Intaglio ( // in-TAL-ee-oh; Italian: [inˈtaʎʎo] ) is the family of printing and printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of a relief print, where the parts of the matrix that make the image stand above the main surface.
Normally, copper or in recent times zinc sheets, called plates, are used as a surface or matrix, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint or mezzotint, often in combination.Collagraphs may also be printed as intaglio plates.
After the decline of the main relief technique of woodcut around 1550, the intaglio techniques dominated both artistic printmaking as well as most types of illustration and popular prints until the mid 19th century.
In intaglio printing, the lines to be printed are cut into a metal (e.g. copper) plate by means either of a cutting tool called a burin, held in the hand – in which case the process is called engraving; or through the corrosive action of acid – in which case the process is known as etching.In etching, for example, the plate is pre-covered in a thin, acid-resistant resin or wax ground. Using etching needles or burins, the artist or writer (etcher) engraves their image (therefore to be only where the plate beneath is exposed). The plate's ground side is then dipped into acid, or the acid poured onto it. The acid bites into the surface of the plate where it was exposed. Biting is a printmaking term to describe the acid's etching, or incising, of the image; its duration depends on the acid strength, metal's reactivity, temperature, air pressure and the depth desired. After the plate is sufficiently bitten it is removed from the acid bath, the ground is removed gently and the plate is usually dried or cleaned.
To print an intaglio plate, ink or inks are painted, wiped and/or dabbed into the recessed lines (such as with brushes/rubber gloves/rollers). The plate is then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of its waste (surface ink) and a final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old public phone book pages, leaving it in the incisions. Dampened paper will usually be fed against the plate, covered by a blanket, so when pressed by rolling press it is squeezed into the plate's ink-filled grooves with uniform very high pressure.The blanket is then lifted, revealing the paper and printed image. The final stages repeat for each copy needed.
Intaglio printmaking emerged in Europe well after the woodcut print, with the earliest known surviving examples being undated designs for playing cards made in Germany, using drypoint technique, probably in the late 1430s.Engraving had been used by goldsmiths to decorate metalwork, including armor, musical instruments and religious objects since ancient times, and the niello technique, which involved rubbing an alloy into the lines to give a contrasting color, also goes back to late antiquity. Scholars and practitioners of printmaking have suggested that the idea of making prints from engraved plates may well have originated with goldsmiths' practices of taking an impression on paper of a design engraved on an object, in order to keep a record of their work, or to check the quality.
Martin Schongauer was one of the most significant early artists in the engraving technique, and Albrecht Dürer is one of the most famous intaglio artists. Italian and Dutch engraving began slightly after the Germans, but were well developed by 1500. Drypoint and etching were also German inventions of the fifteenth century, probably by the Housebook Master and Daniel Hopfer respectively.
In the nineteenth century, Viennese printer Karel Klíč introduced a combined intaglio and photographic process. Photogravure retained the smooth continuous tones of photography but was printed using a chemically-etched copper plate. This permitted a photographic image to be printed on regular paper, for inclusion in books or albums.
In the 1940s and 1950s the Italian security printer Gualtiero Giori brought intaglio printing into the era of high-technology by developing the first ever six-colour intaglio printing press, designed to print banknotes which combined more artistic possibilities with greater security.
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At one time, intaglio printing was used for all mass-printed materials including banknotes, stock certificates, newspapers, books, maps and magazines, fabrics, wallpapers and sheet music. Today, intaglio engraving is used largely for paper or plastic currency, banknotes, passports and occasionally for high-value postage stamps. The appearance of engraving is sometimes mimicked for items such as wedding invitations by producing an embossment around lettering printed by another process (such as lithography or offset) to suggest the edges of an engraving plate.
Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal. In modern manufacturing, other chemicals may be used on other types of material. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today. In a number of modern variants such as microfabrication etching and photochemical milling it is a crucial technique in much modern technology, including circuit boards.
Printmaking is the process of creating artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each print produced is considered an "original" work of art, and is correctly referred to as an "impression", not a "copy". Often impressions vary considerably, whether intentionally or not. The images on most prints are created for that purpose, perhaps with a preparatory study such as a drawing. A print that copies another work of art, especially a painting, is known as a "reproductive print".
Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings". Engraving is one of the oldest and most important techniques in printmaking. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing and is not covered in this article.
Mezzotint is a printmaking process of the intaglio family, using a drypoint method. It was the first tonal method to be used, enabling half-tones to be produced without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple. Mezzotint achieves tonality by roughening a metal plate with thousands of little dots made by a metal tool with small teeth, called a "rocker". In printing, the tiny pits in the plate retain the ink when the face of the plate is wiped clean. This technique can achieve a high level of quality and richness in the print.
Drypoint is a printmaking technique of the intaglio family, in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed "needle" of sharp metal or diamond point. In principle, the method is practically identical to engraving. The difference is in the use of tools, and that the raised ridge along the furrow is not scraped or filed away as in engraving. Traditionally the plate was copper, but now acetate, zinc, or plexiglas are also commonly used. Like etching, drypoint is easier to master than engraving for an artist trained in drawing because the technique of using the needle is closer to using a pencil than the engraver's burin.
Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variant of etching that produces areas of tone rather than lines. For this reason it has mostly been used in conjunction with etching, to give both lines and shaded tone. It has also been used historically to print in colour, both by printing with multiple plates in different colours, and by making monochrome prints that were then hand-coloured with watercolour.
Collagraphy is a printmaking process introduced in 1955 by Glen Alps in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate. The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing.
Relief printing is a family of printing methods where a printing block, plate or matrix that has had ink applied to its surface, but not to any recessed areas, is brought into contact with paper. The areas of the printing plate with ink will leave ink on the paper, whereas the recessed areas of the printing plate will leave the paper ink-free. A printing press may not be needed, as the back of the paper can be rubbed or pressed by hand with a simple tool such as a brayer or roller.
Rotogravure is a type of intaglio printing process, which involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. In gravure printing, the image is engraved onto a cylinder because, like offset printing and flexography, it uses a rotary printing press.
Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking or photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is grained and then coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio plate that can reproduce detailed continuous tones of a photograph.
Wood engraving is a printmaking technique, in which an artist works an image or matrix of images into a block of wood. Functionally a variety of woodcut, it uses relief printing, where the artist applies ink to the face of the block and prints using relatively low pressure. By contrast, ordinary engraving, like etching, uses a metal plate for the matrix, and is printed by the intaglio method, where the ink fills the valleys, the removed areas. As a result, wood engravings deteriorate less quickly than copper-plate engravings, and have a distinctive white-on-black character.
Photoengraving is a process that uses a light-sensitive photoresist applied to the surface to be engraved to create a mask that shields some areas during a subsequent operation which etches, dissolves, or otherwise removes some or all of the material from the unshielded areas. Normally applied to metal, it can also be used on glass, plastic and other materials.
Line engraving is a term for engraved images printed on paper to be used as prints or illustrations. The term is mainly used in connection with 18th or 19th century commercial illustrations for magazines and books or reproductions of paintings. It is not a technical term in printmaking, and can cover a variety of techniques, giving similar results.
Viscosity printing is a multi-color printmaking technique that incorporates principles of relief printing and intaglio printing. It was pioneered by Stanley William Hayter.
Steel engraving is a technique for printing illustrations based on steel instead of copper. It has been rarely used in artistic printmaking, although it was much used for reproductions in the 19th century. Steel engraving was introduced in 1792 by Jacob Perkins (1766–1849), an American inventor, for banknote printing. When Perkins moved to London in 1818, the technique was adapted in 1820 by Charles Warren and especially by Charles Heath (1785–1848) for Thomas Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, which contained the first published plates engraved on steel. The new technique only partially replaced the other commercial techniques of that time such as wood engraving, copper engraving and later lithography.
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition. The term remains current in the art trade, and there is no easy alternative in English to distinguish the works of "fine art" produced in printmaking from the vast range of decorative, utilitarian and popular prints that grew rapidly alongside the artistic print from the 15th century onwards. Fifteenth-century prints are sufficiently rare that they are classed as old master prints even if they are of crude or merely workmanlike artistic quality. A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term.
Vitreography is a fine art printmaking technique that uses a 3⁄8-inch-thick (9.5 mm) float glass matrix instead of the traditional matrices of metal, wood or stone. A print created using the technique is called a vitreograph. Unlike a monotype, in which ink is painted onto a smooth glass plate and transferred to paper to produce a unique work, the vitreograph technique involves fixing the imagery in, or on, the glass plate. This allows the production of an edition of prints.
Stipple engraving is a technique used to create tone in an intaglio print by distributing a pattern of dots of various sizes and densities across the image. The pattern is created on the printing plate either in engraving by gouging out the dots with a burin, or through an etching process. Stippling was used as an adjunct to conventional line engraving and etching for over two centuries, before being developed as a distinct technique in the mid-18th century.
À la poupée is a largely historic intaglio printmaking technique for making colour prints by applying different ink colours to a single printing plate using ball-shaped wads of cloth, one for each colour. The paper has just one run through the press, but the inking needs to be carefully re-done after each impression is printed. Each impression will usually vary at least slightly, and sometimes very significantly.
In printmaking, surface tone, or surface-tone, is produced by deliberately or accidentally not wiping all the ink off the surface of the printing plate, so that parts of the image have a light tone from the film of ink left. Tone in printmaking meaning areas of continuous colour, as opposed to the linear marks made by an engraved or drawn line. The technique can be used with all the intaglio printmaking techniques, of which the most important are engraving, etching, drypoint, mezzotint and aquatint. It requires individual attention on the press before each impression is printed, and is mostly used by artists who print their own plates, such as Rembrandt, "the first master of this art", who made great use of it.