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Printmaking Approaches

Here is a brief description of the principal methods of printmaking. If you’d like some help deciding which process might suit you, give us a call. You could also take a look at our fabulous demo videos.

Intaglio Processes

Etching, Drypoint, Mezzotint are known as “intaglio” processes. These methods use a metal plate made of copper, zinc, steel or aluminium. The image is scratched or etched into the plate using acid so that it sits below the surface of the metal. Ink is then forced into the scratches or lines and the surface of the plate is wiped clean. The inked plate and dampened paper is then passed through a press which forces the paper into the surface of the plate and lifts out the ink.

An etching uses acid to eat into the metal plate. A drypoint uses a needle which, scratched into the metal, throws up a burr which holds the ink. Mezzotint prints are made by creating a rough surface on a metal plate. The rough surface is made using a tool called a ‘rocker’. This tool makes tiny indentations over the surface of the metal plate that will hold ink and print as a rich black. Whites and greys are obtained by scraping and burnishing the metal surface flat again.

Drypoint with Catherine Cartwright from Double Elephant Print Workshop on Vimeo.

Relief Printing

Woodblock, Lino cut and Collagraph are methods of relief printing. A woodblock or lino cut is made by cutting away areas of wood or lino block with special tools, a little like curved chisels. Ink is rolled over what’s left of the original surface and transferred to paper using pressure.

A collagraph can be printed in the same way. However, the surface is built up like a collage by glueing materials onto a cardboard block. Many artists like the ‘rough and ready’ feel of collagraphs, using different textures to experiment and explore how various materials take ink in different ways. The collagraphs process is very versatile – the plate can also be printed like an etching or even in a combination of intaglio and relief.


For this technique, stencils are applied to fabric stretched across a frame (silk used to be used for this, which is why the process is sometimes known as silkscreen printing). Paint or ink is forced with a squeegee through the unblocked portions of the screen onto paper or other surface beneath.


A monoprint (or monotype) is a print taken from an inked surface. The process used means only one print can be made each time. You can’t edition (make more copies of) a monoprint. Take a look at our new film for more info:

Monoprint with Simon Ripley from Double Elephant Print Workshop on Vimeo.

Photo etching

Photo etching is a technique that uses a photographic light- sensitive material to coat the surface of a metal plate. The plate is exposed to a UVA light source together with the original artwork (an artwork is a printmaking term for an image that the printmaker has chosen to work with). Once developed the plate is etched in acid as a normal etching plate then printed as an intaglio plate. Artists can combine a number of processes. They can print on different materials or make printed books. Each artist finds their own way of using the processes to make something which is unique to their style.


Lithography is a chemical process. It’s based on the resistance of grease and water to each other. Some of our artists work with lithography but Double Elephant does not currently have facilities for lithography. We do offer an occasional course in a simple lithography technique using household ingredients.

With thanks to Anna Wilkinson at Northern Print,

Handcrafted by Rock Kitchen Harris