The place for original handmade prints and printmaking courses taught by Carol Nunan

Printmaking Terms

A Brief Explanation of Different Printmaking Terms

Printmaking terms this page will help you understand the terminology that describes different printmaking media if you are unfamiliar with them. If you are interested in more in-depth explanations as to my approach these printmaking media I will be gradually adding links to new pages and hopefully videos over time.




Monotype – A planographic process which leads to a unique, ‘one-off’ print. There are a variety of techniques in this process, but usually, ink is applied to a plate and then transferred to paper through an etching press. With a monotype, there is no fixed matrix (such as on an etching plate), making it impossible to achieve an exact duplicate. The artist will sign such a print with 1/1 or U/P to indicate that it is a one-off and not part of a limited edition.


Printmaking media - mono print with stencils

Monoprint – A process by which the artist varies the colours and tonal arrangements of an existing matrix created through any print making process. Although the compositional matrix remains constant, each impression is obviously different in colour or tone leading to a variable edition. When the artist signs it s/he will put 1/1 which means there is only one print of that type or U/P meaning Unique Print.


Printmaking Media | Collagraphs

Collagraph – The printed result of a collage, where a variety of textured materials are glued onto a thin base and printed as a combination relief*/intaglio** plate. Such materials include found materials that are flat(ish) – grasses, dried flowers, feathers, lace, textured wallpapers textiles, etc.  The resulting prints are very textural and embossed into the paper. If the base is mount-board, layers of paper can be stripped from the surface to create textured areas of various depths. Collagraph plates have permanent marks which allow the printmaker to make editions, of anything from 2 up to 100. The smaller the edition the more valuable the print. Not all prints in the edition are made in one go. The printmaker will make an Artist Proof or A/P. This will be used as the printmaker’s guide for all subsequent prints in the edition, each one of which is inked up handprinted by hand.


Printmaking Terms

Carborundum – In this process textured, ink holding areas are created by gluing powdered silicon carbide to the plate with glue or epoxy resins. Different gauges of silicon carbide enable the production of darker or lighter tones. The resulting matrix can be printed as a combination relief/intaglio plate.



Woodcut/linocut – In the woodcut and linocut processes the non-image areas of the block are cut away, leaving the image in relief. This remaining surface area is inked up and usually printed onto soft, absorbent paper, either by rubbing or by using a press. The term refers to the fact that traditionally a plate is carved from a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) to create a relief surface or wood ply. Other products have come onto the market now such as Easy Cut made from vinyl, some making it easier to carve but the process of inking the plate might need adjustment.

A design is drawn on to and cut into the surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge. The raised (uncarved) areas should be the mirror image of the parts to show printed. The linocut is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.


A process in which the image to be printed is created in relief on a wood or linoleum block. The parts of the image that are not to receive ink are carved away from the surface. This remaining surface area is inked and usually printed onto soft, absorbent paper, either by rubbing or by using a press. Reduction prints are created by removing areas of the block in stages, colour by colour. Techniques include lino-cut, wood-cut and letterpress.


The term intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning “to incise.” In this technique, acid, salt mordents, abrasive material or a sharp pointed tool are used to incise textures into a flat plate. This plate may be made of copper, steel, iron, zinc or polycarbonate. The lines and tones of the printed image are dependent on these textured areas. The plate is covered with ink, and then wiped so that only the incised, textured areas contain ink. The pressure of the printing press forces dampened paper into the incisions where they pick up the ink.

Because often the sheet of paper is larger than the plate, an indentation of the plate edges, or plate-mark, appears around the edges of the image area. The different types of intaglio prints are distinguished by the technique used: etching, aquatint, and photogravure are made using a corrosive solution to form lines and textures in a metal plate, whilst engraving, drypoint and mezzotint are made using a sharp tool to incise, or scratch, the surface of the plate. Often several different intaglio techniques are used in the same print to achieve variations in contrast and tone.



img_0560 – is a form of intaglio printmaking whereby the image is incised into the surface of a smooth plate – copper, aluminium, steel or clear perspex with the use of a sharp needle tool. The advantage of using perspex for those who lack confidence in their drawing skills is that an image can be ‘traced’ through the clear perspex.