What is Printmaking?

Printmaking describes the process of making artist’s original prints, as opposed to signed limited edition prints, which are in fact merely reproductions of existing artworks made using commercial print processes. Traditionally an original print involves the artist making blocks, plates, stones or stencils which are then hand printed using non-mechanical methods. Prints are frequently made in editions (i.e. a number of identical impressions), and these editions are a fixed number so the buyer knows how many have been produced. These are then signed and numbered by the artist and sometimes titled and dated.

Glasgow Print Studio


Woodblock is a type of relief printing where the picture is carved out of a piece of wood, the ink is rolled over the top and then printed. Two main techniques are employed either as a single method for an artwork or in tandem to create different effects. Keyblock is a process where different blocks are made up for different colours or areas of the print. Reduction woodblocks mean that only a single block is used, slowly being cut away for each colour (getting progressively darker), this technique is also called a ‘suicide block’ as the plate is altered at each stage of the print so if a mistake is made it either ruins the whole edition or has to be incorporated into the image.


Drypoint is an intaglio process, which means that the ink is pulled from below the surface of the plate. Traditionally copper is used as a matrix which is scratched into, each line raising a burr which traps the ink, creating the image. Any areas which have not been scratched remain smooth so any ink can be wiped off the top to give white or light areas. This is a non-caustic form of intaglio which doesn’t require acids or caustics to etch the plate.

Bamboo etching

Bamboo etching is a technique discovered in New Zealand and accredited to Stanley Palmer. The discarded sheath of the giant Bamboo, which grows around the Auckland and Northland regions, is used as the matrix which the image is scratched into. The plate is then printed like an etching, with the bamboo leaving a uniquely organic texture. The organic nature of this material means it quickly breaks down, necessitating small limited editions.