Category Archives: Unit 4: Printmaking

Files to aid in the understanding of printmaking


Unity means that there is an agreement that exists among the elements within a design. These elements look as though they belong together, as though some visual connection beyond mere chance has caused them to come together. Another term for for the same idea is Harmony. If the various elements are not harmonious, if they appear separate or unrelated, the pattern falls apart and lacks unity.

Unity of design is planned and controlled by the artist, but sometimes it stems naturally from the elements chosen. But more often it reflects the skill of the designer to create a unified pattern from varied elements. An important aspect of visual unity is that the whole must be predominant over the parts: You must first see the whole pattern before you notice the individual elements. Each item may have a meaning and certainly add to the total effect, but if the viewer sees merely a collection of bits and pieces, then visual unity does not exist.

Below are three ways to create Unity in a work:


An easy way to gain unity-to make separate elements look as if they belong together-is by proximity, simply putting the elements close together. The four elements in A appear isolated, as floating bits with no relationship to each other. By putting them close together, as in B, we begin to see them as a total, related pattern. Proximity is a common unifying factor. Through proximity we recognize constellations in the skies and, in fact, are able to read. Change the proximity scheme that makes letters into words and reading becomes next to impossible.

Proximity is the simplest way to achieve unity, and many artworks employ this technique. Without proximity (with largely isolated elements), the artist must put greater stress on other methods to unify an image.


A valuable and widely used device for achieving visual unity is repetition. As the term implies, something simply repeats in various parts of the design to relate the parts to each other. The element that repeats may be almost anything: a color, a shape, a texture, a direction, or an angle. In the painting by Sophie Taeuber-Arp (A), the composition is based on one shape: a circle with two circular “bites” removed. This shape is repeated in different sizes and positions. The result is a composition that is unified but not predictable. Tom Friedman’s sculpture (B) also shows unity by repetition. The obvious aspect is the repetition of the cut pencil fragments. The unity created by these many repeated parts is strengthened by the continuous line and cohesive mass of the assembled form.

B. Tom Friedman. Untitled. 1995.


A third way to achieve unity is by continuation, a more subtle device than proximity or repetition, which are fairly obvious. Continuation, naturally, means that something “continues”usually a line, an edge, or a direction from one form to another. The viewer’s eye is carried smoothly from one element to the next. The design in A is unified by the closeness and the character of the elements. In B, though, the shapes seem even more of a unit because they are arranged in such a way that one’s vision flows easily from one element to the next. The shapes no longer float casually.  They are now organized into a definite, set pattern.

Linoleum Reductive Print

In the later stages of his life as an artist, Henri Matisse created several series of cutout designs. Themes based from the music of jazz, the figure, and from the environment around him, Matisse generated colorful renditions to these subjects. Review these images of Matisse’s cutout designs and pay particular attention to the interactions of colors and shapes within each piece.

You are going to create a linoleum print in a similar style as Henri Matisse’s cutouts.

The theme to this three-stage reduction print is “Sky, Water, Land”. You may choose one, two, or all three words of the theme as the focus to your design. Choose objects associated with the word(s) in the theme.

For example:

The theme “Sky” would use objects such as clouds, raindrops, birds, planes, balloons, sun, planets, stars, ect…

The theme “Water” would use objects such as waves, bubbles, coral, aquatic life, boats, submarines, scuba gear, whales, ect…

The theme “Land” would use objects such as leaves, buildings, cars, mountains, lions, elephants, bugs, roller blades, ect…

Anything that can be associated with the “Sky, Water, Land” theme can be used for your design. Create a drawing of the objects to this theme while using only three colors to the size of 20cm x 25cm.

The final drawing of your design will need to have exactly two colors plus the value of the background of the paper. The colors to the design will determine each of the two reduction stages to your linoleum print. Be sure that your drawing is outlined clearly and is filled with two colors plus the paper color. There are a range of different colored sheets of paper, so you can alter the design by changing the color of the paper.










First, take a piece of tracing paper, place it over your colored design, and outline all the areas that are in white. This will be the first carving to the linoleum piece. You will then ink your plate with the lightest color and make 5 prints.

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The second sheet of tracing paper will be for the shapes of the lightest color of the two you have chosen that was inked. This will be the second stage in carving and prevent any further stages of ink to affect it.

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This reduction block print will be in two stages (colors). You will create an edition of 5 prints.

Printmaking Terms



BRAYER – A small, hand-held rubber roller used to spread printing ink evenly on a surface before printing.





BAREN – A round, smooth pad, either flat or slightly convex, used to press paper against an inked wood or linoleum block to lift an impression from the block.




RELIEF PRINT – A means of making prints by creating a raised design on a flat surface. The design Is inked or covered with color and stamped on paper or another surface.



BENCH HOOK – A metal or wooden plate with a raised edge on each end (opposite sides) to hold a woodcut or linocut in place on a table while cutting.


BLOCK –  In printing, a piece of thick, flat material, with a design on its surface, used to print repeated impressions of that design. Called a  PLATE in etching and engraving (metal).

PRINT –  The actual picture the artist makes from a printmaking process.

PRINTMAKING – The process of designing and producing prints using a printing block, woodcut, etching, lithographic, or screenprinting.

ARTIST’S PROOF –  One of a small group of prints set aside from the edition for the artist’s use.

COLLAGRAPH – A print made from an image built up with glue and sometimes other materials.

EDITION – A set of identical prints, that are numbered and signed. This set of prints have been pulled by or under the supervision of the artist and are authorized for distribution.



GOUGE – In relief printing, a tool for clearing non-image areas from a block of wood or linoleum.




BURIN – An engraver’s tool with a steel shaft and a sharp, oblique point at one end and a handle at the other. A burin cuts into a metal plate by being pushed forward rather than being drawn toward the artist.

IMPRESSION NUMBER – The number of a print in an edition. The first three prints in an edition 10 would be 1/10, 2/10, 3/10 etc.

INK – Coloring material composed of pigment (color) , a binder, and a vehicle. Ink is usually thicker than most paints, and has a slower drying rate.



LINOLEUM PRINT – A type of relief print in which the image is cut into a piece of linoleum.



REGISTRATION – Adjustment of separate plates, blocks, screens or paper in color printing to ensure correct alignment of the colors.

RELIEF – Printmaking technique in which the image is printed from a raised surface, usually produced by cutting away non-image material.



STENCIL – A printing process by which areas are blocked out to keep ink from non-image areas.




TRIAL PRINT – A proof pulled from a block, plate, or stone to check the appearance of the image to make sure it is all right before making the edition. After a critical or important change is made on a plate, it is necessary to see what has been done before going to the next step; checking to see if a change was successful. ( PROOFING)

MONOPRINT – (monotype) A print pulled in an edition of one. There is no series of identical prints that are signed and numbered. It is actually an image usually painted on glass or plexi-glass, and transferred (or stamped) on paper.



ENGRAVING – When lines are  cut into a metal plate with a V-shaped tool called a burin; ink is then forced into these lines and wiped from the flat surface of the plate, which is then printed with paper that has first been soaked in water and then blotted. The damp paper is forced down into the grooves, where it picks up ink.


ETCHING –  A drawing is scratched through a wax-covered or tar covered metal plate which is then placed in acid that eats into the exposed areas that were scratched forming shallow grooves. The plate is cleaned and inked; ink is cleaned from all areas except the grooves. Printing Paper that has been soaked in water and then blotted is forced through a press against The plate; the damp paper is forced down into the grooves, where it picks up ink.

INTAGLIO PRINTING – (an Italian term) the ink is deposited below the surface of the plate which has been corroded, scratched, or incised, and the surface wiped clean; a damp paper is forced into the surface in a press.

REDUCTION BLOCK PRINT – When one block is printed several times, removing a portion and changing Color each time (working from lightest to darkest and registration is critical).

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PRINTING PRESS – A device used by a fine art printmaker to produce prints one copy at a time. It applies pressure between a sheet of paper and an inked printing plate. Presses for intaglio printing apply considerable pressure as they force the paper and plate between a roller and a flat bed, thus squeezing the paper into the inked grooves of the plate.

SILKSCREEN – A print made by forcing ink through a stencil attached to a woven mesh. The screen has certain areas blocked out to prevent ink from getting through those areas. Today cheaper fabrics are used and because silk is not usually used, the more generic name screen print may be more appropriate. The term serigraph is meant to designate a fine art of screen prints on paper. The stencil may be painted on by hand or done photographically.

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