The basics of printmaking

We believe that printmaking is one of the most fascinating and multifaceted art forms, which is why we have specialized in it. The possibilities for artists to experiment with different materials, techniques and colors are almost unlimited.

Original graphics include a wide variety of printing techniques that offer different aesthetic qualities and possibilities of expression: e.g. lithography, screen printing, woodcut or, as often used in antique engravings, copperplate engraving, steel engraving or aquatint.

However, it is not always easy to distinguish original works from later reproductions, art prints or copies. We are often asked similar questions in this regard.

Here we would like to briefly explain what you should pay attention to when buying:

We speak of original print graphics when the artist created the template for the print themselves. The graphic appears in a limited edition and is the only existing realization of this work. It is also listed in the catalogue raisonné. We would be happy to issue you with a certificate of authenticity.

There are both unsigned and signed and numbered original prints. Unsigned prints tend to be published in larger editions - many artists have released unsigned prints to make their art more affordable. Buying unsigned prints is therefore a wonderful introduction to the world of prints and a perfect start to a collection.

The most important printing techniques and other important terms in printmaking:

Lithography/ color lithography

Flat printing process. The motif to be printed is drawn in reverse using grease crayon or ink directly onto a flat, ground stone plate. This is then treated with etching fluid. In the places where there is no drawing, the fluid penetrates into the pores of the stone. This means that when the printer's ink is rolled on laterally, the ink only sticks to the drawn lines. The rest of the area treated with etching fluid, however, repels it. If a color lithograph is to be produced, a separate stone plate must be made for each color. For this, a contour drawing of the motif is made and transferred in reverse onto each stone. Then, using grease ink or grease crayon, only the part of the motif that is to be given the respective color is transferred to the corresponding plate. In order to ensure that the parts of the motif lie exactly on top of one another during printing, registration crosses or markings are made at the corners of the stones. The sheet of paper is also aligned to this.

Serigraphy/ color serigraphy (screen printing)

Screen printing is a printing process in which the printing ink is printed onto the material to be printed using a rubber squeegee through a fine-mesh fabric. In those areas of the fabric where no ink is to be printed according to the print image, the mesh openings of the fabric are made impermeable to ink using a stencil.

Copperplate engraving

Intaglio printing process. In copperplate engraving, the image to be printed is engraved with a burin and inverted into a copper plate. The resulting lines then absorb the ink, which is printed onto the paper using a roller press.

Steel engraving

Intaglio printing process. The drawing is engraved with a graver or etched into a softened steel plate. The steel plate, which has been hardened after engraving, is transferred to a soft steel roller by rolling, in order to use this subsequently hardened roller to emboss a new soft steel plate, which is then hardened again.

Aquatint

The starting material for an aquatint etching is a metal plate, usually made of zinc or copper. This plate is degreased, dusted with powdered resin, rosin or asphalt and carefully heated from below so that the resin grains melt on the plate. Covering with masking varnish takes place before each subsequent etching process. This creates a screen grain on the plate. Different shades of grey are achieved by etching the plate several times and covering it more and more each time. With each subsequent covering and etching process, a darker halftone (grayscale) is added. The ink adheres to the recesses of the printing plate during printing, with the ink absorption being determined by the fineness of the screen grain, its density and the depth of the etching.

Off-trade

Special prints from a print that are not originally intended for sale but are used for artistic or archival purposes. These prints are often signed by the artist and can be given as gifts to friends, collectors or museums. These prints are also usually limited. Since they are not actually intended for sale, they can have a certain exclusivity and rarity.

Épreuve d'artiste (ea for short) or printer's proof (pp)

These are additional prints that are not counted in the print run. They do not necessarily look exactly like the final result. Artists often make test prints and then decide whether they are satisfied with the result or whether they want to change things.

Handmade paper

or Bütten for short, is a paper that is made from a vat, a tub-shaped vessel, using a sieve. In terms of craftsmanship, it represents the historically original production of paper.

Vellum paper

or vellum for short, is a uniformly structured and smooth paper that is visually similar to parchment.

Dry stamp, embossed stamp or blind stamp

Blind stamps applied to artist artwork can be from the artist, the printing company or the paper manufacturer.