Evan Lindquist
Artist Printmaker,
First Artist Laureate
for the State of Arkansas

This glossary contains concise definitions of terms that are often encountered in printmaking. Although colloquialisms are common among printmakers in various workshops, no attempt has been made to include them.

Printmaking Glossary

Á la Poupée: Intaglio technique for inking several colors at one time on single plate by using small dabbers to apply colors.

Aquatint: Intaglio technique using melted rosin dust to etch areas of textured tones. [click for sketch]

Artist's Proof: Print reserved for artist's use.

Asphaltum: Resists acid after being brushed or poured onto metal plate; a hard ground.

Bevel: Angled or rounded edge of metal plate.

Bite: Action of acid as it attacks exposed areas of the metal plate.

Blanket: Woven felt used on press to push paper into inked lines of metal plate.

Brayer: Hand roller for inking blocks for relief printing.

Burin: Sharp, square-shaped steel rod with a mushroom-shaped handle; used for engraving a copper plate. Also used for engraving jewelry, guns, knives, etc. (See engraving.)

Burnisher: Smooth steel rod for polishing the surface of a metal printing plate.

Burr: Ridge of metal created alongside a scratched line. Also, a sliver of metal removed from a plate by the burin, often in the shape of a spiral.

Cancellation: Defaced plate, block or stone after an edition is pulled.

Chop: Decorative mark of identification or logotype embossed on a print by a printer.

Counteretch: In lithography, stone is treated chemically to resensitize it for making changes to image.

Counterproof: Wet ink on a fresh proof is transferred to another sheet of paper.

Crevé: In etching, an area is bitten too long in the acid, resulting in the metal surface between the lines being etched away.

Dabber / dauber: Pad used for applying ink, made of rolled felt, leather or cloth.

Deckle: Ragged edge of handmade paper. Also, wooden frame used on a mould (or paper-making screen) when the sheet is formed in papermaking.

Drypoint: Intaglio technique in which image is drawn directly into the surface of a metal plate with a sharp etching needle. This raises a burr which will hold the ink if wiped properly.

Dutch Mordant: Etching solution or acid. Potassium chlorate-hydrochloric acid-water.

Edition: The impressions pulled from a plate, block, etc., usually numbered.

Embossed print: Image is printed by intaglio process without ink, resulting in raised paper.

End grain block: A block of wood used for wood engraving. It is the cross section of a tree, typically boxwood or maple, although other woods may be used.

Engraving / burin engraving / copperplate engraving / line engraving: Lines are cut with burin into surface of metal plate. The lines will hold ink to be transferred to paper (see Intaglio).

Etching: Corrosive action of acid eats into surface of metal plate. The lines willhold ink to be transferred to paper (see Intaglio).

Etching needle: Needle used for drawing through hard ground on a plate to be etched.

Extender: Colorless ink to mix with pigmented ink to make it more transparent.

False Bite / Foul Bite: Accidental penetration of acid through ground to attack surface of metal plate.

Gauge (abbreviate either g or ga): The thickness of a sheet of copper or zinc (usually 16, 18, 20, or 22 gauge) used for etching and engraving. Refers to the number of stacked sheets required to make one inch. (Not to be confused with weight, which refers to the number of ounces per one square foot of the metal). For comparison: 16 gauge equals 36 ounce; 18 ga equals 30 oz; 20 ga equals 24 oz; 22 ga equals 18 oz.

Gouge: Tool with "V" shape or "U" shape cutting edge. Commonly used for woodcuts.

Graver: Similar to burin, but made in various shapes. May be designed for specific applications in engraving metal or wood.

Ground: In etching process, any acid-resisting substance that is used to protect metal.

Hard Ground: Image may be drawn through hard ground with an etching needle.

Impression: A print or a proof.

Impression number: Number assigned to a print in an edition. Also called serial number or edition number..

Intaglio: One of four traditional categories of printing. In printing, the ink is transferred from below the top surface of the plate. Examples: Etching, Engraving, Mezzotint.

Letterpress printing: Also known as Relief printing. The ink is transferred to paper from the top surface of a block that has been carved, etched, or engraved in relief.

Levigator: Heavy steel disk used to grain litho stones.

Lift ground: An etching technique; a substance is applied by brush to a metal plate to resist varnish, leaving plate exposed to action of acid. Creates brush-stroke character in lines.

Linen Tester: A small folding magnifier. Used to examine prints, plates, burins.

Linoleum cut / lino cut: Relief print made with a linoleum matrix.

Litho Crayon: Used in Lithography to draw on stone. Contains grease, soap, and pigment.

Lithography: A planographic process in which the ink is transferred from a flat surface that has been chemically prepared to accept water in some areas. The other areas will accept the ink.

Matrix: Any material used for transfering ink to paper in a printing process. Ink may be transferred from (1) above the surface, (2) below the surface, (3) flat surface, (4) through the surface. Traditional examples are: metal plate (intaglio), wood block (relief), stone (planographic), screen (stencil).

Mezzotint: An intaglio process. A copper plate is roughened to hold the maximum amount of ink. Areas which are burnished or made smoother will hold less ink and show up as lighter areas.

Monotype / Monoprint: Freely painted or inked matrix, often a flat surface, is printed on paper; yields a unique impression.

Mordant: Acid

Muller: Stone, glass or metal tool for grinding pigment in oil when making ink or paint.

Niello: Process predating printing of engraved plates. Armor and other metal surfaces were engraved for decoration; incised lines were filled with black sulphur compounds that contrasted with color of metal. This process probably led to burin engraving for intaglio printing.

Open bite: In etching, a large open area is exposed to acid to remove the surface of the plate.

Original print: Original, creative work of art printed from original plates, blocks, etc. (This does not include reproduction of an earlier work of art which might have been created in a different medium, then reproduced.)

Plank-grain block / side-grain block: A plank of wood is carved on one side to create a relief matrix to print a woodcut.

Planographic: One of four traditional categories of printing; the ink is transferred from a flat surfaced matrix. Lithography is an example.

Plate film: In intaglio printing, the film of ink that remains on surface. Black ink on the plate will print a light gray film.

Plate Mark: In intaglio printing, outside edge of plate leaves an embossed imprint.

Pochoir: Color is applied through stencils. (See stencil).

Proof: A print or impression.

Registration: In color printing process: exact placement of paper and printing matrix to ensure accurate location of color.

Relief Etching: Metal plate is etched deeply, then printed by a relief printing process.

Relief: One of four traditional categories of printing. Ink is transferred to paper from raised surface of a matrix.

Reproduction: Mechanical copy or facsimile of an artist's work. Not an original piece of art.

Resist: Substance applied to plate to protect it from acid while etching metal plate. Also called a "ground".

Rocker: Serrated cutting tool used to create the rough surface of a mezzotint plate, permitting it to print solid black before scraping or burnishing.

Rosin: Made from pine sap. Dissolved rosin in alcohol is used as stop-out varnish. Powdered rosin is used in aquatint.

Roulette: Textured wheel used to roughen surface of a metal printing plate.

Scorper / scauper: Wood engraving tool or graver with a curved cutting edge.

Scraper: Three-edged knife for scraping metal surface in etching. In Lithography, a scraper is the bar that applies the press pressure to the paper.

Screen print: Stencil process which uses fabric to maintain stencil elements. Formerly called "serigraph" or "silk screen print" when screens were made of pure silk.

Serigraphy, serigraph: See Screen print.

Signed print: Print, proof, or impression signed with pencil by the artist.

Silk Screen print: See Screen print, Serigraphy.

Slip Sheet: Tissue between stacked proofs to prevent offseting of ink to next print.

Soft Ground: Acid resistant etching ground that is soft enough to be removed from the plate when touched lightly.

Spitzsticker: A sharp-pointed graver used in wood engraving.

Squeegee: Used in screen printing: A rubber blade with wooden handle to force ink through fabric.

State / State Proof: A step in the development of a print. Not the final or finished version.

Steel facing: Copper plate is coated with very thin deposit of steel to make the surface more durable.

Stencil: One of four categories of printing. Ink passes through openings in a matrix. Examples: screen print, pochoir.

Stopout varnish: Used to protect areas of a metal plate from acid. Usually made from rosin and alcohol.

Tack: The quality of stickiness in printing ink.

Tarlatan: Starched cotton gauze often used by printmakers for wiping intaglio plates.

Template: Used to assure proper color registration or a centered image during the printing process. A clean sheet of paper or plastic on bed of etching press is marked with correct positions for both plate and paper.

Tusche: Grease-based ink for drawing on litho stone. Also used to resist glue for screen stencil.

Wood engraving: A relief printing process; image is cut into an end-grain wood block with gravers and burins.

Wood cut: A relief printing process; the image is cut into a side-grain plank of wood with gouges and chisels.