Printmaking terms/methods

Original prints

An original print is a unique piece of artwork created using a traditional printmaking process such as etching, drypoint, engraving, collagraph, screen printing, lino cut, monoprinting or stone lithography. Traditional printmaking is a creative art form and should not be confused with reproducing an image by photocopying or giclee prints which are copies of the original artwork.

Limited editions

A limited edition is a fixed number of “identical” prints produced by the artist. There may be slight differences between the prints because each has been individually hand printed. The edition may be small (less than 10 prints) or large (more than 100). Monoprints and monotypes are by definition limited as only one unique print is made. Each print is individually numbered and signed by the artist. The smaller the edition, the more valuable the print.

Traditional printmaking techniques


A metal plate is covered with a waxy surface (“the ground”). The design is drawn through the ground and the metal beneath is exposed. The plate is then immersed in the etching solution which eats away at the exposed metal producing lines on the plate. Nitric acid is the traditional etching solution but non-toxic methods are also commonly used. Once etching is complete the ground is removed and the plate is inked using the intaglio method in which ink is pushed into grooves and recessed areas of the plate and then wiped away leaving the ink only in the recessed areas. A printing press is needed to produce this type of print since heavy pressure is needed to force the paper into the inked recesses of the plate.


The image is scratched onto the surface of a metal or plastic sheet and the plate is then inked and wiped using the intaglio method described above.


A collagraph is a print which is made from a collage. Almost anything can be used to create the design provided it is not sharp or too thick. All the materials must be stuck down firmly to the plate. The plate can be inked by either by rolling ink over the surface (relief inking) or using intaglio method (sometimes both methods of inking are used on the same plate). These prints can be printed by hand or by using a press.

Lino Cut

The design is carved into the lino using special gouging tools. The lino is inked using the relief method. The image can be printed by hand by covering the inked lino with paper and rubbing with a wooden spoon (or special barren tool) or by using a press.

Monotype and Monoprints

Monotype prints are different from prints produced by other printmaking techniques because only one print is produced per plate so the print is truly unique. The design is painted onto the plate using oil-based or water-based medium. During the printing process the design is removed from the plate and transferred onto the paper. Very little of the medium is left behind on the plate. These prints can be printed by hand or by using a press. A monoprint is a monotype which is combined with another printmaking technique.