If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Introduction to printmaking

Printmaking comes in three major types: relief, intaglio (or etching), and lithography. Relief involves carving away whites, while intaglio removes the image area. Lithography uses a single surface, relying on grease and water resistance. All these methods reproduce existing images, but fine-art printmaking allows unique artistic expression. Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

There are three major types of printmaking, and they are all based on how the image is created on one surface and transferred to a piece of paper. A 'relief' print is a carving away of the whites of the image, which puts your image in relief, or raised up. That raised area accepts ink, and then is transferred to a piece of paper. In intaglia process -- or etching processes -- the image area is removed from the surface. And in those recesses, ink is placed -- and that is then transferred to the piece of paper. Lithography is unique in that the image area and the non-image area are on the exact same surface. And it is only through chemically treating the stone and relying on the fact that grease and water resist one another that lithography is possible. All printmaking processes have the possibility and capability of reproducing something else that exists. And so, everyone deals with money on any given day. And that is a print. It's a multiple. And as we get closer to fine art, we're doing the same conceptual focus of what a dollar bill is, a magazine, a newspaper, a poster is. But it's for a different purpose. And once you get into fine-art printmaking, what we're doing is allowing an artist to express themselves in a way that is unique to the medium. Is just as unique as sculpture. It's just as unique as painting. Is just as unique as video, in and of itself.