Intro To Printmaking Study Sheet

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Posted by Ralph Slatton

Attn Students: Go to Tutorials in navigation bar above for latest relief printing demos.

(click on links to see photos of the tools)

  • burnisher - is a round ended tool used to smooth rough areas on an intaglio metal plate. It will remove some light scratches but is generally not used on deeper lines. It can also be used to create variation of tones in aquatints. To smooth an area of the metal, you put a drop of oil a section of the plate and begin making small circular motions, while applying pressure with the curved end of the tool.
  • scraper - is a three sided sharp tool used to remove deeper scratches from a plate. A drop of oil is applied and the scraper is held in such a way as to gradually shave the surface of the scratch. At some point the metal may form a wavy surface. To remove this, you work the scraper in a different direction to the scratch.
  • etching needle or twisted scribe - is a pencil-like, steel tool, usually having a point on each end. Some have corked handles. One point is usually a little sharper than the other to allow different line thicknesses. The needle function is to create scratches, either directly into the surface of the plate or to needle through a acid proof coating called, asphaltum.
  • engraver's burin - is a cutting tool used by engravers. It is made of tempered steel with a sharp lozenge or diamond-shaped point, used for engraving furrows in metal, wood, or marble. This tool should not be confused with the scribe. The scribe scratches metal, whereas, the burin cuts metal. (We haven't covered this in class yet, but you need to know its meaning.)
  • intaglio press - is a machine used to print etchings and all other intaglio plates, operating by slipping a press bed between two rollers, one of them being adjustable to increase or decrease pressure. An etching press is easily adapted to print relief blocks.
  • sizing catcher - is a thin printmaking blanket (sometimes called a Swan Skin or Fronting Blanket) that is placed over the intaglio plate. It is placed closest to the plate than the other blankets, so that it can absorb the starch from the moist printmaking paper, thereby allowing for easy cleaning.
  • cushion - is a thick printmaking blanket that is placed just over the sizing catcher. Its added thickness helps to conform to the irregularities of the plate surface. The cushion blanket is 100% wool felt and is a full .25" thick. It is placed over the sizing catcher.
  • pusher - is a durable woven wool blanket placed just over the cushion. It takes the abuse of the press roller. Being woven the pusher is resists wear due to abrasion from the upper drum of the etching press. The pusher blanket is .125" thick, and is made of 100% finely woven wool felt.
  • roulette - is a tool with a spiked wheel used to create lines of even dots on intaglio plates. The wheel is rolled along the surface of the plate, creating patterns varing from dots to chevrons to diagonal lines. This can be used in either drypoint or etching.
  • brayer - rubber or plastic roller attached to a handle, used for applying inks and other coatings in printmaking. It can also be used to smooth down paper or films. Very basic brayers have plastic handles and hard rollers. More expensive brayers may have wooden handles, but the significant difference is what the roller is made from. It should feel rubbery but firm. A softer roller helps get ink smooth, and into grooves. A harder roller gives better detail for relief printing. A medium firmness is used most often in printmaking shops.

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