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Tim Mara, Handgrip, 1979
Tim Mara Artist's Alphabet

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The wording and terminology of a Fine Art Printmaking Artist's activity can often be a specialist language. To help you access the meaning of some of the terms included in this Artist's Alphabet we have included a short glossary.

Artist's Proof

The prints from the edition that the Artist retains for his own use. The usual maximum is 10% of the edition number. Signed a/p or A/P.

Colour Process Printing; Colour Separation

Sometimes called 'full colour' or 'four colour' printing, this process is based on Newton's theory that all colour is composed of three primary elements - red, yellow and blue. A photographic negative separation of each colour from a full-coloured tonal original is made using filters which are then transferred into a series of elliptical dot screens (each colour separation has the dots at a different angle). The three plates are then successively printed to build up the coloured image and a fourth printing - black - is added to strengthen the shadows.

Combined Media Prints

A term used to describe prints which utilise a combination of techniques in one work.


The total number of prints (bottom number) decided by the Artist (and/or publisher) that are required from the plate or screen. Signed 1/25. 2/25, 3/25 etc.


Any process used to create a raised or depressed, usually un-inked, surface. The techniques of etching, casting or printing from found objects are associated with this technique. Blind embossing is a print made without ink.


A process in which the metal of the plate is bitten into by acid in the image areas, which are depressed below the surface of the plate; these are filled with ink. When dampened paper is forced into them by the action of the press a print results.


A process in which a continuous tone image (such as photograph or painting) is photographed through a screen made up of a graduated dot pattern. The screen simulates the tones into dots of varying sizes creating a visual effect of tones.

Heat-Transfer Xerox

In this particular instance the Artist's black and white drawings were scanned into a computer and coloured on screen. From the printout a copy was made which was reversed into a transparent medium, pressed with heat and subsequently sealed onto canvas. The technique is commonly used in commercial printing of T-Shirts and novelty items.


A process in which the printing surface is flat, neither raised nor depressed. In this case printing depends on chemical reactions between grease and water.

Offset Litho Printing

A method of printing that involves the transfer of an inked image onto an intermediary roller then onto the paper.


A darkroom chemical process in which a plate coated by hand with a photo-resist is exposed to a light that hardens parts of the plate; a film containing an image allows the positive parts of the image to remain soft. These are then washed out and the plate is bitten in the acid and printed as usual in the etching process.


Photolithography is a generic term for any technique that produces an image on a lithographic plate by photographic means.

Photo -Screen Printing

A range of techniques for producing an image by transfer of photographic images to a stencil for screen-printing.


Any process in which an image can be photographically translated into one of the print media, i.e. line block, half tone, photolithography, photo-screen printing etc.

Plaster Cast

In this instance, a cast taken from an etching plate by pouring plaster-of-Paris over the enclosed plate.


Often regarded as an alternative method to half-tone printing, posterisation is widely used in screen-printing. The gradiation of tone in a photograph is analysed by several varied time exposures in a camera into a series of distinct tones: light, mid and dark. Each is made into a separate screen and printed in sequence, the light tone first. The effect is a series of stages which give the impression of continuous gradation to tone. This system is used for monochrome and coloured prints.


Printmaking is an art form, which employs printing techniques sometimes to produce a number of exactly repeatable pictorial impressions. The number of prints taken is usually declared and this is known as a limited edition. Many methods are practiced but a common characteristic is that images are produced by the operation of a mechanical or indirect process.

Relief Printing

Prints which result from a raised printing surface and exploit the surface characteristics of any material.

Screen Printing/Silkscreen Printing

The process in which an image is made by forcing ink through a stencil. The stencil is adhered in place on a frame tightly stretched with a fine mesh of fabric and a squeegee is used to force the ink through the open areas onto the paper below.

Working Proof

In this case, these represent either states of the work in progress or finished proofs extra to the edition number. Signed Working Proof or W/P.

© Text: Mark Hampson / Images: Belinda Mara
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