The simplest form of printing involves rolling a thin layer of ink onto a flat surface, laying a piece of paper on top and drawing or rubbing on the paper. Ink from the
plate is transferred to the paper wherever the pressure is applied. No press is required, but only one image can be produced.
A second method is to apply ink directly to the plate using brushes, cloths, etc. and take a print by running the plate and paper through the press. Again, only one impression can be made. A variation on this technique, one that I make use of frequently, is to roll a thin layer of ink of a bevelled printing plate and rub the ink off using cloths
and cotton buds to create the image. The plate and pre-soaked paper are then put through the press and the image is transferred to the paper. In this case the finished print is called a monotype.
With a drypoint, the image is scratched into the printing plate, traditionally copper or zinc although I often use perspex, using steel points. The plate is then inked-up ensuring that ink goes into all
the scratches, then the ink is carefully rubbed off leaving just the inked lines. The plate and paper are then run trough the press and the impression made. A number of impressions can be taken from each plate, giving you an edition.
Etching involves a number of stages and is a much more technical process than mono-printing and drypointing. You start with a copper or zinc plate which has a thin acid-resistant coating called a ground. The image is carefully scratched through
the ground exposing the metal beneath. When the plate is dipped into a week solution of acid the acid eats away at the exposed metal creating a thin groove. The plate is then cleaned, inked-up and printed in a similar manner to a drypoint. Many impressions can be taken from an etching.
Aquatinting involves fusing a very fine dust made from ground shellac onto the metal plate. When the plate is dipped in acid the acid attacks the exposed metal giving an even tone. Line etching and aquatint are often combined on the same plate.