If it’s Not a Painting is it a Print? Thirteen Types of Prints

A question we get asked frequently is, “What is the difference between a painting and a print?” It’s a great question that only requires a magnifying glass and some sunlight to answer (in most cases). We talk about about it here. The follow-up question is “What is a print?” Our gallery primarily focuses on paintings, however since this is such a frequently asked question we thought we’d give basic descriptions of thirteen various print types. Lets start off with a definition of what a print is –

Print describes three basic types of making multiple editions from a single image – relief prints, intaglio prints, and planographic prints. A print itself is a piece of paper or other surface, which holds a pressed-on drawing.

  • To make a relief print, the artist cuts away their chosen surface (usually wood) to create a drawing, and ink is spread over the raised surface. The wood is then pressed to paper and a drawing is transposed.
  • An intaglio print is created in the opposite way: the ink is spread over the surface (both the cut-out and remaining areas) and then wiped away. A piece of paper is pressed over the surface and the ink that remains in the dugout carvings transfers onto the paper.
  • For a planographic print, the artist draws on their chosen surface with a greasy crayon that resists water but holds ink. The surface is then cleaned with water, covered in ink and pressed to a piece of paper.

1. Lithograph is a form of printing whereby you use a very smooth plate usually made of stone. The plate is covered with acid and gum arabic, and drawn on with oil paints or sometimes wax. The success of lithography is based on the principle that water and oil do not mix. A piece of paper is placed on top of the treated surface and sent through a printing press. The pressure from the printing press transfers the image onto the paper. Here is an example of a lithograph by the artist Thomas Hart Benton entitled Swampland.

Thomas Hart Benton lithograph entitled Swampland Continue reading