My preferred printmaking techniques are linocut and etching. In either technique, prints are made by cutting an image into a plate. Ink is then applied to the plate and the image is transferred to paper using a press. The main difference between linocut and etching is in the type of plate and the way the image is cut.
An image is drawn onto a piece of linoleum. Then the areas that are to appear blank in the final print are cut away with sharp chisels. Ink is rolled onto the uncut areas (above, left) and the lino is pressed onto paper. I use an etching press.
Interesting effects can be produced with a single lino plate, by applying different coloured inks at different stages in the cutting process, and printing each colour on top of the previous ones. The uncut surface gradually decreases as more areas are cut away, so there is a limit to how many layers can be combined. An alternative method is to use several lino plates, each one inked with a different colour. The plates are printed one on top of the other to create multiple layers. This is the method I tend to use because it gives me more control.
Etching uses metal plates, most commonly copper or zinc (above, right). The plate is coated with a mordant-resistant layer. Lines or marks that are to appear in the final print are drawn through the layer using a sharp point, exposing the metal beneath. When immersed in a bath of mordant, the exposed lines are eaten into, forming thin valleys, while the resistant areas remain as high plateaux. The plate is cleaned, ink is rubbed into it then cleaned off with a cloth so that only the ink in the etched valleys remains. When the plate is covered with dampened paper and put through the press, the enormous pressure pushes the paper into the etched valleys, picking up the ink. An image is born!
Areas can be etched using aquatint, which is applied as a dust or spray of fine mordant-resistant particles. The mordant eats away at the plate around the particles, creating a finely-granulated area of colour in the final print.
Editions Each print in an edition is printed the same way. In particular, the colours must be the same throughout an edition, unless it's made as a varied edition; this is indicated on each print by the letters EV (Edition Variée). Apart from the final prints making up a limited edition, a small number of test prints are also usually made; these are indicated by the letters AP (Artist Proof) on the print.