You are here: PRINTMAKING


E-mail Print PDF

Printmaking processes are defined by

  • the methods used to make the image
  • by the way the ink is applied
  • the method used to transfer the ink to paper, which usually involves a press of some sort, but not always.

There are a huge number of different processes and new ones being developed all the time. The definitions below are offered in their simplest form as a general guide to anyone less familiar with printmaking. Recommended books that we hold in the studio for reference are listed below and on each of the specialist pages of print processes.


Relief Print details: Sally Hands: Robert Macdonald Alan Figg

Relief Printing is a generic term which covers linocuts, woodcuts, wood engraving and printing from modern materials like mdf and plastic. It also includes letterpress or printing from type or wooden blocks.

Cutting tools can be used to cut a design into a flat block of material leaving the image as a raised surface. It also includes ‘found’ or assembled textures and surfaces which are inked up from the raised or relief surface.

Using a roller, ink is applied evenly to the raised surface. Paper is then placed on top. Pressure is applied evenly to the back of the paper using a press or by hand burnishing, which transfers the ink to the paper.

It is a hugely versatile medium with a wide range of approaches, from very free expressionist cutting to meticulous and detailed engraving.

Materials used include many wood products, plywood, block board, veneered ply, medium density fibreboard (MDF), hardboard and chipboard. There are also suitable plastic and rubber based products for cutting as well as linoleum and cast plaster blocks.

Printmaking process 4 header

Intaglio print details: Nina Morgan Aleem dad Khan Robert Macdonald

Intaglio Processes include etchings, aquatints, photoetch , drypoint and collagraphs.

All these processes are defined by the great pressure required. Ink is deposited into the lines and textures of the plate or block and the surface ink is wiped away. The extreme pressure of the press pushes dampened paper into these lower areas and picks up the ink. Heavily etched plates and some collagraphs have an almost embossed effect in the finished print.


Screenprint details: Sarah Hopkins Bill Chambers

Screenprinting is essentially a stencil process. The stencil is supported by a fine mesh stretched on a frame. Ink is pushed through the mesh with a rubber squeegee. Stencils can be simple cut paper or made using a photoemulsion or plastic film.

CYANOTYPE 2 header


The process involves mixing two chemicals to produce a light sensitive solution. This is then used to coat paper, wood or textiles. A negative or an object can be used to create a photographic image when exposed to sunlight or an ultraviolet light source.

SPW have all the facilities for making cyanotypes

Monoprint 3 header


Monoprinting combines printmaking, drawing and painting techniques. A single image developed on a flat surface with oil or water based ink is transferred to paper by means of a printing press or by hand burnishing.

Transparent materials such as glass, Perspex or acetate allow a sketch to be placed underneath which can be used as a guide and all sorts of interesting marks to be made with brushes and other tools. Areas that you are not satisfactory can easily be rubbed out and reworked

The earliest known monoprints date back to the early 17th century and they have been produced over the years by many artists including Degas, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso to name a few.

Swansea Print Workshop is fully equipped to provide an extensive range of printmaking processes, both old and new.

The workshop is designed to function as a solvent free, safe and non-toxic area. This is achieved by using either water-based techniques in place of traditional solvent-based processes or by substituting vegetable oil for white spirit when cleaning up oil based inks. Many of the printmaking techniques that we employ have been developed by Edinburgh Printmakers. People of all ages and abilities are catered for both in and outside the workshop so our commitment to solvent free, safe and non-toxic printmaking is very important.


Recommended Books from SPW Library

All of these books are available currently unless it states that it is out of print. If it is and it is something you really want, it is worth looking for second hand copies on the internet.

We ask you not to take books away from the studio as they are essentially there for reference.

Additionally the monthly Artist Newsletter and quarterly Printmaking Today are available for reference. LINK

Printmakers: the Directory: A Directory
edited by Anne Desmet  and Anthony Dyson

A and C Black, 2006

ISBN 0-7136-7387-7

If you want to know the who's who of printmaking today then look no further than this collection documenting the work of members of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

Artists & Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art 
Deborah Wye and Starr Figura

The Museum of Modern Art: New York, 2004

ISBN 0-87070-125-8

A must have book for all printmakers. Examples of printmaking by artists over the last 100 years.

Prints Now: Directions and Definitions: Gill Saunders and Rosie Miles ISBN

V & A Publications, 2006

Contemporary printmakers working outside the box.

Eye on Europe: Prints, Books and Multiples - 1960 to Now: Deborah Wye and Wendy Weitman

The Museum of Modern Art, 2006

ISBN 978-0-87070-371-3

Artists and printmakers you have heard of but many you have not. This is a fascinating survey of all aspects of printmaking from Britain and the continent.

Modern and Contemporary Prints: A Practical Guide to Collecting By Phoebe Phillips and Tom Robb

Antique Collectors Club, 2004

ISBN 1-85149-458-8

This is a useful guide to the many techniques and protocols of print as well as an invaluable source of print examples.

Intaglio: The Complete Safety-first System for Creative Printmaking: Robert Adam & Carol Robertson

Thames and Hudson, 2007                                                                                               ISBN-13: 978-0-500-51343-9                                                                                    ISBN-10: 0-500-51343-0

At last the definitive guide to safe and non-toxic printmaking. An essential reference book from the authors of Screenprinting: The Complete Water-based System.

Colour Etching (Printmaking Handbooks): Nigel Oxley

A and C Black, 2007

ISBN 978-0-7136-6820-9

All the techniques and examples of printing intaglio work in colour. As with all A and C Black's Printmaking Handbooks this is and excellent introduction to the subject.

The Contemporary Printmaker: Intaglio Type and Acrylic Resist Etching:  Keith Howard

White-Cross Press, 2003

ISBN 0-9741946-0-3

Their are only two books worth having if you are interested in the art of non-etch intaglio and the use of photopolymer film. This is one of them and a great source of technical information for much, much more.

Non-Toxic Intaglio: Henrik Bøegh

Bøegh, 2003

ISBN 87-987757-2-3

And this is the other one. Available through Intaglio Printmaker, this book gives alternative techniques to the above.

Water Based Screenprinting (Printmaking Handbooks): Steve Hoskins

A and C Black 2001

ISBN 0-7136-5055-9

An independent examination of everything you need to know about water based screenprinting. Strangely for such a useful and informative book it is now out of print.

Relief Printing (Printmaking Handbooks): Anna Westley

A and C Black, 2004

ISBN 0-7136-7255-2

Anna Westley presents a concise overview of the vast history, techniques and art of relief print. Like all the Printmaking Handbooks, this is well worth a read. 

Relief Printmaking: Ann Westley: A&C Black: ISBN 0-7136-5036-2

Printmaking Handbooks Series: conceived as an introduction to various topics and techniques related to making prints. The books are aimed at the student or the practiced printmaker who is experimenting in a new area.

Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking (Printmaking Handbook): Brenda Hartill (Author) and Richard Clarke                                                                    ISBN 978-0-7136-6396-9

One of the very few books to cover the art of collagraph availble an din print. This provides for the reader a mixture of instructional material and examples of artist / printmakers.

Digital Art Studio: Techniques for Combining Inkjet Printing with Traditional Art Materials: Karin Schminke, Dorothy Simpson Krause and Pierce Lhotka,

Watson-Guptill Publications, 2004

ISBN 0-8230-1342-1

A great book for anyone who wants to integrate digital inkjet printing into their work. Packed with novel ideas and useful tips on all sorts of techniques.

Blueprint to Cyanotypes: Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri

Malin Fabbri, 2006

ISBN 978-1-4116-9838-3

If you are interested in alternative photography cyanotype is the easiest place to start. This excellent book gives clear and well illustrated step-by-step instructions. Available from

Alternative Photography: Art and Artists Edition 1 by Malin Fabbri

Malin Fabbri, 2006

A good companion volume to Blueprint to Cyanotypes, this book explores the work of artists and photographers from around the world who choose to work in alternative or antique photographic techniques.

Creating Artists Books (Printmaking Handbooks): Sarah Bodman

A and C Black, 2007

ISBN 978-0-7136-6509-3

An intelligent survey of the artists' book and some useful tips and techniques for creating your own