Printmaking is an artistic process based on the principle of transferring images from a matrix onto another surface, most often paper or fabric, parchment, plastic, or other support, by various techniques of multiplication, under the direct supervision of or by the hand of the artist. Traditional printmaking techniques include woodcut, etching, engraving, and lithography, while modern artists have expanded available techniques to include screenprinting.

A matrix is essentially a template and can be made of metal plates, usually copper or zinc, or polymer plates and other thicker plastic sheets for engraving or etching; stone, aluminum, or polymer for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts and wood engravings; and linoleum for linocuts. The design is created on the matrix by working its flat surface with either tools or chemicals. The matrix is then inked in order to transfer it onto the desired surface.

To print from a matrix requires the application of controlled pressure, most often achieved by using a printing press (more modern printmaking techniques, such as screenprinting, do not require a press), which creates an even impression of the design when it is printed onto the paper or fabric. The resulting print is often the mirror image of the original design on the matrix. One of the great benefits of printmaking (save for monotype) is that multiple impressions of the same design can be printed from a single matrix.

Printmaking techniques

Printmaking techniques are generally divided into the following basic categories:

  • Relief
  • Intaglio
  • Planographic printing
  • Stencil