The Art of Printing

A print is a work of art made up of ink on paper and existing in multiple examples. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through an indirect transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface and the transfer occurs when a sheet of paper, placed in contact with this surface, is run through a printing press. Among the advantages of making an artwork in this way is that numerous “impressions“ can be made, because new pieces of paper can be sent through the press in the same way. The artist decides how many to make and the total number of impressions is called an “edition“.

The original print distinguishes itself by its originality, the result of the artist’s creation desire. An artistic work must be considered as original when the artist has created the surface himself, has cut the wood, has worked on the stone or any other material. All other works should be considered “reproductions”. In an original print the artist has been the creator of the work, from the beginning until the final result; it’s neither a copy nor a plagiarism.

For the last decades artists have found in printing art their own specific mean of expression and have contributed to an important development in techniques and styles. Each printing technique or its combination offers the artist, besides drawing, painting, collage or installations, the possibility of a very individual expression of his artistic vision. Various printing methods have evolved over the long history of the medium. The four best-known techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint. Depending on what an artist wants to express in a particular work, one or another technique is chosen for its distinct visual effects. Since the processes are sometimes complicated, the assistance of an expert printer is often required.


It becomes quite complex to make a classification of processes used for printing, specially considering the constant development of new procedures. Perhaps it could be done starting with different criteria: plate material or how the incision has been done. Maybe the clearest classification would be starting with four basic groups, essential in their way of putting the ink on the plate and passing it afterwards onto the paper: