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Printmaking FAQs

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

​Here, my aim is to provide some simple definitions for some of the printmaking terms I use on my blog and website.*

For delivery and returns FAQ's see my Delivery Information page.

What is a print proof? What is an artists' proof (A/P)?

A proof is a crucial preliminary version of a printed piece, giving me a sneak peek into how the final product will look. Proofs allow me to assess then fine-tune the colours or design elements, before taking the leap to transfer the piece onto my 'best paper' when using my press. An 'artist's proof' is an impression of a print made in the printmaking process that is sometimes kept by the artist for their own personal collection or record. Artist's proofs are similar to the numbered prints in the full edition but are marked "A.P." or "artist's proof" instead of being numbered.

What is blind embossing

Blind embossing is a printmaking technique that creates raised images by pressing paper into a carved die. No ink or foil is used - the image is raised from the surface in the same colour as the paper or base material. Intricate dies are made with the image recessed into the plate For my collagraph prints the dies are made by texturing mount board which I do sometimes blind emboss (see this blog post) however metals such as steel or copper are used by many artists.

Heavy pressure from a printing press forces the paper into the die cavities to create an embossed artwork you can feel. This ink-free process adds decorative textures and I love how the light at various times of the day interacts with the dimensions of an embossed element.

What is a print plate?

A printmaking plate is a flat surface used to create prints. It can be made from various materials like metal, wood or mount board. The plate is prepared by using techniques such as etching, or scratching or applying textures to create the desired image.

Once the plate is prepared, it is inked, and any excess ink is wiped off the surface, leaving ink only in the recessed or incised areas. Then, a sheet of paper or other printing substrate is placed on top of the plate, and pressure is applied to transfer the ink from the plate to the paper. This can be done by running the plate and paper through a printing press (I use a Gunning press - available here) or by occasionally hand rubbing or pressing the paper onto the plate.

A sheet of paper is then pressed onto the plate to transfer the ink and create a print. With some methods I do this process repeatedly to produce a series of similar prints with slight variations.

What is a the 'a la poupée' method?

'A la poupée' (French: 'with the doll ) is a technique used in printmaking where multiple colours of ink are applied to a single plate using a small piece of fabric such as scrim (tarlatan) known as a 'poupée' A stick has a pad of fabric, bundled up and tied to the top, were historically thought to represent a hand made, simple doll.

The ink is selectively applied to different areas, allowing me to create a multicoloured effect in the final design. This method adds depth, texture, and variety, enhancing the impact.

What is a mono print?

A mono print is a form of printmaking where the image can only be made once. Unlike most printmaking techniques, which allow for multiple originals, mono prints are unique works of art. As a botanical artist, printing from nature, this uniqueness is something I value creating.

This is because the image is created by directly applying ink to a surface, such as a plate or a pressed piece of plant material, and then printing it onto paper. The ink is applied in a way that creates a unique impression, perhaps with gestural mark making. The paper is dampened for a greater depth of impression, by softening the fibres - making them pliable and helping to pick up ink from the plate, when run through my etching press.

What is the difference between relief printing & intaglio printing

Printmaking techniques can be broadly divided into two categories: relief printing and intaglio printing.

The main difference between these two methods lies in how the image is created on the printing plate.

Relief Prints

In relief printing, the image to be printed is raised up from the surface of the plate. The raised areas are inked and pressed onto paper to transfer the image. Some common relief printing techniques include woodblock printing, lino printing, and metal plate relief printing such solar plates.

Intaglio Prints

Intaglio printing takes the opposite approach as the image to be printed is incised into the printing plate. The cut lines and textures are filled with ink, then the excess ink is wiped away from the flat, areas of the plate. When paper is pressed onto the plate, the ink from the incised lines is transferred to the paper. Some common intaglio techniques are engraving, etching and aquatint.

Both relief and intaglio printing create beautiful, textured prints. However they produce very different visual effects. The raised edges of relief printing create bold outlines and shapes. Intaglio’s incised lines capture delicate curves and fine detail.I use both techniques and sometimes to get different expressive prints, I use a combination of the two.

What is an original print?

This is an artwork that has been individually hand made and printed by an artist, such as myself, from a handmade plate (like my collagraphs or solar plates) or directly printed using the plant material itself. No two prints are alike and if it's a mono print it's a one off. Solar plates allow for short run image reproduction, but as they are hand inked and wiped, there are variances that give each print unique character. Sustainable art is important to me, so they are realised on paper from, for example, St Cuthbert's Mill, who take care to never pollute or damage the river that feeds their factory. They source raw materials from sustainable sources and strive to re-use or regenerate all their manufacturing waste.

What is a limited edition print?

Prints are produced in small quantities, with a specific limit imposed, often chosen by the artist or to commemorate a specific event. Once the maximum number of prints has been reached, the plate is not printed again. To indicate the uniqueness of each print, limited edition prints are marked with numbers such as 1/20, 2/20, and so on, at the bottom of each piece. As an artist, I, along with many others, note down this information using a pencil on the print itself. In some cases, you may come across the abbreviation A/P, which stands for "Artist's Proof." These proofs serve as a way for me to experiment with different colour combinations, palettes, and expressive techniques before starting the official print production. I sometimes keep these, although I do sometimes sell them too.

What is a gicleé print?

A gicleé print is a high-quality digital art print made on archival paper, using specialised inkjet printers (the one I use has 12 reservoirs of different colours meaning a more faithful representation of the original image. The term "gicleé" comes from the French word "giclée" meaning "spray of ink".

How do I create a collagraph print?

You can see of how I make my collagraph prints in my blog section So... What is a collagraph print and how do you print your pebbles? Do you slice up rocks?

I have also taken private commissions. You can read about that here: How do I commission a beautiful piece from botanical artist, Su France?

What size frame do I need for your prints?

All my print pages have the unframed, unmounted size of each individual piece. Some have unique sizes, whilst others are A4 or A3. A good picture framer will create a suitable coloured and sized mount, as well as advise on frame, or carefully check out the size and buy an off the shelf one. As someone who a nature inspired artist, if you can recycle an existing frame or buy something FSC compliant, then please do.

What is the selvage on paper?

Paper is made up of individual fibers from materials such as wood or cotton fibre

The selvedge on paper is an edge (as of fabric too) meant for some purposes to be cut off and discarded however it is also a sign of quality and many, including me, like the look of it so keep as many on my prints as I can.

Its the edge of a sheet of paper that runs parallel to the direction of the grain. It is the portion of the paper that is held by the deckle during the paper making process, helping maintain an even edge.

For printmakers like me, paying attention to the selvedge is important for several reasons:

  • It is stronger so less prone to tearing because the fibers run continuously from end to end. This makes it useful as a handling edge when working with damp paper.

  • Prints torn from a sheet following the selvedge will have a feathered deckled edge, a lovely look I think

  • On thin papers like rice or mulberry, the selvedge can provide helpful guidelines when preparing paper for printing.

  • The selvedge can also be used creatively, incorporated into images or book structures as a decorative element.


Do you run printmaking courses?

Across the year I run courses at various venues around the country and alongside other amazing nature inspired creatives. You can find out about the upcoming events here: workshops

I also cater for small groups and individuals with bespoke sessions, again around the country, so please get in touch to discuss ideas with me: contact me here

*It is not an exhaustive list of printmaking terms however I will add to the list as and when I write a term which before my printmaking journey, I would have needed clarifying.

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