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Photography & Graphics Terminology

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Artist’s proof
One of a small group of prints set aside from the edition for the artist’s use: a number of printer’s proofs are sometimes also done for the printer’s use

The impression made by the artist’s or the printer’s seal on the paper

A print made from an image built up with glue and sometimes other materials.  The inked image is transferred from plate to paper and is simultaneously embossed.  The name derives from “ collage”

A set of identical prints, sometimes numbered and signed, pulled by or under the supervision of the artist

Open edition: an unlimited number of impressions

Limited edition: has a known number of impressions, usually fewer than 200,  that are numbered and signed

A new process using advanced technology to create a lustrous, continuous-tone digital print that meets or exceeds the quantity of traditional lithography and screen printing. Organic, water-based four-color inks, applied to the surface of archival papers, form tiny jets one-tenth the diameter of human hair. (Also referred to as inkjet-based digital prints used as fine art.)

The process of printing from a small stone or metal plate on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area is ink-repellant.  The artist, or other print make under the artist’s supervision, then covers, the plate with a sheet of paper and runs both through a press under light pressure. The resultant “original print” of considerably grater intrinsic worth than the commercially reproduced poster which is mechanically printed on an offset press (see limited edition above)

Chromolithography: a process of using several stones or plates-one for each color, printed in register. The result is color prints, to be distinguished from colored prints that have the color hand-applied after printing

Intaglio (Italian for cut in)
A method of printing in which the image is carved into a flat surface, usually copper, so that the areas to be inked are recessed beneath the surface of the printing plate. Damp paper is placed on the plate and run through a press under great pressure forcing the paper into the engraved areas and thus transferring the image. The main intaglio processes:

Line engraving: the image is produced by cutting or gouging a metal plate directly with a sharp tool

Linocut: a relief print taken from a block of linoleum on which a design has been carved

Drypoint: drawing on the metal plate with a hard steel “ pencil” that produces a burr by displacing, rather than removing metal, causing the printed line to be somewhat fuzzy thus adding a richness to the image.
Because this wears during printing editions are usually limited to 50 or fewer prints

Etching: a metal plate is first covered with an acid resistant ground, then worked with an etching needle is “eaten” in an acid bath, creating the recessed image

Mezzotint: a tonal, rather linear, engraving process made by first roughening the surface of the plate with a mesh of small burred dots and then producing the picture by flattening and burnishing selected areas which print as highlights.  It is rarely practiced now since photographic methods have superceded it

Aquatint: another tonal process where a porous ground allows acid to penetrate to form a network of small dots. Any pure whites are stopped out entirely before etching begins, then the palest tints are bitten and stopped out, and so on as in etching. This process is repeated 20 to 30 times until the darkest tones (deepest recesses in the plate) are reached

One of a series in which each print has some differences of color, design, texture, etc. applied to an underlying common image

A one-of-a-kind print made by painting on a smooth metal glass or stone plate and then printing on paper.  The pressure of printing creates a texture not possible when painting directly on paper

A photomechanical process invented in 1879 for fine printing. An image is transferred to a copper plate which is chemically etched. For each print the plate is hand-inked

Serigraph/Silk Screen Print
A form of printmaking utilizing stencils attached to porous screens that support delicate area of the cut design. Most often issued in signed and numbered editions


Albumen print
A positive printing process using egg whites in the emulsion

A process by which a photographic print is made directly from a color transparency. Noted for rich color, brilliant clarity and unprecedented archival quality for color for color prints. Also called Ilfochrome

A printing process based on the light sensitivity of iron salts: also known as a blue print

An early photographic process (invented in 1839) where the impression made on light-sensitive silver-coated metal plate is developed by mercury vapor.  Each is an original since no duplication process exists

Dye Transfer
A method of making color prints or transparencies that gives the maximum control of color, balance and contrast. One of the most permanent color processes.

An image printed on glass then backed in gold: also called gold-tone or curt-tone.  It is often found in ornate, molded and gilded frames

A print in which the final image is formed in platinum or palladium. These extremely permanent processes are characterized by delicate rich tones and ranges of greys unattainable in silver prints

An intaglio printing process in which the image has been placed on the ornate by photographic means using carbon tissues

Silver Print
A generic term referring to all prints made on paper coated with silver salts. Most contemporary black and white photographs are silver prints

A photographic printed within a very few years of the date when the negative was made. Prints made recently from old original negatives are modern prints

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