What is a Intaglio?

Intaglio is from the Italian and means “to engrave” or “to cut into”. The image is produced by pressing paper into grooves or recesses in a metal plate containing ink. Intaglio is a subtractive process where material is removed or cut into. The image may be etched into the plate with acid, engraved, or simply scored onto the surface. Techniques include: etching, mezzotint, aquatint, engraving, and drypoint.

Intaglio is an ancient and revered art form that has been practiced for centuries across Europe and parts of Asia. Many of the great masters, including Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, William Blake, and numerous others produced works in this medium.

Once the plate has been prepared using one or more of the above techniques, oil based printers’ ink is applied and then removed leaving ink only in the groves and the recesses of the plate. The plate is then placed on the press bed. Printing or water color paper is softened by soaking briefly in water, blotted, and placed on top of the plate. Press blankets or “felts” are then placed on top of the paper to provide a cushion and traction for the drive roller. As the press bed moves through the rollers under great pressure, the softened paper is pressed into the grooves and recesses of the plate and receives the ink.

A monochromatic print can be, and often is, a finished piece of artwork. Inking is a time consuming and laborious process yielding vastly different results depending on the type of ink and how it is applied. It is also possible to print in multiple colors at once, or to print multiple plates in different colors to form a single image. Finally, to further personalize some of my works, I like to hand color certain images or add elements such as Gold Leaf. Therefore, each print is not a reproduction, but an individual, original piece of artwork!

Intaglio Print Making (Click photos to zoom)

The first step is to etch the plate. I used a copper plate for this example.

This etching is a fanciful arrangement of tropical butterflies. The intent was to produce an interesting composition that broke the borders of the plate. This meant that the plate had to be laboriously cut with a jewelers saw. It was then hand painted with not so true-to-life colors using gouache and watercolors. I made approximately fifteen of these and no two are alike!

Intaglio techniques were used by this artist in collaboration with other artists to create this "room" in a larger puzzle box project. All of the arabesque artwork and architecture was drawn first with pen and ink and then etched into the zinc metal using hydrochloric acid. In this case the plate becomes the art so another artist used colored enamel to accent my designs. If you look closely, you can see the harem girls hiding behind the columns but reflected in the mirrors!

This is another example of an etching that was created using a zinc plate. This is the print that was made from the plate. It is called "Savanna Stairs".