Just Hit Print… Intaglio

Intaglio is actually a family of printmaking techniques. Images are incised into a copper or zinc plate. The incisions can be created by a variety of methods:

  • Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design
  • Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it.
  • Drypoint is a technique in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed “needle” of sharp metal or diamond point.
  • Aquatint uses the application of acid to make the marks in the metal plate. Aquatint is used create a tonal effect.
  • Mezzotint is technically a drypoint technique, but is used to create a tonal effect.
  • Collagraph is the process in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate (such as cardboard or wood). Ink is applied to the resulting collage and the board is used to print.

To print an intaglio plate, ink is applied to the surface and then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the excess. The final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old phone book pages, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top and the plate and paper are run through a printing press that, through pressure, transfers the ink from the recesses of the plate to the paper.

Intaglio, like block and letterpress, is a reverse image process. The plate must contain the mirror-image for it to be printed as a right-reading image. Today the most common usage of intaglio printing is that of paper currency.

Examples of Intaglio

From left to right:



Hope you enjoyed this little snippet about intaglio, next up lithography.


2 Responses to “Just Hit Print… Intaglio”

  1. Hi, thanks for including my Australian Crows, you’ve chosen a lovely collection of works to show here.

  2. Kelly,
    thanks for including my collagraph print. It’s one of my favorites and I’m happy to be amongst such other beautiful works.

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