Dictionary of Art Terms:
In the etching process,
acid or acid mixtures in which a plate is immersed to be
bitten or etched (usually a Nitric Acid or Dutch mordant
mixture). A tray containing acid and water in which the
copper plate is immersed to be bitten. See
Said of paper with a 7 pH
(Ideal or balanced); above 8.5 pH or below 6.5 pH is not
considered acid-free. Observation of acid in paper is best
described with this illustration: If you put a newspaper
out in the sunlight, it quickly turns brown. The brown
created by exposure to the sun in newsprint clearly
illustrates the acid content in the paper.
A plastic sheet noted
for its transparency, lightweight, weather resistance, color
fastness and rigidity. Acrylics are important in art
preservation because of their stability, or resistance to
chemical change over time, a characteristic not common to
all plastics. Some common trade names for the sheet form
are: Perspex, Lucite and PlexiGlas.
The backing sheet used
by contemporary artist Jamali for his "fresco" paintings.
The material for
casting an acrylic sculpture. The method of casting
sculptures using acrylic was innovated and developed by
Frederick Hart in conjunction with Dupont Chemicals. The
acrylic used in casting for sculptures by Frederick Hart and
Michael Wilkinson is imbedded with UV inhibitors to protect
the sculpture from turning yellow with the sunlight. Common
trade names for castable acrylic are Lucite and Lexan.
A plastic sheet now
used to train budding artists how to create an etching
plate. The use of the Acrylic sheet in place of a copper
plate is an inexpensive way to practice the drypoint
technique and the technique to render various line
intensities on a single plate surface.
metal used in hand printed lithography as an alternative to
the expensive lithographic Bavarian stone plate.
intaglio printing process in which tones can be etched,
rather than just lines, and rich darks as well as
transparent tints can be produced; often resembles a wash
drawing or watercolor rendering.
Manuel Robbe innovated the
full color inking process (a painterly application of
numerous printers' inks onto the printing the completely
aquatinted plate) with his aquatint etchings. He was able
to create moods and different day or night light scenarios
by changing the colors used to color the plate.
Traditionally, one of the first proofs from a limited
edition of prints. These proofs traditionally were
imperfect and usually pulled from the press during the
developmental inspection stages. Usually for the artist’s
own use, marked as an artist’s proof (A.P.)
and either unnumbered or more commonly found today, numbered
(i.e.: A.P. 1/10).
Today, it indicates a portion of the entire edition size and
available for sale. Usually indicates 10 percent of the
run. The A.P.’s may draw a premium price because of the
smaller edition size designation; however, it is only a
“perceived value.” They may be designated
instead of A.P. or in addition to the A.P. E.A.’s normally
were to indicate the artist proof impressions sold in Europe
general term applied to any artistic production.
etching, a liquid used on plates as a soft ground and on the
backs of plates to protect them from the mordant or acid.
In lithography, used to chemically process the drawing.
printing, a term meaning to print on both sides of a sheet
of paper, as the pages of a book. The “Latin Text” wood cut
impressions of Albrecht Durer are woodcuts with Latin text
printed on the back or verso.
coming from behind a subject.
printing press, the surface that establishes the maximum
usable paper sheet size.
etching and engraving, to remove metal from the plate via
acid or burin creating a line or surface that will hold ink.
felt or foam rubber material used between the paper and the
roller on an etching or printing press.
print on paper or textile, each color requiring a separate
block; the hand-carved wood or linoleum block may be stamped
(printed) by hand or in a block printing press. In the case
of painter and printmaker, Angel Botello, the block was
inked with many colors at one time. The impression is
printed with the pressure of a hand roller on the back of
the paper laid onto the linocut plate.
Picasso’s innovation to the linocut technique was the use of
a single plate or linoleum block to print all the colors
needed in the print. After printing one color, the plate is
cut away the original block for the next color printing.
This enables the artist to have “perfect registration” or
perfect alignment for the printing of numerous colors.
absorbent paper used to dry printed material.
used around the edges of a large plate as a molded border so
that the plate can be etched without immersion; also called
roller designed for inking printing blocks or plates; also
used by artists in painting or inking large areas. Spanish
artist Angel Botello used the brayer to press the paper to
the prepared inked linocut block.
expansion and contraction, according to weather conditions,
of papers and canvas.
rough edge left on an incised line into a copper or zinc
plate. In dry point, the steel point stylist or diamond tip
stylist is used to cut or incise a line into a plate. The
stylist, like a plow pulled through a dirt field, pushes
metal out of the furrow to the either edge of the incised
line. Ink is applied to the plate and is daubed into the
furrows. Ink holds onto the burr’s surface. Ink on the
burr prints a “silvery,” “gray” or “velvet-like” edge on the
side of the etched line. Burr tends to only last for up to
10 impressions and the pressure of the press on the plate
eventually dissolves and wears the burr away. Collecting
the impression with burr is like a rare proof and is a very
desirable, collectable print or impression.
proof made from a cancelled plate or stone to show that no
more prints can be pulled; usually with a large “X” drawn on
the plate before the final proof.
portable box with an aperture, lens, and viewing screen.
Light enters the box only through an aperture or tiny hole
in one wall. A lens in this opening helps focus the light
coming in from the outside. A small, upside-down, and
reversed image of a view outside the box is projected on the
opposite wall from the pinpoint light source. By placing a
small mirror at a 45° angle on this wall, the reflected
image can be projected on a ground-glass drawing surface on
the top of the box. Tracing this projection on drafting
paper yields an accurate rendering of the view.
term camera obscura comes from the Italian (dark chamber).
This forerunner of the photographic camera was created in
the seventeenth century as a drawing aid, although the
principle behind the device has been known since the seventh
Pigment mixed with a casein binder, i.e., one made from milk
proteins extracted from curd. Casein is an excellent
adhesive on its own, but, when used as a binder, has an
agreeable consistency, is quick drying and the matte surface
is durable enough to be left unprotected (like oil paint on
the surface of a canvas).
The chief constituent of the cell walls
of all plants. Also, the chief constituent of many
fibrous plant products, including paper and some cloth.
Italian, light/dark) The strong emphasis on the
change from light to dark in drawing, painting, woodcut and
etching. Italian Master Painter Michelangelo da Caravaggio
and Dutch Master Painter and printmaker Rembrandt van Rijn
are both known for their dramatic use of strong contrasts of
light and shade for the most dramatic impact. Rembrandt’s
multi-patterned cross hatching on his etching plates created
outstanding changes from light to dark in his etchings.
bonding of two papers. Occasionally Japon paper was bonded
to Arches or European paper. James Abbott McNeill Whistler
used this ancient Asian process for some of his lithographs.
Chine colle process is used in the works of John Lennon to
symbolize the unity of Yoko and John in his artwork.
Chiaroscuro. Albrecht Dürer’s engravings from 1512
transitioned into a new style incorporating the technique of
Clair-Obscur utilizing the colors white, black on grey with
the light source coming from the ‘left,’ with only three
printmaking, ammonia, whiting, salt and vinegar used to
remove fingerprints from metal plates.
irregular surface on paper (The natural bubbling or
wrinkling of the paper surface created after the moisten
paper dries at the conclusion of the printing process).
engraving or etching plate made from copper. Rembrandt used
an alloy of copper and tin for his copper etching plates.
Because of the softness of the copper alloy (early bronze),
the scholars and art historians suggested that the artist
tended to produce or “pull” a smaller number of impressions
from the plate, usually up to 250 impressions. Today, the
copper etching plates are much firmer and durable which
allows from more impressions to be pulled over the lifetime
of the plate.
means of creating tonal gradation effect by repeated and
parallel horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines. Rembrandt
van Rijn innovated and utilized this technique to produce
Chiaroscuro (Light and Shadow) on his etchings.
Cum gratia et privilegio Sac(rae)/Caes(areae)
Copyrighted in Germany and Austria (before 1806).
Dabber or Dauber:
A roll or pad of leather or
cloth used to apply ink to a print plate or type.
Damping the Paper:
Placing the paper in a tray
of water for a period of time (depending on the type of
paper), heating the paper to expand the pores, then putting
it between two blotting papers to absorb the moisture before
laying the paper on the (copper or zinc) plate for
printing. Wetting the paper allows printing from a metal
plate without cutting the paper with (at) the edge of the
plate. The Russian contemporary artist and master
printmaker Sergey Tyukanov suggests placing the printing
paper in water for up to four days for the very best
Depose a la Bibliotheque Imperiale:
Passed by the French Censor
(1804 - 1814); impression occasionally deposited for legal
Depose a la Bibliotheque Nationale:
Passed by the French Censor
(1848 - 1852; 1870 - present)
Depose a la Bibliotheque Royale:
Passed by the French Censor
(1814 - 1848).
A diamond tipped needle used
to directly incise into a plate. See Drypoint.
In art, the measures of
spatial extent, in the order of height, width and length.
When measuring framed and unframed art, the order in which
the size is recorded is height first and width second with
the type of measurement designated. (i.e.: Image Size: 24 x
An original work of art most
frequently made with graphite, chalk, pastel, pen and ink,
and sometimes oil on paper.
In graphic art, a technique
in which an etching needle scratches directly into the metal
plate (like a plow through a field).
displaced metal or burr (material pushed to the side after
the burin or plow creates the cut or furrow), is inked and
printed producing a soft, silvery, velvety effect of line.
The number of impressions which print with burr prints is
usually up to 10 impressions or passes through the printing
press. The burr then wears away and the line prints sharp
and clean. An impression with burr is highly desirable and
An intaglio process of
creating a design on the surface of a metal or other plate
using a mordant (a waxy resistant ground) to block out the
entire plate and with a steel tipped stylus or needle, the
artist scratches through the mordant and exposes the plate
so acid is allowed to bite (eat away) or cut lines into the
A thin, usually darkened (so
the artist can see if the plate is properly coated)
acid-resisting coat applied to a plate, preventing the acid
to effect the plate. The design is incised through the
mordant or ground exposing the plate.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler's etching tool, “The
An intaglio print where even
furrowed line is cut into a burin (a V-shaped steel shaft
tool with a wooden handle). Rembrandt didn't do engravings,
however, he utilized engraving as a way to enhance or
supplement his etchings.
Charcoal in block form, used
to polish plates in graphics.
in London (about 1600 - 1800).
In etching, to stir or move
around the bubbles of the acid with a feather, brush or pipe
(Latin. fecit, 'made') An
abbreviation found in prints, indicating that the name it
follows is that of the etcher or engraver. also
__f., __fe., __fec.
The smoother side of paper,
the top side of paper.
In etching, the accidental
biting of an area of the plate that is not completely
covered with ground, causing unplanned inking or printed
patterns in the print.
The first color engravings
for printing in magazines invented by avid Japanese print
collector, Charles Gilot in 1879. It was a process to
faithfully reproduce a drawing or sketches for publication.
It involved both making of color separations for each color
to be printed prepared by a highly skilled engraver and the
plates were to be prepared by a photographer. This process
was, at the time, revolutionary and dramatically changed the
course of color printing.
A technique in which gold
wire is used to draw on specially prepared paper. See
of paint consisting of pigment, a binding agent (usually gum
arabic), and sometimes added inert material, designed to be
used in an opaque method. It also refers to paintings
that use this opaque method. The name derives from the
Italian guazzo, and is also referred to as opaque watercolor
Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are
larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an
additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk is also
present. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque,
with greater reflective qualities. The usual gouache
painting displays a light-reflecting brilliance quite
different from the luminosity of transparent watercolors.
A kind of chisel-like tool
used to gouge into wood or linoleum.
Grave par (name):
Etched or engraved by.
A lithographic pencil or
Touché; a pencil with a waxy, grease-like base. It is used
to mark the stone where the artist wants the ink to appear
on the paper or printed surface.
Handmade paper; the pattern
is more random, therefore, will not tear as easily as
In etching, a colorless, acid
best used on zinc plates.
Design or lettering cut or
bitten below the surface of the plate. Ink is forced into
the depressions and the surface of the plate is wiped clean
(as in etching, drypoint, aquatint and engraving) leaving
only the ink in the depressions or the image below the
surface of the plate. The plate is laid onto a printing
press and the plate is covered with a damp sheet of paper
and printed under extreme pressure between blankets and
roller. The print is then hung up to dry and the process
begins again for the next print.
Paint applied in very heavy
layers or strokes. Any thickness or roughness of paint or
deep brush strokes as distinguished from a flat, smooth
Japan Paper/Japon Paper:
Paper made with an irregular
mottled surface. Usually a wove paper made from the inner
bark or pith fibers of Gampi, Mitsumata and Mulberry
initially made only in Japan. These were some of the types
of papers first used by Master Etcher Rembrandt van Rijn for
printing his etchings in the 17th Century.
19th Century Master printmaker James Abbott McNeill Whistler
also liked to use Japanese papers for his etchings. Today,
Japanese papers are still used by artists internationally.
For years Japon paper symbolized quality in papermaking.
The influence of Japanese art
and decoration, especially in France from 1854 to 1910; a
number of French/European based artists were influenced by
the simplicity of Asian design. A list of the artists
include Monet, Whistler, Tissot, Degas, Bracquemond,
Pissarro, Lautrec, Menpes, Gauguin, Renoir, Ibels, Somm,
Buhot, Munch, Grasset, Steinlen, Vuillard, Cassatt, Rivière,
Bonnard, Redon and Jacquemart.
Japanese for embossed print.
In color relief printing, a
block containing the complete image and used to position
partial images on other blocks for each individual color.
Using aquatint as a base,
positive images of lines or brush strokes are etched into
the plate, which is then inked with a lift-ground solution
(e.g. 50% saturated sugar dissolved in 50% India ink); also
Light and Dark:
Having to do with values of
color and grays.
Light and Shadow:
The change from pronounced
light to pronounced dark. See Chiaroscuro.
A limited number of prints,
determined by the artist or artist's agent or publisher,
that are pulled from a plate or plates and numbered. The
plate is usually cancelled, effaced or destroyed.
A linoleum cut. A sheet of
linoleum is glued to a wooden board. The artist gouges what
he doesn't want to print leaving the ridges that will print
the image he has designed.
A durable material used for
linoleum cuts. Also a floor covering material.
A piece of wood with
battleship linoleum mounted to the surface, which is cut or
gouged by the artist and inked to print and make a block
print called linoleum cut or linocut. Pablo Picasso was
considered a “master” of the media of linocut. His
innovation was the technique of cutting away the linoleum
block with each color printing. The registration was
perfect because the same block was used for multiple color
The oldest method of printing
art utilizing Barvarian limestone plates. Lithography works
on the principal that oil and water do not mix. The
limestone plate is prepared by drawing an image with a
grease pencil or touché onto the surface of the stone. It
is sealed onto the stone surface with acids. The plate is
then wet with water, which is repelled by the grease mark
drawn on the stone surface. Because Barvarian limestone
holds water well, the rest of the plate is coated with a
film of water. The plate is now prepared. Ink is now
rolled onto the plate and because the ink is oil based, it
is repelled by the water yet adheres to the grease mark or
design on the plate. The plate is now ready to print.
paper is made wet with water, heated to expand the pores and
laid over the plate to be run through the printing press.
The inked image has now transferred from the plate to the
paper. The paper is hung up to dry and the lithographic
process is completed.
Today lithography is still occasionally done with limestone,
however, more likely on less expensive Zinc plates.
The particular material with
witch a work of art is executed utilizing oil paint, water
colors, chalks, pen and ink, pastel, acrylic paint, etc. It
may also be the liquid in which powdered pigments are ground
and combined to make paint. Also the liquid used to render
paint more fluid and workable.
(Italian, "halftone") A
relief print made from a metal plate. A “rocker” is used to
roughen the entire surface of the plate until the plate
would print completely black. The areas that you want to
show lighter is burnished and smoothed below the printing
surface. Halftones are created by removing or burnishing
(flattening) part of the roughen surface of the plate. The
result is a subtly toned printed image.
Japanese “rice” paper used
during the lifetime of Rembrandt van Rijn. The paper,
imported from Japan in the 17th century, was made
from a plant only available in Asia and preferred by artists
as a warm and luxurious printing medium.
Two or more combined media
used in one image or print. (i.e.: Mezzotint with etching
and engraving or Collage with oil paint; or in the case of
many Joan Miro etchings that included the addition of
Aquatint and Carborundum).
A process in which a
one-of-a-kind original print is made by painting on the
surface of a smooth plate or glass or acrylic, and pulling a
single print or image from the plate before the ink is dry.
Japanese handmade paper of 100% Kozo fiber. Expensive,
durable and beautiful, and excellent paper for all woodcut
and lithography. (Some have been serigraphed or silk
screened with color inks). Usually not recommended for
close registration of color work.
A term borrowed from the
French which refers to the entire body of an artist's work.
A popular term for any of the
great artists of the Renaissance and for any of their
works. Because the term is derived form the masters of
guilds, it is not strictly applicable to painters of the
nineteen century. Today the term is used loosely for any
master artist and their works.
One for which the artist is
responsible for making the image on the plate from which the
print is to be taken. Recently, the law declares it as a
print from the direct hand of the artist.
However, the artist rarely executes the actual printing
process. When he does not do the actual printing process,
he will determine the size of the edition or run with the
publisher or agent and will give his approval of a trial
proof before the run can begin. Most original prints are
signed, numbered and the plates defaced or destroyed after
the edition is printed or complete. See also limited
A smooth, lightly toned
painting, drawing, printing and writing surface made by
scraping, drying and stretching animal skins, sometimes
imitated in paper. Salvador Dali utilized lamb's skin
parchment when creating his "Alchemie Suite" of mixed media
works. An example of the suite is in the permanent
collection of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A very thin and strong paper
used to print etchings by Seymour Haden and James McNeill
A print or impression that is exactly like the regular
edition that is the property of the printer responsible for
printing the edition.
Original works made by
transferring ink from a matrix onto a piece of paper. It is
commonly and improperly used to describe all printed artwork
and materials, including offset prints and Giclee on paper
or canvas images.
Hand written on a proof of the finished state to test the
Everything that determines perfection, depending on the
harmonious interplay of all the different elements that go
into a single image: the type of paper, its color, the ink,
the inking, the ability of the artist and the printer to
blend art and craft in perfect equilibrium. The subject,
theme, composition and rendering all come into play in the
determination of quality
There are two kinds of
rarity: "absolute" rarity, resulting from a very low number
of prints being produced, and "relative" rarity, which
depends upon the frequency with which examples of a
particular print appear on the international market. It has
been shown that rarity does not always reflect the number of
examples in existence, since even a print from a large
edition, most of which has been acquired by museums or has
"disappeared" into private collections, is to be regarded as
rare. (Toulouse Lautrec's "Divan Japonais" original
lithograph is considered the highest valued lithograph by
the artist, which, by the way, was originally produced in
Marks used by printers to
line up the paper with the area to be printed. During the
19th Century, Jules Cheret invented the first
registration marks for multiple color printing.
These proofs contain small
sketches that echo or develop a composition's main subject:
the sketches are executed in pencil or color pencil and
sometimes in watercolor. At the beginning of the 20th
Century it was a very common practice to enrich proofs with
these additions. Early remarque sketches were engraved,
etched or lithographically reproduced in the margin of the
artwork or unfilled spaces of the art.
A posthumous print or an
entire edition printed after the artist passes from the
original stones or plates that an edition was printed from
while the artist was living. A term coined by Mary Cassatt
expert and catalogue raisonné author Adelyn Bohme Breeskin.
A brown pigment made from the inky fluid secreted by cuttle
fish. Principally sepia is used to color ink and
watercolor. Moderately lightfast sepia tends to fade in
bright sunlight, so keep from prolonged direct sunlight.
Today it is a pigment that is dark brown to black. Today
pigments and dyes have replaced acidic natural sepia ink.
A printing process utilizing
screens to print colors onto a paper surface or various
substrates. A separate screen is made and used to apply
each color. Each tonal nuance of color requires a separate
screen application. The number of colors can range from one
black ink application to numerous applications of up to 150
colors (more colors become cost prohibitive for publishing).
There are a number of methods of creating the original
screens. One method is to coat the screen (which is
stretched over a wooden frame) with a chemical block-out
which will not allow the inks to pass through the screen.
The artist or chromiste then gently cuts an opening with a
blade creating a design to allow ink to pass through the
screen to the paper or substrate. Ink is put onto the
screen and it is squeegeed (with a board with a protruding
rubber edge) across the screen, forcing the inks through the
openings in the screen onto the paper or substrate.
Another method is to apply a chemical dissolvent with a
brush, like "painting" the desired image onto the screen
that is already blocked-out. Where ever the dissolvent
touches, the screen is open for the ink to pass through to
the substrate or surface material to be printed.
The edition signed by the
artist and numbered or designated “AP,” “EA,” “HC,” “PP.” or
other designations. The number on the front of the print,
i.e. 8/150 is the 8th print from the numbered
edition of 150 impressions. This may not be the total
printed edition. It is best to check the edition “triage”
for the exact number in the printing.
Society of Artists
Any additions or deletions of
lines made to a printing plate after printing process
begins. Each printing after the changes are executed
constitutes a state.
Rembrandt van Rijn often made changes to his printing
etching plates to refine, develop and improve the image. He
made up to 10 states of some of his etching plates.
Technical skill. The
mechanical mastery of materials and techniques.
A term to describe the
“complexion” of a work of art; e.g. the subdued tone of a
Rembrandt etching, the bright tone of Impressionism.
Paper used by the artist to
draw on that is then transferred onto the plate or stone for
printing lithographs. The printed image is not printed in
reverse, but the image is printed as the artist intended.
A proof in the beginning of
the printing process pulled by the artist or by the printer
before the artist proofs the final B.A.T. prior to printing
the edition. The proof is a printing prior to the final
printing of the edition and may vary from the final edition
printing. These printings are normally retained by the
artist or the printer and are not designated at all.
(Imprimatura) A colored
under-tint, frequently laid over a drawn outline.
In Perspective, the point on
the horizon line at which parallel lines lead to and appear
A mark that papermakers put
onto papers in the paper making process. The mold is built
up with wire or other materials to create the unique design
identifying the paper maker and may also help to date the
paper. The watermark may be seen when the paper is held to
the light. The mark is more translucent the rest of the
A method of taking a print
from the surface of a wood block or plate. The portion of
the artwork not to be printed is cut away. Albrecht Dürer
drew his image onto a piece of hard wood and his apprentice
would then cut away the wood that was not drawn by the
artist hand. The surface or plateau was inked and wet paper
was placed upon the surface and run through a printing
press. The ink is then transferred from the block of wood
to the paper with the pressure of the printing press.
Works in Private and/or Public Collections
Zinc Plates/ Metal Plates:
First used during the 19th
Century to replace the use of Bavarian Limestone to print
lithographs. Used for both lithography and intaglio