Glossary

A

Aquatint

What is an aquatint?

Akin to etching, aquatint is designed to create tone. It involves treating a metal plate with fine acid-resistant particles and then bathing it in acid. The acid reacts with the sections of metal not covered by the particles, thus creating a speckled effect of tiny dots when printed.

A spit bite aquatint involves the artist painting acid over the prepared aquatint surface, thus creating an uneven pattern on the plate and ultimately giving the print a watercolor wash finish. In a sugar lift aquatint the artist draws on the plate with a brush soaked in sugar and water, the sugar solution is then removed and aquatint is applied to the plate before it is bathed in acid. The acid bites into the sections of the plate drawn by the artist. The aquatint process was developed around 1772. See examples of aquatint in artworks such as Richard Tuttle's Label (13-16), 2004-05, Vija Celmins' Untitled (Web 4), 2002, or Thomas Zipp's White Reformation, 2010.

Artist's multiple

What is an artist's multiple?

Artist's multiples are works conceived by an artist and produced in a limited edition. Multiples can be prints and photographs, but also sculptures, installations, videos or artist's books—the possibilities are endless! Each work in the limited edition is identical, each edition is unique. 

Artist's proof (AP)

What is an artist's proof (AP)?

Originally used to check the progress of printmaking, APs are prints produced especially for the artist. These impressions are not included in the count of the edition, but are otherwise identical to the editioned prints. Generally they are not sold straight away. 

C

C-print

What is a C-print?

A type of digital print, C-prints are made by printing a digital file on a continuous tone printer—commonly a Lambda laser printer—that uses silver-based paper. The photograph is produced by exposing light onto color paper—generally Fuji Crystal Archive—which is then developed using traditional RA-4 chemistry. See examples of C-prints in artworks such as Ingeborg Lüscher’s Eyes (Claudia I) 1998, Mona Hatoum’s Red Jesus (Venice) 2003 2005, or Richard Prince’s Untitled (PM) 1978/2006.

Collotype

What is a collotype?

A branch of planographic printing, collotypes’ ability to reproduce the fine detail made it a popular form of fine art printing in the 19th century.  

Collotyping involves coating a glass plate in a gelatin solution and then exposing it to light through a photographic negative. The gelatin will harden in the exposed areas, creating the image to be printed. When oil-based ink is subsequently applied to the plate, these areas will retain it whilst the other sections with a higher water content will repel it. For examples of collotype printing see Hanne Darboven’s Harburg Sand, 1988 or Christo’s Wrapped Roman Sculptures, 1991.

Chine-collé

What is chine-collé?

Chine-collé is a printmaking term that refers to the process of transferring an image to a surface that is bonded to a heavier surface in order to support it. This makes it possible for the printmaker to print onto thinner and more delicate surfaces that will take a finer detail and tone. The technique also means papers with different properties can be combined in order to create variation within a single print. 

A press is used to bind the different surfaces together and push out any air bubbles from between the layers. Chine-collé elements can be pasted to the blank paper and everything printed in one shot from one plate or elements can be printed separately and combined later. For examples of chine-colleé, see Chris Ofili's Black Kiss, 2006, or Peter Doig's Sea Lots, 2013. 

Certificate of Authenticity

What is a certificate of authenticity?

A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) guarantees the provenance of a work of art. It should be signed by both the artist and publisher or an acknowledged expert on the artist. A proper COA will always contain specific details such as what it is, i.e. a silkscreen print, its edition number, the artist’s name and publisher, the work’s title, dimensions, and the contact details of the entity issuing the certificate. 

D

Drypoint

What is a drypoint?

The drypoint technique sees the artist scratching the design directly into the plate with a sharp tool often called a needle. 

The drypoint can be distinguished from other intaglio techniques by its characteristic burrs—ridges thrown up as the needle incises the metal plate. The burr makes the edges of the lines soft, whilst engravings produce more hard-edged lines. For examples of drypoints have a look at Sandra Vasquez de la Horra, Polvo Fuiste Y en Polvo te Convertiras, 2012, Tal R’s Xanadu (yellow), 2009, or Jonathan Monk’s My Left Hand Holding a Square Shaped Piece of Paper with the Top Left Hand Corner Removed, 2008. 

Digital print

What is a digital print?

Developed around 1993, digital printing involves printing a computer image file with a laser or inkjet printer, bypassing the printing plate altogether. 

Lending itself to on-demand printing as well as allowing for modifications of the image for each impression, digital printing has become increasingly popular, rivalling offset printing in its versatility and rapidity. Types of digital printing include inkjet prints and C-printsFor examples of digital prints see Claire Fontaine’s Untitled (Castor# 2), 2013 or Thomas Ruff’s Cassini/Zycles, 2010. 

E

Edition

What is an edition?

In the printmaking world, an edition refers to the number of prints created from one plate. The number of impressions is usually limited, meaning that no further prints will be produced in future.

Engraving

What is an engraving?

A form of intaglio printing, the engraving technique sees the artist incising the plate directly with a burin–a metal carving instrument designed specifically for this purpose. 

Engravings are distinctive for the tapered end of their lines created by the v-shaped blade of the burin. Whilst in drypoint one scratches the surface of the metal, throwing it up as a burr, in engraving one actually removes the metal, resulting in a clean sharp line. Engraving is typically harder to master for artists than etching or drypoint, where the incising instrument more closely resembles a pencil.

Etching

What is an etching?

A form of intaglio printing, an etching is the result of the artist drawing a design into a metal plate coated with an acid-resistant substance, the sharp needle exposing the plate beneath. The plate is then submerged in acid. The acid reacts chemically with the metal, biting into the plate to deepen the lines drawn by the artist, but leaving the sections covered in the acid-resistant substance untouched. The latter is removed from the plate before printing. 

In hard ground etching the artist draws through a hard wax that coats the plate, resulting in thin blunted lines. In soft ground etching the artist draws on a sheet of paper covering the soft wax coating of the plate, producing lines that resemble those drawn with a pencil. The etching process was developed around 1515. For examples of etchings have a look at Tal R’s Sortedam, 2013, Richard Serra’s Junction #1, 2010, or Keith Coventry’s Crack Pipes II, 2006. 

G

Gelatin silver print

What is a gelatin silver print?

A gelatin silver print is the most common type of black and white photograph. Developed in the 1890s, it involves coating paper with a light-sensitive suspension of silver salts in gelatin. The final print is result of the metallic silver being fixed in the gelatin coating through a series of chemical developing processes. For examples of gelatin silver prints see Vera Lutter’s Venice Portfolio II, 2007, or Carolee Schneemann's Parallel Axis, 1973.

H

Heliogravure

What is a heliogravure?

A form of intaglio printing, heliogravure involves uses aquatint on a photogravureplate in order to create tone. See examples of heliogravure in artworks such as Eberhard Havekost’s Kupfer 1 – 4, 2007, or Gerhard Merz’s Ed io anche son architetto (veronese), 1989.

I

Inkjet print

What is an inkjet print?

A type of digital print, inkjet prints are produced from a digital file by applying very fine droplets of ink on paper. Many inkjet inks are dye-based, though for fine art printing pigment-based inks are preferred due to to their longevity, the resulting images are thus termed archival pigment prints. Inkjet printing was first developed around 1951. See examples of inkjet prints in artworks such as Peter Saville’s Monarch of the Glen, 2002, Bruce Nauman’s Neck Pull from Infrared Outtakes, 2006, or Fayçal Baghriche’s Mecca, 2012. 

Intaglio printing

What is intaglio printing?

In intaglio printing the plate surface is incised and the resulting lines are printed. Once covered with ink, the finished plate is wiped clean and only the incisions retain the ink, which then creates the final image on the paper when put through the printing press. Examples of intaglio printing are etching, drypoint, engraving, photogravure, heliogravure, aquatint, and mezzotint. The reverse of intaglio printing is relief printing.

Installation

What is an installation?

Installation artworks are three-dimensional and often specific to the site in which they are displayed. These works are often temporary mixed-media constructions and are designed to transform the perception of a space, often through the physical participation of the viewer. This complete, unified experience differs from traditional forms of art through defying the display of separate, individual works. For examples of installations see Cerith Wyn Evans, E=Q=U=A=L=S, 2010 and Sylvie Fleury, Eternity, 1996. 

L

Linocut

What is a linocut?

 A form of relief printing, linocut involves the artist carving the design out of the surface of a sheet of linoleum with a sharp instrument such as a knife, chisel or gouge. The remaining uncarved surface is then inked and printed. 

As the surface is easier to carve, linocut is sometimes used as an alternative to woodcut. See examples of linocut in artworks such as Alex Katz’ Large Birch, 2004 or Per Kirkeby’s Untitled, 1999.

Lithograph

What is a lithograph?

A planographic printing technique developed around 1796, lithography involves printing a design is drawn directly on a stone.

The lithographic process relies on the mutually repelling qualities of oil and water. An image is drawn with a greasy substance onto the smooth surface of a limestone. The stone is then treated with acid so that the sections not covered by the design—acid-resistant due to the grease—are etched. The stone is then moistened, the oil-based design repelling the water whilst the etched sections retain it. An oil-based ink is then applied, which adheres only to the original drawing to be printed. For examples of lithographs have a look at Eric Fischl’s CAC, 2009, Antoni Tàpies’ Llambrec 8, 1975 or Philip Guston’s Remains, 1980. 

Livre d'artiste

What is a livre d'artiste?

The French term livre d’artiste can be translated as artist’s book.

Often published in limited edition, livres d’artistes are artworks that use the book format in some way or other. The artist’s book can take on many forms, from book-like objects to unbound volumes to boxes containing sheets of paper. Some are meant to be opened and read page by page, others function more as sculptural pieces. See examples of livres d’artistes such as Carl Andre’s America Drill, 2003, Ken Lum & Hubert Damisch’s Ultimo Bagaglio, 2008, or Christian Marclay’s Ephemera, 2009.

Letterpress

What is a letterpress?

A letterpress print is created using an inked, raised ‘bed’ against which the paper is directly pressed. This is a traditional relief printing technique. 

Up until the development of lithography in the 18th century, letterpress was the most frequently used form of printing and dates back to the mid-15th century. It was most famously used to create to Gutenberg Bible, which marked the beginning of the age of the printed book in the West. More recently, examples of contemporary letterpress printing can be seen in artworks such as Richard Tuttle’s One Voice in Four Parts, 1999, as well as Daniel Richter’s Untitled, 2007-1. 

M

Mezzotint

What is a mezzotint?

Akin to drypoint, a mezzotint is designed to create half-tones and was developed around 1642.

It involves evenly roughening the surface of the plate with a spiked metal tool called a rocker. If inked the resulting print would be entirely black at this point. The artist smoothens selected sections of the roughened plate with a burnishing tool to create the image, working from “dark to light”. In the less common “light to dark” method only selected parts of the plate are roughened where the dark sections of the image are to be. 

Monotype

What is a monotype?

A form of planographic printing, the monotype involves drawing in paint or ink onto the smooth surface of a plate or sheet of glass. The image is then transferred onto paper by pressing the two together. 

As its name suggests, monotyping produces only one unique print, most of the ink or paint removed from the surface after the first run. Subsequent impressions, generally fainter, are called ghost prints. For examples of monotypes see Matias Faldbakken’s series Hilux Variations, 2014 or Cabelo’s series Untitled, 2015.

Mixed Media

What is mixed media?

This term refers to a work of art that has been created using more various different materials or mediums which may not be traditionally combined in visual art media. Mixed media artworks can be traced back to Cubism in the early 20th century. Mixed media is a broad definition which can refer to any work made from more than one material, and could be anything from a collage (such as Jessica Stockholder's Swiss Cheese Field 16, 2009) to Franz West’s Honeymoon, 2012 which is made using papier-mâché with wire mesh.

O

Offset print

What is an offset print?

A type of planographic printing, offset printing is linked to the lithographic process. It involves transferring the original design from a stone or plate to a rubber blanket which is then used to print the final image. 

Producing high quality prints with sharp edges and clear outlines, offset printing is both efficient and economical. It prolongs the life of the stone or plate, as these never come in direct contact with the paper. Offset printing was first developed around 1875. For examples of offset printing see Tacita Dean’s FILM Still for ACCA, 2013, Thaddeus Strode’s Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die, 2013, or Christo’s Wrapped Statues, Sleeping Fawn, 2000.

Original

What is an original?

An original artwork is a work conceived by an artist. It may be produced only once, or in a limited edition. In either case, an original artwork is a unique piece, an authentic product of the artist. It is not a reproduction or a copy.

P

Photogravure

What is a photogravure?

A form of intaglio printing, photogravure involves coating a plate with gelatin tissue that has been exposed to a film positive and subsequently etching it, reproducing the subtle tones and details of a photograph. See examples of photogravure in artworks such as Carsten Höller’s Canaries, 2009, Arturo Herrera’s Dance, 2014 or Nicholas Taylor’s Jean-Michel Basquiat through Nicholas Taylor, 1979/2014.

Printer's proof (PP)

What is a printer's proof (PP)?

Similar to artist’s proofs, printer’s proofs were originally designed to monitor the progress of printing, but are also the final impressions the printer keeps. Again, they are not included in the count of the edition, yet are in every other way identical to the numbered copies.  

Publisher

What is a publisher?

A publisher produces artworks in close collaboration with the artist. They will often guide the artist through the technically demanding processes of printing as well as providing the material, manpower, and equipment necessary for the production of the artwork. The publisher acts as an editor to the artist, guiding them in the realization of their artistic concept and capturing the essential character of the artist’s work in their print projects. 

S

Silkscreen print

What is a silkscreen print?

A silkscreen is produced by printing a design through a mesh screen. A stencil impermeable to ink is applied to the screen so that when the ink is wiped across it only the areas not covered by the stencil are printed.

A form of stencil printing, silkscreens are printed one color at a time, multicolored prints requiring multiple screens. First developed in 1910, silk was originally used as the screen material, which was later replaced with synthetic materials such as polyester mesh. See examples of silkscreen prints in artworks such as Gavin Turk’s Gavara Reversed, 2004, Damien Hirst’s The Cure - Powder Pink/Lollypop Red/Golden Yellow, 2014, or Rachel Howard’s Porphura, 2011.

Stencil printing

What is stencil printing?

Stencil printing works by brushing or spraying ink or paint through the open areas of a stencil cut from metal, plastic or cardboard onto a sheet of paper to create the final design. The most common form of stencil printing is silkscreening

Secondary Market

What is the secondary market?

Whilst the primary art market refers to new artwork fresh from the studio or gallery being sold for the first time, the secondary market refers to existing artwork that has been sold at least once before.

W

Woodcut

What is a woodcut?

A relief printing technique, woodcuts are the result of the artist carving an image into a wooden block, the raised sections of which are inked and printed. This produces bolder, heavier lines than those in intaglio printing.

Woodcuts are one of the oldest forms of printing, dating back to ca. 200. Multicolored woodcuts are produced by creating separate blocks for each color. For examples of woodcuts have a look at Georg Baselitz’ Auch Fuß, 1996, Tal R’s Banana Beach, 2012 or Per Kirkeby’s Untitled, 2000.