screen so that
it "splatters" onto the stone. The printed result,
depending on the size and proximity within the dotted
effect, gives half tones and pastels.
States (State Proof): At different stages in the
creating of a plate the artist will check his progress by
test printing or taking a "state" proof. A state
will always differ in some way, even if minute, from the
final edition image.
Steel Facing: A process of strengthening a copper
plate for a printing edition size of, say, larger than 20.
Since copper is a relatively soft metal, electrolysis is
used to apply a thin layer of steel to the copper, which
extends the life of image excised on the plate. Now the
finished product, the print, has a guarantee of uniformity
for the whole edition
Steel Plates: Although even Durer used steel plates
occasionally, they only came into general use in 1810,
mainly for mezzotint and engraving. The steel plate produces
a particularly sharp, clean, often extremely fine line and
is characteristically easy enough to identify.
Stipple: An intaglio process in which half tone is
achieved by adding numerous dots. (See also Dotted Manner,
Sugar Lift: A method using sugar granules as part of
the "resist" which splits and crumbles when
immersed in water. This process lays bare on the plate those
areas to be subsequently aquatinted.
If a plate is not completely wiped
after its application to an intaglio plate, the film that is
left behind creates a delicate surface tone in the printing.
This lends a softened quality to the print.
The process by which the artist
draws an image with a grease pencil on a specially treated
paper. This paper is then applied to the litho stone, wetted
down, and in the process the paper disintegrates, leaving
the greased image to adhere to the stone, which is now ready
for inking and printing. The joy in this is that there is no
image reversal, as well as allowing the artist to capture
his inspiration without lugging about heavy litho stones.
Tusche: A grease-based ink of varying viscosities for
drawing or brush painting onto litho plates or stones.
au Verso: The reverse side of an image/artwork.
Wash: Diluted tusche or ink to produce half tones on
litho stones or plates.
Watermark: In the paper making process, a metal
filigree symbol incorporated into the weave of the laid
paper mould where the paper fibers cannot collect and
coagulate. Hence, as the paper dries, the design emerges in
the sheet of paper as a translucent or watery shadow image
of the filigree symbol.
Woodcut: Relief print made by cutting the image into
the broadside grain of a wood block using a woodcutter's
knives and tools.
Wood Engraving: Relief print made by cutting the
image into the cross grain of a wood block using the
engraver's tools such as burin.
Engraver's tools must be used because the cross grain
presents a much tougher working surface than the broadside
Wood Pulp Paper: Paper made with cellulose wood
tissue, which is then bleached. Highly unstable because of
the lignan content and therefore very unsuitable for
Hand or machine-produced paper using a
wire mesh so tightly woven that no "laid line"
pattern is left behind.
Xylography: Term for early professional/commercial
wood engraving. (From Greek: Xylon = Wood)
Zincography: A 19th Century term for
lithography using a zinc plate instead of stone. Both zinc
and aluminum come closest to approximating the ink
receptivity of the original litho matrix of stone.