Art Terminology

Exploring Art and Printmaking Techniques

What is the difference between linen and canvas?

The difference is in the textile quality and durability, due to the type of fibers used and the weaving of the fabrics.

Cotton canvas (known as just “canvas”) is made of cotton fibers. It’s affordable and easy to stretch, however has poor durability and finish. Over time, painted cotton canvas becomes cracked and brittle. It is also prone to expansion/contraction, due to moisture.

Linen canvas is made of flax plant fibers. It is the preferred surface for many artists, due to its strength, longevity and the way the linen surface absorbs paint. It creates an exceptional and long lasting finish for acrylic and oil paintings.

What is the difference between acrylic and oil paint?

Acrylic paint dries fast and achieves clean lines and bright, glossy colour. Acrylic paint is “lightfast” so wont fade or change colour over time. Oil paint dries slowly and achieves smooth and subtle colour blends. Oil paint will give the painting a subtle yellow glow over time, due to oxidation.

What is a limited edition print?

The number of prints produced from one plate is called an edition. Once a certain number of prints are produced, the plate is destroyed ensuring the value of the edition.

At the bottom of a limited print is a number that appears as a fraction (e.g. 6/25), meaning the print is number six of a total of twenty five prints produced from one plate. This number excludes the artist proofs which are marked with an A/P. Often the first three or four prints of a plate are slightly different than the rest of the edition. These first prints are called artist’s proofs A/P.

What is the difference between a lithograph, silkscreen, etching and decorative print?

Basically they are different techniques of Printmaking, which are generally divided into the following categories:

1) Relief printing is created by starting with a flat surface (the relief-block) and then carving away the “blank” areas. The remaining protruding areas receive the ink. Relief printing techniques includes woodcut, metalcut, wood engraving and linocut.

2) Intaglio is the opposite of Relief printing. The ink is pushed into the recessed design and is wiped off the protruding surface or “plate” so only the carved areas are printed. In intaglio, the design is cut directly onto a metal plate by hand (engraving) or through the corrosive action of acid (etching). In etching, the plate is covered in an acid-resistant wax material. The image is engraved into the wax and then the plate is dipped into an acid bath. The acid corrodes the exposed metal, creating the printing plate design.

3) Planographic printing means printing from a flat surface, as opposed to a raised surface (as with relief printing) or incised surface (as with intaglio printing). Lithography, offset lithography, and decorative prints are all types of planographic processes.

Originally a lithography was produced by creating an image drawn with a greasy substance onto limestone. The stone was then treated with an acid, etching the design. When the stone is moistened, the etched areas retain water. When an oil-based ink is applied, it is repelled by the water, sticking only to the greasy design.

In modern lithography, the image is created on a flexible aluminum plate using photographic and chemical processes or direct laser imaging – CTP (computer to plate). The print is produced by machines that print the image directly from the plate. Or it can be offset, by transferring the image onto a flexible rubber sheet for large-scale printing of posters, books and all kinds of printed materials.

4) Screenprinting (also known as “silkscreen” or “serigraphy”) is where ink or paint is pressed through a fabric “silkscreen” creating an image on the surface of paper, canvas or other objects. The Screenprinting image is created using a “Stencilling” technique, in which the ink is controlled through the use of a stencil template, which is placed directly over the paper or surface to be printed. The stencil template is usually made by cutting out the design to be printed on a thin durable material (paper, plastic, wood or metal). Unlike other printmaking processes, a printing press is not required and very basic materials needed.

This same Stencilling technique is used by graffiti artists, except instead of paper they use walls and aerosol cans for paint. Although now this modern interpretation of graffiti stencilling has been transferred back to paper and canvas, being widely accepted in the art world as Street Art.

5) Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to the surface to be printed. The digital image is printed using high quality, large format laser or inkjet printers. These methods include Giclée and decorative prints.