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Mount Fuji, from the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, color woodcut by Katsushika Hokusai This article is about techniques of printmaking as a fine art. For the history of printmaking in Europe, see Old master print. For the Japanese printmaking tradition, see Ukiyo-e.
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a 'print'. Each piece produced is not a copy but considered 'an original' since it is not a reproduction of another work of art and is technically (more correctly) known as an 'impression'. Printmaking (other than monotyping) is not chosen only for its ability to produce multiple copies, but rather for the unique qualities that each of the printmaking processes lends itself to.
Prints are created from a single original surface, known technically as a matrix. Common types of matrices include: plates of metal, usually copper or zinc for engraving or etching; stone, used for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts, linoleum for linocuts and fabric plates for screen-printing. But there are many other kinds of matrix substrates and related processes discussed below.
Works printed from a single plate create an edition, in modern times usually each signed and numbered to form a limited edition. Prints may also be published in book form, as artist's books. A single print could be the product of one or multiple techniques.