Fine art print making covers a broad spectrum of activities. But print artists – with their unusual combinations of printing materials, from large iron screen printers to modern inkjet printers – can seem like a strange land, even to experienced artists who are quite at home with other artistic methods.
However, most print making techniques are easy to understand. Some, such as etching and lithography are difficult but actually artists find that the need to learn detailed print making methods can provide a new framework for the artistic side of image making. Some Independent artists regard this as a great bonus as you become immersed in the printmaking practicalities of art, and the process itself suggests new ways of interpreting your ideas.
Reasons for Producing Fine Art Prints
There are several principal reasons for re producing fine art originals as a printed image, and many famous artists do just that.
The first is kind of obvious – to get hold of a number of high quality copies that are exactly the same and can be made in a single day. This new wall art might be canvas prints, printed on fine art papers or done in different frames. However you do it prints sell at a cheaper price point then originals. Print art is thus affordable art – and so is accessible to people who do not normally invest in art. There are many options – print art could let you run a series of limited edition prints, for example. Whatever way you do it, wall art prints and fine art prints can represent a useful share of the fine artists income.
And for the best printer, there is great pleasure in having printed works on paper or canvas. There’s almost no limit to the range of art you can produce in this way – simple test prints to large format wall art, different sizes, wood frames, metal frames – original artwork suddenly blossoms into a variety of possibilities.
The second reason for making fine art prints is that each printing process produces different visual elements; qualities that are quite different from those of our directly drawn or painted image. This is of great interest to graphic designers, as well as artists themselves as it provides an easy way to manipulate the images they’ve produced.
For example, the two-dimensional shiny colour areas of a linocut cut print cannot easily be obtained with paint and brush. Equally the grainy dense textures of chalk drawing and ink produced by lithography have a wildly different impression than similar sketches done straight on paper. So the printmaking process changes the character of the artwork but it also changes the way the printer thinks about how and and plans about how to develop the printed piece
The Best Methods for Producing Art Prints
The best art printer method – and I’m talking about non digital prints here – can be divided into four main categories: relief printing, intaglio, planographic (printing from a flat surface) and stencil processes.
In the relief-printing techniques of linocut, wood cut and wood engraving, the original flat surface of the wood or liner block represents the printing surface. Any part of the design not to be printed or cut away leave leaving the image raised in relief. This is usually inked with a roller and transferred paper by direct pressure.
Intaglio processes are the opposite These can include dry point mezzotint and etching and are usually done on metal plates where the design is incised or etched into the surface. It is the sunken lines and areas of the plate that are printed by pushing ink into them and applying heavy pressure to press the paper into the inked marks. The original surface level of the intaglio plate represents the white in a black and white image.
Lithography is a planographic process, meaning that the printing and non printing areas are on the same level. The image is drawn on a metal plate and processed so that it sets into the grain of the surface. Lithographic prints can be taken by direct pressure or by offsetting on an offset press. Plate and sheets of paper are placed side by side. A roller travels over the plate and picks up the inked image. On travelling back it deposits the image on the paper.
Screen printing is basically a stenciling process. The screen has a stretched fine mesh which transmits an even layer of ink under pressure. To create the image parts of the mesh must be blocked so they cannot allow the ink through. There are many methods for preparing stencils all of which produce character characteristically different qualities in the imagery. It’s all good, fresh and ready for the gallery wall!