Traditional and Contemporary Japanese Fine Art


Glossary of Terms

Bleed Print   A print that has no margin; the print image extends to the paper edge. The irregular untrimmed edge of hand made paper is called the deckle edge or mini-tsuki
Block Out A substance that when applied to a screen, plate, or stone will prevent the ink from reaching the paper during printing
Chine Colle (French) A method of adhering thin pieces of colored paper to the larger printing paper at the same time that the inked image is printed
Chop The impression made by an artist's of the painter's seal on the paper
Etching Blanket A woven or felt blanket that acts as cushion between the plat and the rollers of the etching press; when the paper and plate are run through the press the blanket forces the paper into the deepest recesses of the plate
Embossing An intaglio technique by which raised impressions are created in the dampened paper or other surface by a metal or  collage plate. Embossments are often left unlinked
Epreuve D'artiste French term utilized in numbering an edition to denote artist's proof
Gold/Silver Leafing A process of applying metallic foil surfaces to a print; gold (kinpaku) or silver (ginpaku)
Hand-colored Prints Prints that have pigment added to the original print (by hand) after the printing process
Hanga A general Japanese term used for all types of prints
Kento The marks made at the corners of a printing block are make to insure the exact positioning of the paper for the inking of  each print. In multicolor printing, the blocks, plates, stones, or stencils are aligned with the paper so that each successive color will print precisely where the artist desires. This process is called registration
Mixed Media A combination of techniques including colorless embossing. A single print may have been pulled from a woodblock or  metal plate or from a lithograph and screen print or any combination. It may also have been printed with different pigments mixing oil-based and natural inks and so on
Monoprint A print with an edition of one. The process involves making only one impression on to the paper from the image created on a plate, stone, plastic or other surface
Plate A sheet of material such as metal, plastic, cardboard, the surface of which holds the design so that an image can be created from it
Open Edition An unlimited number of impressions taken from a plate
Rice Paper A generic term used by westerners to describe all types of Asian hand-made papers. The term really refers to ancient papyrus papers more than the actual papers made today
Sumi Ink A black ink of Chinese origin, which the Japanese use for painting and brushwork and also for printmaking. Rubbing the ink with a little water on the inkstone produces an oily consistency. In liquid from it is called bokuju
Washi The term for paper made by traditional Japanese hand-made methods usually containing no wood pulp. Fibers from most hand-made papers come from the inner bark of three different plants, each giving the paper its distinct quality. Paper made from the Kozo plant fibers (from the mulberry family) is widely used in printmaking, as it is rough and strong with a  porous elasticity that is suitable from printing
Yoshi The Japanese term for foreign type paper made by mechanical means containing wood pulp.


Techniques of Printmaking


Relief:              Woodblock (Woodcut), Wood Engraving, Linoleum Block (Linocut)

Intaglio:            Etching, Engraving, Aquatint, Drypoint, Mezzotint, Collagraph, Photogravure, Lift-ground, Carborundum

Planographic:   Lithograph, Offset Lithograph

Stencil:             Silkscreen (Serigraph), Paperscreen, Stencil



For the relief printing process, the artist cuts away areas from the block that are not needed to make the print. The raised surface absorbs the ink and is printed directly onto a receiving surface, usually paper, with the use of a pressing instrument. Separate blocks are required for each additional color. The traditional Japanese woodblock printing method employs water-based inks, mulberry bark paper (kozo) and a hand-held disk (baren wrapped in bamboo leaves) for the application of pressure to the back of the paper during the printing. In contrast, the typical Western method of woodblock printing uses oil-based inks applied by a roller onto the block. Woodblock prints have a discernable texture cause by the influences of the grain of the wood and by the circular movement of the baren. Woodcut is another term for the woodblock; however, it generally refers to the Western method of woodblock printing that uses oil-based inks. A Wood Engraving differs from a woodblock print in that the block that is used to make the print is cut cross-wise, across the grain, rather than plank-wise, or with the grain. The use of hardwoods rather than the plywood typically used in woodcuts allows the artist to use finer linear gouges, which produce the finer liners and linear patterns that are characteristic of wood engravings. Linoleum Block (Linocut) uses the same basic technique, but linoleum is used instead of wood.STEP: Transfer Image to block -> cut design and registration makes into block -> prepare paper and inks -> ink the block ->place paper on block ->transfer ink to paper using a pressing instrument



The word Intaglio comes from an Italian term meaning 'to carve or cut into' and covers a multitude of processes. There are two broad categories of intaglio printing: those that use or do not use acid as a part of the image-creating process on the plate. The acid methods involve coating a zinc, brass or copper plate with an acid resist ground, then scratching (Etching), impressing (Soft-ground), dusting (Aquatint), and brushing or dabbing (Lift-ground) a design onto its surface. The plate is immersed in acid which "bites" or "acid etches" the lines or depressions into the metal plate. The nonacid intaglio method utilizes sharp tools in place of the acid to engrave, scratch, indent or roughen the surface of the plate. Engraving involves pushing a hard steel tool called a burin into the plate, producing precisely drawn areas or creating tonal areas with parallel lines and/or crosshatching. The Drypoint method utilizes a sharp hard needle tool to scratch into the metal surface. Mezzotint, known for its rich black surface, is created from repeatedly pressing a curved serrated rocker into the surface of the metal plate, which makes thousands of tiny indentations. Crible prints are made by hammering, while the Carborundum process utilizes an abrasive powder to roughten the plate. Photogravure printing utilizes a photomechanical process to create tonal differences, while the Collagraph is made from a collage of materials glued to the surface of a board or base plate that creates texture and tonal variations. In intaglio printing, the areas that cut into the surfaces are wiped clean of ink and therefore do not print. Both paper, usually dampened, and the plate, are run through the press. The intaglio print is recognizable by plate marks or the embossed edges of the image that are caused from the pressure of the press.STEP: Transfer image to plate -> cut surface with tool or acid bath -> ink plate -> wipe off ink from nonprinting areas -> transfer image to paper by running plate and paper through press, under pressure



The technique for producing a Lithograph is called a planographic process because the printing surface is neither raised nor sunken. The flat plane surface of a limestone or metal (zinc or aluminum) plate is prepared to utilize the principle that grease and water do not mix. Numerous steps are required for actually processing the plate but essentially the surface must be made greasy where it is to be printed and water-absorbent where it is not to be printed. An image is created with a crayon or grease-based liquid, so that it adheres to the plate and prints the image when inked. A large roller is used to ink the plate, which has been sponged with water. The arduous task of inking the plate with the ink-charged roller while sponging the surface keeps the non-greasy areas free of ink while allowing the greasy areas to accept the ink. The inked surface is built up with multiple passes of the roller until the plate surface is deemed ready for printing. Dampened paper is place on the plate and both are run through the press. If more than one color is to be printed, separate plates have to be prepared for each other. Careful registration is of prime importance. In an Offset Lithograph, the image is taken from the plate by a rubber roller that then directly transfers the image onto the paper without the usual reversal of the image. Lithographs can often be recognized by spontaneity in brushstrokes and watery textures. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a lithograph from an actual drawing as the surfaces of both are flat and show no plate marks.STEP: Process plate or stone to receive the image -> draw design with greasy compound -> chemically process image -> charge roller with ink -> sponge plate with water -> ink late with rollera repeat (repeat cycle as many times as needed to ready inked plate for printing) -> place dampened paper on plate -> adjust press pressure -> run through press



Instead of a block or plate, the Stencil technique utilizes masking material such as paper, fabric or plastic that has been cut or perforated to allow ink or paint to pass through and print onto another surface. Traditional Japanese stencil printing uses a paper stencil, usually made from two kinds of Japanese paper (washi), one porous to function as a screen permitting the passage of the ink, and the other non-porous and east to cut to function as the stencil. Basically, there are two types of stencils; one positive, where the block-out material fills in the background when the actual image is printed , and the other a negative stencil, where the image is blocked out and the background is printed. In the Silkscreen process, the most common stencil method used today, silk or nylon fabric is stretched over a frame and an ink-resistant stencil is bonded to this screen. In the case of Paperscreen, paper is used instead of silk or nylon fabric. The frame is placed screen-side down with the paper to be printed places beneath the screen. A squeegee is then used to force ink through the screen, to form an image on the paper below. Serigraph is another term for silkscreen. A silkscreen print is often recognizable by bold flat colors, and the thickness of the ink that sits on the surface of the paper. Sometimes a nylon or silk mesh texture is also visible.STEP: Create image -> make stencil of image -> fabric screen stretched over frame -> attach stencil (or bond with ink resist) to surface of screen -> place paper under screen -> push ink with squeegee through screen onto paper -> allow print to dry thoroughly -> repeat entire process for additional colors