Printmaking 101 :: Intaglio

Hi there; welcome back to Printmaking 101. Today I am tackling what is, for me, the most difficult of the printmaking techniques, Intaglio. Intaglio is a family of printmaking techniques including etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint, mezzotint, and sometimes collograph. In these techniques, the matrix is typically made of copper or zinc and the image the artist creates is incised (cut) into the plate. Ink is then applied to the plate, the excess is wiped off, and then a damp piece of paper is placed on top and run through a printing press to transfer the image to the paper. Often, the techniques are combined to create a final work. 

drypoint, Woman in Cafe, Lesser Ury

Intaglio was invented in Germany during the 1400s; some suggest that it was goldsmiths who first used the technique to decorate metalwork. Among the first artists to use the technique were Martin Schonagauer and Albrecht Durer. One of the most famous of intaglio artists is Rembrandt.

etching, Landscape Under Trees, Paula Modersohn-Becker

mezzotint, Sunshine, Peter Ilsted

Unlike the other printmaking techniques, intaglio would not be easy to try at home. Most often artists using these techniques work in printmaking studios and study under master printmakers. For this reason, I will not be sharing a simple intaglio project for us all to try at home. Believe me, I did search to see if I could figure one out, but if you visit this flickr photo and read the description of one artist's trial with intaglio you will see that unless you intend to study the form seriously, it is better to simply appreciate the beauty that has and can be achieved with this technique.

Sources: druckstelle, holly morrison, The Complete Printmaker