The word intaglio is used to define various
printing techniques that use an etched or
engraved plate to print an image. This process
includes a variety of standard creative
printmaking categories that include drypoint,
engraving, etching, aquatint, collagraph,
carborundum etc.

Intaglio techniques can be traced back to the 16th
century, being first employed by artists such as
Albrecht Durer, who were very successful at
illustrating biblical themes of the time, using
engraving and drypoint. Woodcut printing
methods were already popular throughout Europe
thanks to the invention of the printing press, but
Intaglio printing allowed for much greater attention
to detail and fine lined illustration. The graphic
arts industry that followed provided new avenues
for producing artwork for mass audiences and
collectors alike.

With the intaglio process, usually a copper or zinc
metal plate, with an image etched, scratched or
engraved into the surface is flooded with ink.
Slowly and carefully, ink is removed with a tarlatan
cloth similar to cheese cloth
- following a (wax on,
wax off) stroking method to ease ink pigment from
the top surface of the matrix, taking care not to
pull ink from incised lines and marks below the
surface. To make a clear impression, an etching
press is required to apply enormous uniform
pressure to the inked plate resting on a steel bed,
as it passes through the rollers, essentially
embossing the plate and inked image, creating
the clear indentation into dampened paper. These
plate indentations remain even after the paper
and ink is dry and have become a trademark for
recognizing an intaglio print. One at a time, the
plate is then re-inked by hand and wiped before
printing each additional proof. The manner in
which the ink is mixed, spread, and wiped from the
surface of the plate, greatly affects the look of the
final print. To achieve an edition, great care must
be taken to imitate each step throughout the
process or excess variations may occur. Rejects
are common, especially with larger editions and
are destroyed to preserve the integrity of the
edition. The value of the entire edition depends
on strict uniformity, being numbered sequentially
and bearing the artist’s own signature.
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(Click below to see
Ron Garrett's prints
in each technique)
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