Many of the artists' books in our Book Arts Collection celebrate printmaking in all its varied forms. This art form is particularly useful in the production of books when the artist intends to edition their work. Woodcut, lino-cut, collagraph, engraving, etching, aquatint, drypoint, lithography, serigraphy, letterpress, pressure printing, monoprinting, embossing, photography, digital printing, pochoir, even the ubiquitous Xerox printing can be found in our Book Arts Collection.
In combination with printmaking, the library also collects books where handmade paper plays a prominent role. Some of these works create shaped paper so the illustrations can extend off the page; some utilize pulp painting in a printerly manner via stencils and masks, or more painterly in an abstract illustrative manner; and some works use paper casting to add a sculptural approach.
Artists employ a range of photography methods and we collect those artists' books, too! Photo-gravure, archival inkjet, and non-silver photo processes such as cyanotype and palladium prints, and even collaged snapshot photo prints can be found in our Book Arts Collection.
Continue on this page for more specific information about the different media commonly used in artists' books and search term suggestions.
Use the menu to explore artists' books that employ different printmaking processes, handmade paper, and non-printed methods like papecut and collage.
Woodcuts: A woodcut is made by using knives and/or gouges to carve an image into the plank side of wood. Depending on the type of wood used, the grain could be pronounced or it could be very smooth and almost imperceptible. Ink is rolled over the raised surface that is left behind after carving. It can be printed in a number of ways from a letterpress to a wooden spoon!
Lino-cuts: A lino-cut is made by using knives and/or gouges to carve an image into a sheet of linoleum. Unlike wood, linoleum does not have a grain direction, and it is generally softer to cut than wood. It can be printed in the same manner as woodcuts.
Wood engravings: Thomas Bewick developed wood engraving after realizing the same tools (engraving burins) for metal engraving could create delicate lines in the end-grain of wood. This method was utilized heavily in book illustrations in the 19th century, in part, because the images could be printed at the same time as the lead type on a letterpress. Wood engravings can also be printed by hand or other press types, like woodcuts.
Embossings: Embossings are produced when a relief image is printed under heavy pressure. The pressure forces the paper into the block where the wood (or linoleum, etc.) was carved away. This produces a raised surface. A thick, soft paper or a dampened paper will give more dramatic results. Many relief prints will display embossing. In this gallery, we selected examples from non-inked surfaces. Some creative examples include wire as the matrix!
Collagraphs: A relief printmaking technique that is created by textural collage. This can be as simple as pieces of matboard cut and glued to a surface, or it can be more complex, including any type of low-relief material such as fabrics, leaves, wire, keys, etc. Collagraphs (sometimes spelled 'collograph') can be printed as any other relief print by inking only the surface with a roller, but it can also be printed intaglio style by pushing the ink into the lower areas of the image. Both relief and relief with intaglio examples are illustrated in this gallery.
Intaglio: An intaglio is a printmaking technique where lines and textures are incised into a metal surface called a plate. The opposite of a relief print, the ink is pushed into the grooves created, and the remaining ink is wiped away from the top surface. Once the plate is inked, a dampened sheet of paper is placed on top and printed using a etching press, which exerts high pressure. This pressure squeezes the ink out of the incised lines and it is transferred onto the paper. Most intaglio techniques (including ones not described here) can be used in combination.
Dry-point: A dry-point is created with a metal needle tool or burin. Pushing the tool through the metal plate creates a burr on either side of the line. When the incised line is inked, the burr also holds ink. This results in a soft fuzzy line. The burr can be fragile, and in some cases breaks off, changing the line quality as prints are pulled. It is the most direct intaglio method.
Etching: An etching is created in combination with acid. An acid resist (usually a ground) is put on the metal plate. Then, the ground is removed by drawing with a metal needle tool or any other device that can scrape away the ground. The plate is placed in an acid bath. Where the ground has been removed, acid will etch into the plate, creating lines and recesses. The longer the plate is in the acid, the deeper the etch will be, and the deeper the etch, the more ink it will hold. Different grounds can create different effects.
Aquatint: An aquatint is a type of etching, that is, acid is required. The resist used is traditionally powdered rosin which is dusted onto the plate and then melted so that it adheres. The grains of powder will print white, and the area around the grains once etched will hold ink. A liquid ground can be applied in a painterly manner, and delicate shaded tones can be achieved. The rosin is removed before printing.