Photography & Intaglio Prints

About the Intaglio Prints

Intaglio Printmaking

Intaglio printmaking has been around in one form or another for almost 700 years.  All forms of intaglio printmaking rely on making an image based on ink being drawn from the etched or "sunken" areas of a plate or other media rather than from the surface.  Intaglio is the opposite of relief printing such as woodcuts which rely on the surface ink.  The term "intaglio" is an Italian word meaning "carved" or "recesses."  The intaglio process provides the opportunity for gradations in tone in the final print.

Making the Plate

A modern method of creating an etched plate from which to print intaglios is used.  It first involves making a transparency from a photograph.  The transparency is sandwiched with a steel plate that has a UV light-sensitive emulsion, known as a photopolymer plate.  The image is transferred to the plate by exposure to UV light.  The plate is then etched simply by washing the plate with water, revealing the original image on the plate.

Making the Print

Printing Press

Printing Press

The etched plate is hand-inked and palm wiped to remove excess ink on the surface of the plate.  This process of inking is done for each printing of the image.  The inked plate is placed on a hand-cranked printing press with a moist sheet of rag printmaking paper and subjected to heavy pressure during the "pull" of the plate and paper.  Archival Charbonnel inks are used in combination with BFK Rives for the final images.

A variation of the intaglio involves sandwiching tissue paper between the inked plate and the paper during the pressing process.  This process, known as "chine-collé" provides the opportunity to add textures and color to the final print.  Translucent unryu mulberry-fiber papers are primarily used.