About Original Prints

What is a print?

A print is an image which has been transferred from one surface to another. Many pictures that are sold as 'prints', or even 'limited edition signed prints', are actually photographic reproductions, just good quality posters. These are made by photographing an original work of art, usually a painting or a drawing, and reproducing the image photographically, often these days with a digital technology called giclée. All of Anita Klein's prints are original prints. She does not allow her work to be made into posters.


What is an original print?

Real artists' original prints are different from these reproductions in that they are original works of art in their own right. There is no original painting or drawing. Instead the image is conceived by the artist as a print from the outset.

An original print is an image produced from a surface on which the artist has worked, such as a stone, wood block or copper plate. This surface is intended by the artist to be a stage in the creation of the art work. Thus, the original work of art in this case is the print itself rather than the block or plate from which it is printed.

The image is drawn or cut on a block, plate, silkscreen or stone, depending on the technique used, then printed from that, usually onto paper. The artist may build up the image by drawing other colours onto separate blocks or plates which are printed on top of each other, and may modify the print by returning to these blocks, plates, screens or stones and adding or erasing marks.

When satisfied with the final effect, a proof is signed by the artist and a limited number of identical prints are then printed by the artist him or herself, or by a master printer. These are signed and numbered by the artist, for example 2/25 is the second print produced in a limited edition of 25. Other numberings are: A/P, meaning artist's proof, which are extra copies normally kept by the artist and which form no more than 10% of the whole edition; T/P, meaning trial proof, a print taken during the initial proofing stage that is different from the final edition; and P/P, meaning printer's proof, a copy for the printer if he or she is not the artist.

Many original print editions are limited because of the technique used, for example some soft metals used as etching plates wear down slightly with each printing, so eventually the image will not print well. Usually however, the artist decides on the size of the edition and after the full edition is printed the original block, plate or stone is defaced in some way so that no more prints can be taken.


Printmaking techniques



In pure etching, a metal plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he/she wants a line to appear in the finished work, so exposing the bare metal. The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for 'biting') or etchant, or has acid washed over it. The acid 'bites into the metal where is is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines. The plate is then put through a high pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper (often moistened to soften it). The paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print. The process can be repeated many times. The work on the plate can also be added to by repeating the whole process; this creates an etching which exists in more than one state.



The artist draws the image directly onto a metal plate with a sharp tool. The residue metal is left on the side of the scratched lines, which then collect the ink, creating a furry effect called a burr. Printing is essentially the same as for the other intaglio techniques, but extra care is taken to preserve the burr. After the image is finished, or at least ready to proof, the artist applies ink to the plate with a dauber. Too much pressure will flatten the burrs and ruin the image. Once the excess ink is removed, the plate is run through an etching press along with a piece of dampened paper to produce a print.



The whole plate is covered with grains of resin called an aquatint ground, allowing acid to bite into the entire area, creating an overall grainy, tonal effect. This technique is often combined with etching.



Carborundum printmaking is a collagraph process in which the image is created on the plate  by painting carborundum (an abrasive grit) mixed with an acrylic medium. Once dried (usually  overnight), the plate is inked, wiped and printed with an etching press in the same manner as  other intaglio plates. Since the carborundum mixture is built up on the plate, the paper  embosses when going through the press creating a rich velvety surface.



These are printed in the same way as intaglio prints, but the plate is made by sticking various materials onto a shiny surface such as perspex. Anita usually uses carborundum powder. The image is drawn onto perspex with wood glue and then carborundum powder is sprinkled over the glue and varnished when the glue is dry. This holds the ink in the same way that an engraved line does, but the carborundum line is much thicker and more embossed. Anita often hand colours these prints with water colour so each one is really a unique painting.



A relief printing technique in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges. The areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in black or whatever colour ink is chosen.



Linocut is a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum is used for the relief surface. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet 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. Since the material being carved has no particular direction to its grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects with lino than with most woods.



From the Greek lithos, stone and graphe, writing. This printing process is unlike both intaglio and relief processes, both of which involve cutting into the plate. Lithography relies on the principle that grease and water will repel each other. The image is drawn in a greasy substance onto a lithographic stone. The surface is prepared so that the image takes the ink, while the non-image areas repel it. The inked image is transferred to paper by pressure using a lithographic press. A separate plate is required for each colour in a lithograph.