Techniques

Drypoint

This is used when the atmosphere of the subject requires strongly contrasting tones and the detail of the subject requires precise line drawing. The drawing is scratched onto an aluminium printing plate with a sharp steel point that creates burrs or ridges on the surface. A variety of tools is used to give different weights of line and texture.

Printing ink is then applied to the aluminium and is held in the burrs. Careful wiping of the ink can give different tones in different areas. A piece of dampened printing paper is placed on top of the inked metal, then the paper and metal are rolled through a hand-operated mangle-like printing press to transfer the ink on to the paper. The metal must be re-inked and put through the press again to make successive prints. The burrs begin to wear down after about 12 to 15 prints have been taken from the plate, so pictures made in this way have a rarity value.

Etching and aquatint

Etchings have sharper lines than drypoint. The copper, zinc or steel printing plate is coated with an acid-resistant wax or 'ground'. A sharp steel point is used to draw the image into the wax, thereby revealing parts of the metal beneath. The plate is then placed in a bath of acid, which eats into the exposed areas of metal. Deeper lines can be achieved by exposing some areas of the plate for a longer period of time. The plate is taken out of the acid and the wax coating removed to reveal the drawing.

Tones can then be etched into the same plate using a technique called aquatint. A fine layer of acid-resistant resin dust is melted onto the surface of the plate. When the plate is re-immersed in the acid etching occurs around the resin particles, causing an even pitting of the plate's surface. Once out of the acid the resin is removed, leaving a textured surface that will then hold the printing ink. By coating some areas of the plate with acid-resistant varnish, selective etching of different areas can be used to vary the final printed tones.

The inking and printing process is the same as for drypoint. A larger edition can be printed from each etching plate as the metal is harder than a drypoint plate and does not wear down so quickly.

Wood and linocut (relief printing)

Unlike drypoint and etching, which are characterised by a variety of tones and finely drawn lines, relief printing is concerned with bolder patterns and textures. Different types of wood with different surface textures are used to give a variety of effects: end-grain blocks from box trees and fruit trees are polished and smooth; plywood has a distinctive, rough grain.

The drawing is made directly on to the wood or lino and the blank areas are then cut out with a variety of gouges and knives. This leaves the drawing in relief. Printing ink is rolled over the surface of the wood or lino, covering only the areas in relief. A piece of paper is placed on top and the print is obtained either by rubbing the back of the paper or by placing the block and paper in a press. For every successive print the wood or lino must be re-inked. This can be done many times without any significant wear to the block.

Numbering the prints

The number written under the print, in the left-hand corner, refers to the edition. For example, 1/50 is the first print in an edition of 50, and 7/12 is the seventh print in an edition of 12.
"AP" stands for "Artists Proof", which is never more than 10% of the total edition number. These marks, plus the signature, guarantee the originality of the print and the number of copies in the limited edition.