Synopsis of Printmaking
Intaglio
Method of printing in which ink is forced into incised lines or recession on a plate, the surface is wiped clean, dampened paper placed on top, and paper and plate run through an etching press to transfer the ink to the paper. This encompasses etching, engraving, aquatints et al.
Dry point
This process involves scratching lines into the plate with a sharp needle made of hard steel or diamond-point needles. This burrows out the metal and leaves a line, which will hold ink when the plate is wiped. This gives you a rich, rough line that has soft edges (unlike etching which gives you a sharply defined line).
Etching
An intaglio method in which lines are incised in a metal plate by acid. The surface is covered with an acid-resistant hard ground made of asphaltum, beeswax, rosin, and solvent. The plate is scratched to expose the lines to the acid. The longer the plate is exposed to acid the deeper the bite (line), and of course the darker the value.
Aquatint
An intaglio method on zinc or copper plates in which tones are obtained by powdered rosin. Powdered rosin is obtained on the plate in tiny particles and adheres to the plate by heating. The acid bites the open areas around these particles, creating uniform pitting in the plate. This can be done in various stages or depths (the deeper the bite, the darker the tonal values are).
Lithography
A printing process based on the unmixability of water and grease; usually done on limestone or grained metal, and also aluminum plates. The image is drawn on a plate or stone with a greasy litho crayon or ink (tusche). After the drawing is complete you etch with a mixture of gum Arabic mixed with a small amount of nitric acid. (This is different than metal etching). This sets the composition/design that was drawn on the stone/plate. You then take turpentine and wash the stone/plate and all aspects of the composition/design disappears, but it is locked in there by the grease. It's the ungreasy area that retains the water and rejects the printing ink. The greasy part attracts the ink, and then the image reappears. It is now ready for proofing on a dampened rag paper and run through the printing press. This is to me the most difficult of all the printmaking processes.
Litho Stone
Smoothly surfaced limestone that receives the greasy ink that makes up a lithograph image.
Woodcut
A plank of hard wood that is gouged, cut, or indented to make an image. The gouged part does not print and shows as white on the paper, while the part left as surface reveals the image (i.e., relief image). The ink stays on the surface and prints the image. This is usually done by hand pressing, with a pressing instrument of your choice, rather then putting it through a press. Some artists have also used plexi-glass and masonite board.
Linoleum Cut
Is done similarly as in woodcut, except you use linoleum or a similar product. This is easier than wood because it is soft and the physical strength isn't necessary to gouge into.
Monotype or Monoprint
This is one print, there are no series, only an edition of one. This is a printed painting or printed drawing. One can paint on the different surfaces like metal, plastic, and glass, and then the piece can be printed either by rubbing or through an etching press. The paper has to be dampened with this method as well.
Serigraphs or Silk Screen
This is a sophisticated stenciling process using fine-mesh silk as the screen that is mounted onto a wooden frame. The open mesh (silk) allows the paint to come through while the stencil blocks the paint from passing through. There are many steps to this method, i.e., if you have 15 colors then you have 15 runs (each) of the series. Each piece is placed on a wire rack to dry before the next run can take place; so this is very time consuming.
These definitions are very brief and do not in any way touch the surface for the process of Printmaking; which can be and is very physical and very time-consuming as well. This synopsis is to give the viewer an idea of how much time and effort is involved in printmaking, and how each print is an original piece of art. Unless you are a collector of fine art/original prints, it is hard to understand how undervalued these pieces truly are and how these originals pieces of fine art get confused with poster series or giclees or other processes where series are done and signed (these are "copies" of an original piece of art), and not original hand-pulled fine art as mentioned above in all the processes of Printmaking).
An Important Point to Remember - In the printmaking process all series are original hand-pulled prints; for example if you want to pull 15 prints, then you will have 1/15, 2/15 etc. Monoprints and Monotypes are the only process where you get one of one (1/1) (mono means one of a kind). However, some artists have made "Ghost" prints of a plate, but that too, is one of one because it is the "ghost" print.