Intaglio is the form of printmaking in which the image is incised into the printing plate – the incised areas hold the ink which is transferred to dampened paper, under pressure, by rolling through a press. The plate will emboss into the paper so that you will see the tell-tale plate mark around the edges of the image and on the reverse of the print. Under the umbrella of intaglio, we find the techniques of etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint and collagraph.
Intaglio plates are prepared for printing by pushing the ink into the incised lines, pits or burrs you make in the plate, then wiping away the ink from its surface.
Etching involves biting the exposed areas of metal with acid or alternative solutions such as ferric chloride or copper sulphate. Areas that are not to be bitten have acid resists applied in the form of grounds to draw through, aquatints for tone and stop-out varnishes. Engraving dates from about the 15th century and is a non-etched intaglio technique whereby grooves are cut into the plate with sharp burin engravers. Adapted from goldsmithing, engravings have distinct and slightly embossed lines, properties found to be invaluable in the printing of banknotes. With drypoint, lines are scratched into the plate with sharp points and a burr is thrown up along the line, a bit like a furrow created by a plough. This burr and furrow hold onto the ink giving a soft feathery line when printed. Mezzotint is a type of reverse image-making technique whereby the whole plate is roughened with a mezzotint rocker which will print as velvety black. The roughened plate is then scraped and burnished smoother in gradations to draw rich tonal variations from the darkness. Collagraphs straddle the intaglio/relief definition but are often inked and printed in the same was as intaglio. Plates are constructed using found materials and carborundum stuck onto all sorts of substrates, offering versatile and creative image making.
In this section you will find traditional and modern materials for etching and intaglio. Please take a look at the new PDF guides for help.