APPLICATIONS (visual): methods employed to create the concept for communicating a message, as well as for building or refreshing an identity that potentially will create the fully realized brand for a product, service, company, or institution.
AQUATINT: an etching method that creates tones of various depths and textures, resulting in a print that resembles a watercolor. A metal plate is covered with a uniform layer of resin powder (usually rosin or bitumen) or a fine acrylic spray and heated from beneath; the resin melts and adheres, and when the plate is etched, the acid eats into the metal around each grain, creating finely-textured, ink-holding areas that give a uniform tone when printed. Tonal effects are achieved by repeated varnishing and immersing in the acid. This technique can be used on its own or in conjunction with other intaglio processes such as line etching.
BLEED THROUGH: in engraving, this is when the printed color “bleeds” or comes through the reverse side of the paper. This undesirable effect is checked for during the proofing stage of the print process.
BLIND EMBOSSING: a specialty printing process executed without ink, in which an impression of a design is transferred to dampened paper, or another type of substrate, to make a relief, or raised impression.
BRUISING: found on the reverse side of the printing surface, is the mark the counter leaves on the paper. Often bruising can be noticed on the back of the sheet in the form of faint lettering, particularly when using large areas of text. Bruising sometimes occurs on the front of the sheet in the form of a subtle wave in the paper. The size of the counter determines the extent of the bruising. To minimize bruising, excess counter material must be trimmed away. During the proofing stage, the back of the print is checked to see if the bruising is acceptable. Whether to maximize or minimize the bruise is a decision made by the designer and client. The bruise may be purposefully left visible for aesthetic reasons, or because it proves that the print is true engraving. Others may find the mark less desirable. The ultimate choice concerning bruising is subjective and a matter of taste.
Burin: the most important engraving tool, consisting of a small, metal rod with a pointed, triangular head, used by the engraver to create a design on a metal plate by scooping out or gouging clear, sharp furrows in the metal. Using the burin is a time-consuming, painstaking skill; the technique appears to have been adapted from goldsmithing.
BURNISHING: executed using a burnisher (a curved steel instrument), this technique is used by engravers to polish or reduce edges on metal plates. The term also refers to the method used to give a glossy, polished appearance to metallic engraving inks, achieved by a second pass through the press. Burnishing forces the metallic particles to flatten and reflect more light; and can also reveal subtle details within the engraved image.
Color swatches: a paint chip, piece of fabric or color-aid paper, or color-match system chip that is sent by a designer to the printer, to ensure the desired color is achieved in the printing process. A color swatch should always be sent regardless of whether or not a designer is using a numbered color-matching system.
COUNTER: essential to every raised impression, whether inked or blind embossed without ink, is a counter. When the paper is fed into the press it is stamped between the engraved/ inked plate (or die) and the counter (usually made of hard plastic or paper); under high pressure, the counter presses against the plate at the image area and the paper is forced into the engraved and inked crevices, creating the print. The counter must fit perfectly; an improper fit of the counter at the edge of an inked area will cause the ink to “spit” or “feather” around the image.
Creative brief: a document used by designers/creative teams as a guide for the development of design solutions, including but not limited to the following: outline of the project and objectives, background, budget, study of the target audience, a synopsis of the message to be communicated, timeline, the position taken in the marketplace, and a statement of the concept for communicating the message. The creative brief may be lengthy and complex, or a simple one-page synopsis. Every designer/design studio has its own style for structuring and writing a creative brief.
Crest: a crest was originally a design component in the top section of a coat of arms—a complex, intricately designed, visual symbol used to identify and celebrate a person, family, corporation, or state. Historically, coats of arms were used by lords and knights in the twelfth century on battlefields, as a way to identify allied soldiers from enemy soldiers. Later, coats of arms were used for social purposes, typically as seals and other such insignia to authenticate documents, as well as for other identification purposes. In the twenty-first century crest designs—created for official or high-level administrative purposes—borrow from, adapt, and/or parody traditional designs; some of these crests are humorous or tongue in cheek.
Die: a term used for the etched-metal plate used in the contemporary engraved-printing process. The plates are typically copper, zinc, and sometimes steel and are etched by a variety of methods. In the printing process the paper is fed between the counter and the die, with the counter and its edge precisely meeting the surface plane of the die, thus trapping the ink inside the lines.
Drypoint: a form of linear engraving (or etching) in which the design is scratched directly into the surface of a copper plate with a sharp steel needle or diamond point, held like a pen, with the depth of the line depending on the force applied. Lines made this way are not as deeply engraved as a line made with a burin. The surface of a copper drypoint plate is vulnerable to the extreme pressure of the etching press; as a result, only a limited number of prints may be successfully taken. Of the dry engraving techniques, this is the closest to pencil sketching.
Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528): a gifted German painter, draftsman, printmaker, and theorist, he was one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. His greatest artistic impact was in the medium of printmaking; he revolutionized the medium of woodcuts, greatly expanding its tonal and dramatic range and subject matter. His woodcut series and independent prints, primarily of religious subjects, established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties. He was also an early master of engraving / etching in copper plates.
Embossing / Debossing: embossing is a method of raising a design in relief on paper (or metal, leather, textiles, and other surfaces) through the use of punches or dies. The die, punch, or “block” with the design is pushed directly onto the paper, leaving an impression that stands proud on the paper. In debossing the technique is reversed to create a sunken image that adds extra depth to a design.
Engraving: a printing process that dates back to prehistoric times, in which designs are cut into a resistant surface (today a plate or block) used to make a printed impression; also the term for a print made from an engraved plate. The precursors of copperplate engraving are the armorers and goldsmiths who engraved their surfaces with ornamentation; among the earliest renowned artists to use the process were Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506) in Italy and Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) in Germany.
Etching: a method of engraving requiring a high degree of skill, in which the design is cut or bitten into the metal plate through controlled immersion in acid. First a metal plate is covered in ground (which acts as a resist to the acid), then a special steel needle is used to draw the design into the ground, and finally the plate is immersed in the acid and the areas where the ground has been removed through drawing will be eaten away to make the design on the metal. When satisfied with the design, the artist/engraver will clean and ink the plate to produce the first state or proof.
Feathering: an undesirable effect achieved in engraved printing, when the paper is fed into the press and stamped between the inked-plate and the counter, and engraving ink “feathers” or “spits” onto the paper surrounding the engraved image, because the counter is improperly sealed or improperly fitted.
Ground: in etching, the acid-resisting wax or varnish that is applied to the surface of the metal plate before the design is made. The ground will protect the metal plate from the corrosive effects of the resist, allowing the plate to be etched or “bitten” in some areas and not others.
Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1398–1468): the father of modern book printing, Gutenberg was a goldsmith and businessman from Mainz, Germany, who in 1440 invented the printing press—a hand press in which ink was rolled over the raised surfaces of replaceable/movable hand-set wood block letters held within a wooden form and the form was then pressed against a sheet of paper. His wood, and later metal, movable type printing reduced the price of printed materials, making them affordable and available to the masses. The method was revolutionary for book printing.
Halo: an undesirable effect achieved in engraved printing, which creates a subtle aura effect around the image, or bruises the paper on the reverse side.
Inks: printmaking inks, which come in a wide range of colors, are thick pastes made of ground pigment bound in a drying oil, and resemble oil paint or thick cream in nature and consistency. They are sticky and are usually applied to the printing surface (metal plates, linoleum blocks, woodblocks) using rollers so that they cover the surface thinly and evenly.
Inks - metallic: particularly rich and vibrant inks that contain actual metallic particles, available in four reflective colors: gold, silver, bronze, and copper, and an infinite number of combinations. A glossy appearance can be achieved with metallic inks by a second pass of the print through the press, to burnish the surface; burnishing forces the metallic particles to flatten and reflect more light. Metallic inks may also be left un-burnished for a rougher, more antiqued appearance.
Intaglio (in tal’yō): Italian word for “carving,” a term referring to incised carving as opposed to carving in relief. In printmaking the term refers to the etching or engraving of a design into a metal plate so the design is below the plate’s surface and after the ink is applied and the excess wiped off, ink remains in the incised grooves for transfer to paper.
Media-mix (also known as “across media” and “transmedia”): a graphic-design industry term referring to the use of various graphic-design applications—both traditional and new media outlets—to communicate a unified message; the applications include but are not limited to: digital screen, web, in the environment, and so on.
METAMERISM: when different light affects the way an image appears.
Mezzotint (maniére noire): a labor-intensive intaglio-printing process developed in the seventeenth century, in which the surface of a metal plate is uniformly covered with “burred” dots (or tiny indentations) made with a toothed tool called a rocker. The burrs (raised line effect created when scratching metal) are scraped away and/or areas of the plate are burnished to create half-tones and lights; the tone varies depending on the depth of the scraping or burnishing. Because of the range of subtle tones that can be created, mezzotint was widely used for color printmaking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After the development of photoengraving and photogravure, the technique became almost obsolete, except as a way to obtain a thicker texture on the plate.
Monogram: a typographic design consisting of two or more letters, usually the initials of a name, used to identify (as a symbol or logo) an individual, a group, or a company. The initials are often intertwined, or grouped, to form a single whole. A series of uncombined initials is called a cipher.
Mood board: also called visual-brief or concept board, consisting of a collage of drawn, printed, or digital images, text, and samples of objects, fabrics, or other materials mounted on a board, used by designers to convey the overall feel of a project to a client, especially in the early stages. The layout, size, and materials used in mood boards vary greatly depending on the type and size of the project.
OFFSET LITHOGRAPHY: used for photographic quality printing. This printing process uses flexible metal plates that are wrapped around metal cylinders. Pressure is applied that transfers ink to a rubber “blanket” and then onto paper as the cylinders roll.
Opaque: the opposite of transparent/translucent; in graphic design the term refers to inks, pigments, or other materials that do not allow light to pass through.
Paper — coated: in graphic design, a paper sprayed with a chemical that produces a type of glossy or shiny surface, which is more likely to crack when engraved or embossed; in the paper industry, it can refer to a paper with a smooth coating such as china clay to improve its printing qualities.
Paper — laid finish: a type of paper appropriate for engraved printing that has the appearance of translucent fine lines running horizontally and vertically, created during the papermaking process by the wire mesh of the mould on which the pulp is lifted.
Paper — uncoated: also known as rag, a cotton paper left natural without a sprayed coating to create a gloss, semi-gloss, or other surface quality, which yields the most superior results when used for engraved printing. The colors appear richer and the paper holds its structure well.
Paper — wove finish: a type of paper with a subtle “woven” mesh-like pattern, looking somewhat like canvas, made to provide a more uniform and smooth overall texture; this paper is perfect for engraved printing, because it can withstand the pressure used during the printing process and will engrave cleanly.
Photoengraving / Photo-etching: a process of making a printing plate by photographing an image directly onto a metal plate and then etching the image. It is the sharpest and most popular method for the transfer of design to plate. For those designs with extra fine detail and/or with large inked areas, hand-tooling may still be required to incise the design, or to remove excess plate material. The process begins with a metal plate that has a photo-sensitive ground applied to it. An image positive is then created and affixed to the prepared plate. Finally, the plate is exposed to light to transfer the image to the plate and then etched.
Plate mark a slight ridge or embossed mark made by the edges of an intaglio plate on the paper around the printed design, the result of the pressing action required to make a good print. The plate mark is proof that the authentic engraving or etching printing method was used. In historic prints the plate mark is always visible. In contemporary engraving for commercial purposes, plate marks may also be left visible to prove the authenticity of the printing process, or they are minimized for aesthetic reasons and hidden within a folded page or integrated into the design.
Plate the surface, usually of metal (copper, steel, or zinc), from which a printed impression is made. The type of plate chosen varies, depending on the size of the print run and the preferences of the engraver. Copper is a fairly soft metal that engraves easily, but it is costly and may not stand up under heavy use during long press runs. For this reason, most copper plates are chrome-plated to extend their life. Steel plates are less costly and stronger than copper. Both types of plates can be saved for reuse, and when no longer needed they can be recycled.
Polymer: commonly associated with plastic; refers to both natural and synthetic materials with a wide range of properties.
Pre-flight: likely deriving from the preflight checklists that pilots go through prior to takeoff, this term refers to the process of checking and re-checking digital files and hard copies that will be sent via the web, or hand delivered, to the engraver/printer. In the preflight stage a designer ensures that all required files are included in the package and that they are in the format required by the engraver/printer. The process typically includes collecting for output, or digitally packaging as a group, all the digital files using the appropriate software commands and tools; then double-checking the files and burning them to a disc, or sending them through a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server. To avoid print and finishing delays, and thus added costs, designers use a preflight checklist.
Process Colors: (CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow, & black) used in offset lithography, with a high degree of transparency, as well as the ability to be layered atop one another simultaneously.
Proof: a print made before an edition/final press run is commenced so that the designer and/or printer can ensure that the plate is printing as it should be; any necessary adjustments are made during the proof stage. Also known as a trial proof.
Rag: natural, premium, uncoated cotton paper that yields the most superior results for engraved printing.
Relief: the oldest form of printmaking, in which ink is applied to the raised surface (usually with a roller) of a printing block or plate, and the paper is pressed down to make an impression; no printing press is needed, because a spoon, burnisher, or other instrument can create enough pressure to yield a good print. The areas cut away by the artist, or which do not stand out in relief, will remain blank on the printed paper. Among the materials used to make blocks or plates include stone, wood, lino, plastics, metal, and cloth. The common forms include woodcut, linocut, wood engraving, and collagraph.
Screened printing / screened effect: in engraved printing, a screen may be made of the image to better control the amount of ink used in the process, and to create a continuous solid area of color without mottling. The screened effect is accomplished by a photo-process in which the image (or shape) is reproduced through a wire or glass screen that breaks the light rays so that the metal plate is sensitized in a dotted pattern; the larger dots create the darker areas, the smaller dots simulate the lighter values A finer screen will produce greater detail in the final printed image. Screening techniques vary. Many engravers will use a dot-screen file output to film and then etch the plate. Or, several digital files may be used depending on the type of metal substrate being etched. Again, to make large areas of color and/or shapes appear solid—the objective most often requested—a dot screen is added to the file and the plate is etched to the point where the ink will be captured between the dots.
Spitting: an undesirable effect achieved in engraved printing, when the paper is fed into the press and stamped between the inked-plate and the counter, and engraving-ink “spits” or “feathers” onto the paper surrounding the engraved image because the counter is improperly sealed or improperly fitted.
Stamping / Stamped: stamping is an important step in the engraving process: when the paper is fed into the press it is stamped between the engraved/ inked plate (or die) and the counter (usually made of hard plastic or paper); under the high pressure of the press, of up to two tons per-square-inch, the ink-filled crevices of the incised lines and shapes on the plate are forced onto the paper, causing the image to be transferred and raised above the surface. In the engraved-printing industry an engraved image is said to have been “die-stamped” or “stamped.”
Thumbnail sketch: a term used by graphic designers to describe a small, rapidly executed drawing on paper (usually part of a group) used to explore multiple ideas quickly. Thumbnail sketches range from simple doodle-like drawings to highly detailed images.
Touchpoints: a term used by graphic designers that refers to the physical way in which the message of the design will reach the audience.
Woodblock printing: an ancient printmaking technique in which a block of wood is carved with knives and gouges to make a relief print called a woodcut. The design is drawn on the smoothly planed side of the wood; the areas not to be printed are cut away; the raised areas are inked and a sheet of paper pressed on to the block, either by hand or in a printing press. Prints with different colors are obtained by carving different blocks for each color required.