One of the oldest forms of artistic expression, printmaking is still popular today and commercially viable career choice. It might be conceptually similar to drawing but the two are completely separate forms of art utilizing the same basic motor skills. This is made more evident by the difference in the tools used in drawing or painting.
If you’re new to the world of printmaking and want to master this skill, then the first thing you need to do is get your hands on some printmaking tools. This guide will give you a basic understanding of the different forms of printmaking and the tools you’ll require to learn and master printmaking.
What is Printmaking
To put it simply, the craft if creating artistic designs on paper or other soft materials such as fabric, plastic, etc using printmaking tools. This technique is usually used for a wide range of purposes such as making book covers, posters, billboard art and lots of other things. As such, there are a wide range of printmaking techniques and tools are used for making these print materials. The advantage of printmaking is that unlike art, you can print multiple copies of the same image by using plates, which was how books originally used to be printed in the past.
Types of Print Making
All printmaking activities can be categorized into 3 categories- screen printing, linoprinting and monopriniting. Here’s a short rundown of each of them so that you can have a better understanding of their use and application.
In this type of printmaking, the ink is imprinted on the printing substrate (plastic film rolls, textiles, or paper) with the use of a mesh, which is made from synthetic fibers. In the past, silk was used for the same purpose. The mesh is the most important part of the process since how it’s stretched across the frame determines the final design. Textile and paper printing are two of the most common screenprinting techniques
Once the mesh has done its job, printmakers use a stencil to block the negative image, leaving out the desired design once the stenciling is done. The stenciling process allows the ink to fill in the open spaces of the print surface, creating the design. The simplicity of the technique (stenciling) allows for a lot of versatility. For example, this same principle applies to graffiti art as well.
In this type of printmaking, the design is cut out beforehand and then used for applying ink on the print surface. The process of cutting the design is known as linoleum, hence the name lino printing. Lino-printing techniques are primarily used for making designs that are too intricate and sophisticated for other types of printmaking. It’s also a very useful technique for mass-producing print designs.
Of all the printmaking techniques, this is the easiest to learn for beginners, so you should learn this one first before moving to other forms of printmaking. The tools and materials are inexpensive as well, making it the perfect starting point for learning printmaking.
In this type of printmaking, only one design is made for a single unique print. Since monoprinting can be done only once, it often tends to be quite expensive as well. Monoprinting is very nuanced and varied since it combines artwork and collage work in the design to lend it a unique look that can’t be replicated by other printmaking forms.
Common monoprinting techniques include lithography, etching, woodcut, etc. Whichever technique you use, your visualization and concept must be highly honed to pull off monoprinting.
Necessary Printmaking Tools
Now that you’re familiar with the common printmaking forms and techniques, here is a rundown of all the necessary tools you need for printmaking:
Screen Printing Tools
These are the necessary tools for screen printing:
· Screens: The mesh, commonly known as the screen, comes in a variety of shapes of sizes. Which one you choose will depend on your printmaking project. The most commonly used ones have a screen count between 110 to160. But if you want detailed images, your screen needs to have a screen count of 180 to 280. It’s important to bite that when using screens with a low screen count, you need to give more time for the emulsion to set in. Click here for our recommendation
· Scoop/Trough: A common scoop/trough is required for coating the screen with emulsion. Click here for our recommendation
· Screen Print Desk Clamps: This is an important piece of equipment. To keep the screen stable you need to use desk clamps to hold it in place, we have a very high-quality recommendation for you. Check out the fixed screen printing clamps from Amazon.
· Sheet of Glass: A sheet of glass the same length as the screen.
· Exposure Unit: The exposure unit will quicken the drying process of the emulsion and ink. You can make one at home or order the best quality EUSP 110V 240W from Amazon
· Pressure Washer/High Powered Hose: You’ll need a pressure washer/high powered hose to wash off the residue from the screen once the emulsion has set in. Click here for our recommendation
· Hair Dryer / Iron: If you’re screen printing on fabrics then you need a hairdryer or iron to help the emulsion to set in.
· Squeegee: This is a special tool used in printmaking techniques to control the flow of ink or removing it. In essence, it basically acts as an eraser for screen printing techniques. It looks like a miniature mop with a rubber blade.
These are the necessary tools for lino-printing:
· Carbon Paper: Common carbon paper for copying and tracing designs. Carbon papers come in multiple size variants, so choose one that suits your project the best. Click here for our recommendation
· Sketching Pencils: You’ll be needing high-quality sketching pencils for drawing the design and tracing it with carbon paper. Regular pencils will be a poor choice since the outlines will be barely visible.
· Permanent Marker: You’ll need a fine tip permanent marker to make the outlines of the design stand out from the rest of the colors.
· Rubbers/Erasers: Unlike screen printing, you won’t be using a squeegee for lino printing. Instead, you will need a good eraser.
· Sketching Paper: You’ll be needing sketching papers to draw the initial design. These papers have a lot of variants based on thickness and dimensions, so choose one that fits your project requirements. Click here for our recommendation
· Printing Paper: An alternative for sketching paper, printing papers also make for good drawing surfaces if you’re using something other than pencils. For example. Crayons. Click here for our recommendation
· Art Grade Lino / Lino Block: This block is the foundation for lino printing. They come in standard cube forms, it’s up to you to cut the design you want on the block and then use it to imprint the design on paper. It is important to have a high-quality block, you are not sure what you are going to use, you can use the Speedball 4309 Premium from Amazon. In our opinion, it is the best value for the price you are paying.
· Lino Cutting Tools: To cut the lino block, you’ll need lino cutting tools. They’re usually sold in sets, which you can find in online and offline hardware stores. Our recommendation here is the Niji Yasutomo lino carving set, the Yasumoto brand is very reliable and it has a much better price than most other lino carving sets. The quality of this carving set is perfect if you are a beginner or intermediate carver.
· Lino Ink: Lino ink is a special type of ink required to print lino prints on fabrics. They come in a wide range of colors, so don’t worry about your options, you can get all 6 lino ink colors for a good price on Amazon in a single set.
· Cutting Mat: You’ll need a cutting mat to place the lino block on when carving on it.
· Utility Knife: A utility knife will be useful throughout the project for cutting, shaping, and smoothing the design.
· Metal Ruler: A standard metal ruler.
· Glass/Perspex Sheet: Standard glass Perspex sheet for transferring the ink and design. Click here for our recommendation
· Lino Ink Roller: You’ll need this to spread the ink properly on fabrics. Click here for our recommendation
· Rags/Paper Towels: Needed for cleaning up the work area and residue on the project.
These are the necessary tools for mono-printing
· Paper- Standard paper for drawing the designs on.
· Ink– Standard screen printing ink.
· Plexiglass- You will need it for compressing the design and spreading the ink. They come in various shapes and sizes, choose the one you need according to your project requirements. Click here for our recommendation
Printmaking might seem overwhelming at first due to the wide number of techniques, tools, and processes used in the craft. Don’t try to master all techniques at once; most printmakers prefer to master one technique over a lifetime. Find the technique that you feel most comfortable with and start focusing on it.