Glossary

Engraving
A sharp tool called a burin is used to cut grooves in a metal plate. The sliver of metal displaced comes away from the plate. This results in a line which is fluid, sharp edged and, by necessity, very controlled. The plate is inked up and printed in the same way as an etching (see across). Engraving is enormously time consuming and an extremely difficult skill to master, requiring years of practice. Consequently from the sixteenth century onwards there was a separation of the 'art' from the 'craft'; craftsmen were employed to engrave the images drawn or painted by artists. They achieved almost photographic reproductions of images created in other media, but this artistic remove resulted in some very dull images. By this time most artists making their own prints had understandably moved towards the new, easier,more spontaneous medium of etching. Nontheless, the uniquely clear and fluid line which engraving allows, which cannot be achieved by etching or any other means, has led a small number of extremely patient artists to persist.
Check out: Albrecht Dürer, Pitteri, Evan Lindquist.

 

Etching
An image is created on a metal plate using a 'resist' such as wax. The resist acts as a kind of stencil, which protects some areas of the plate while exposing others. The plate is then put into a bath of acid or other mordant (such as the less toxic ferric chloride), which bites into the exposed areas of the plate. The resulting rough areas of the surface will hold ink, giving black and grey tones, whilst the smooth areas, which were protected from the acid, will not hold ink and will provide the highlights or pale tones of the image. Damp paper is laid on top of the inked up plate and both are rolled through a press, which looks something like a mangle. The pressure forces the paper into the bitten areas of the plate where it picks up the ink. Etchings can be identified by their characteristic emboss and plate mark - the indentation around the image which marks the edge of the plate; a subtle reminder of the 180 lbs per square inch of pressure required to create the image.
Check out: Jaques Callot, Cora Cummins, Mary Farl Powers,
Patrick Hickey, Anthony Lyttle, Naomi Sex, Antoni Tapiès

 

Giclée
Giclée is in fact the french word for inkjet. A print at the press of a button has understandably attracted many contemporary artists to work in this medium. (See also: digital)
Check out: Barbara Freeman.

 

Hard ground
Hard ground refers to the hard wax which is melted and rolled onto the metal plate. Once cooled, lines can be scratched into the wax exposing the plate, which is then etched in acid or another mordant. Hard ground gives a sharp edged line and lends itself to line drawing and cross-hatching. It is usually used in conjunction with other methods, such as aquatint.
Check out: Niall Naessens.

 

Intaglio
Meaning cut in italian, intaglio is a generic term, which covers all kinds of printmaking where the ink is held below the surface of the plate in grooves, scratches or tiny holes. The paper used must be well soaked so that when rolled through the press with the plate, it will be forced into the grooves to pick up the ink there. Drypoint, etching and engraving are all forms of intaglio.