‘How do I Sign a Print?’ What is an edition? Prints and Printmaking – a very short intro to terms and protocols.

(Thank you to Ink Masters Cairns)

Glossary of Printmaking and Papermaking Terms 

(Thanks Annie Day, printmaking sisters!)


Acetate: Clear plastic sheet used for registering plates, blocks and to create monotypes and stencils.
Acid: An acid solution used to etch lines and tone into metal plates. Safer printmaking alternatives are Ferric Chloride and copper sulphate solution.
Acid Free: Paper with a pH value of 7 or higher is considered to be acid free.
Acrylic ground/stopout:Acrylic based bitumen paint, no VOCs water washout. Clean-up with Vegetable Cleaning Agent. Safe alternative to Bitumen based grounds
A la Poupee’: French,” with a dolly” The inking of an intaglio plate with several different colours, using a separate brush, cotton bud, pad or rolled felt dolly for each colour.
Alpha Cellulose: High grade wood pulp used in papermaking.
Aluminium Etching: This safer printmaking process uses a copper sulphate solution on aluminium plate. One feature of this method is the beautiful rich aquatints which are created by the reaction of the copper sulphate on the surface of the aluminium.
Aluminography: Lithography, using aluminium plates. See also Waterless Lithography.
Aquatint: An intaglio process used to create areas of tone. Fine rosin dust is sprinkled over the plate and fused to it with heat prior to biting. A less toxic method of achieving tone is to spray with enamel paint.
Artist’s Proof: 10% of the total number of prints in an edition remain the property of the artist, and are called Artist’s Proofs.
Archival Quality: A term used to denote materials having a high degree of permanence.
Autolithography: Lithography, where the image is drawn directly onto the plate or stone.


Bank Paper: A thin wood pulp paper – used as cheap copy paper.
Baren: A Japanese tool used in printing woodblocks. Made of bamboo leaves.
Bath:  A tray containing the etchant.
Blind printing: Placing damp paper over an un-inked plate or block to achieve an embossed image.
Bourne Scale:  A measurement of viscosity of printing inks.
Beater:  The machine used in paper making to separate the raw fibres and mix them with water, forming a pulp.
Bench Hook: A device to hold relief blocks during the cutting process.
Bevel: The slope on the edge of an etching plate, created to prevent cutting the paper or blankets while printing.
Binder: The adhesive substance that holds pigment together
Bite: Action of the etchant on the exposed metal plate in the etching bath.
Bitumen: A form of pitch, toxic, resembling asphalt. In safer printmaking an acrylic substitute is available.
Blanket: Presses or woven woollen felt, used as a cushion between the roller and the paper on an etching press. Various names are applied to the blankets -American terminology uses starch – catcher, pusher and cushion. English terms used are fronting and swan skin or swanscloth.
Bleaching: Reducing the satin on paper with chlorine or a similar chemical.
Bleeding: Ink appearing in unintended areas of a print, Also refers to the deliberate printing of an image past the edge of the sheet.
Bleed Print:  A print where the image is printed up to the edge of the paper.
Blind Emboss:  An embossed image in paper – not inked.
Block: The material from which the image is cut or engraved.
Blotter: Heavy absorbent paper used to take up excess moisture from dampened paper prior to printing. Also used as an interleaf during drying of prints.
Body: Density or viscosity of ink.
Bon A Tlrer: (French: “Good to Pull”) Identifies a proof which will serve as the standard to be maintained during the printing of an edition. Also written as “OK” or “Ready to Print”. Sometimes known as a printer’s proof, it remains the property of the printer.
Bond Paper: A thin tough woodpulp paper – also known as photocopy paper.
Bonding Strength: The property of a sheet of paper which allows it to withstand “picking” – the Pulling away of part of the surface which can occur particularly when printing large solid-colour areas
Brayer: A small hard roller used for applying ink to a plate or block.
Bridge: A support for the hand. Generally made of wood. Used in intaglio to keep the hand away from the plate when drawing into soft ground.
Buffered Paper: Alkaline filler – either calcined carbonate or, more effectively, magnesium carbonate, is added to paper to counteract the action of acids it may come in contact with.
Burin: Engraving tool with a hardened steel shaft
Burnish: To reduce the depth of any detail in an intaglio plate by heavy polishing.
Burnisher: A highly polished hand tool: Used to flatten detail in intaglio plates by intense rubbing.
Burnt Plate Oil: A variant of linseed oil used in mixing inks.
Burr: In drypoint, the ridge of metal thrown up on either side of the needle as it scratches into the plate. In mezzotint, the surface created by the action of the rocker.
Butcher’s Paper: See newsprint.


Calcium Carbonate: Whitening, used as an abrasive for cleaning etching plates. The main constituent of lithographic stones. No significant health hazard.
Calendering: Rolling during papermaking to impart a smooth glossy finish. Can be applied to the finished paper in the studio, in o