AQUATINT is a printing process that produces tone rather than line. The traditional method involves dusting a metal plate with an acid-resistant compound, usually resin. Warming the plate fuses the resin to the surface. When the plate is immersed in an acid bath, the acid eats away the exposed metal particles, producing a pitted surface that, when inked and printed, creates a distinctive textured, grainy appearance. Cottingham often combines aquatint and etching, as in his Rolling Stock series.

COLLOGRAPH is a print made from assembled materials that have been glued onto a hard surface such as metal, wood, or plastic. The surface is inked and printed, usually as a relief print. The plate also can be wiped clean and pulled through the press to create an embossed print. See Rolling Stock Series No. 7, for Jim and Rolling Stock No. 22, for Bill for examples of collography used with etching and monoprint.

DRYPOINT is a technique that involves drawing directly onto the surface of a metal plate with a sharp, pointed tool, often with a diamond point. The tool creates a small ridge, or burr, on the side of the incision. When the plate is inked with a roller, the burr holds extra ink, creating soft, velvety lines in the finished print. Cottingham used the drypoint method in the Barrera-Rosa's series.

ETCHING is accomplished by coating a metal plate with an acid-resistant substance called ground. A fine-point needle is used to draw through the ground, exposing the metal below. The plate is immersed in acid, which bites or etches the exposed metal; varying the length of time the plate remains in the acid affects the character and depth of the lines. After the ink is rubbed onto the plate and pushed into the etched depressions, the unetched surfaces are wiped. The ink in the lines transfers to dampened paper when the plate and paper are passed through the press.

GOUACHE is a waterbased paint similar to watercolor. It is made opaque by the addition of white paint or another white substance such as chalk. Poster paint is a low-grade version of gouache.

LITHOGRAPHY relies on the incompatibility of grease and water. Using greasy crayon or a brush loaded with tusche (lithographic ink), the artist draws or paints an image on the surface of Bavarian limestone, or more commonly today, a specially prepared metal plate. When the surface is dampened with water and inked with a roller, ink adheres to the oily drawing and is repelled by the wet areas. In the offset method an image is transferred ("offset") from the plate to an intermediary roller, usually a rubber cylinder, then printed. Offset prints can be made quickly and in large quantities, and the image is not reversed as it would be in a traditional lithograph. Champagne and Cold Beer, from the Facades series, illustrate both printing methods.

LINOLEUM CUT, or linocut, is produced by incising the surface of a linoleum block. Like the woodcut, it is a relief process in which the raised areas are inked and printed. Linoleum is softer than wood and permits easier cutting for finer, more fluid lines. See Don't Walk from the Barrera-Rosa's series for an example.

METAL RELIEF refers to the process of producing a print using a metal plate that has been engraved or etched. The surface is inked rather than the incised lines, and the printed image reflects the raised area of the engraving. Don't Walk, from the Barrera-Rosa's series, is an example of this technique.

MONOPRINT, often confused with monotype, is produced by wiping or painting directly onto an already etched surface, woodblock, or lithographic and collographic plate. Rolling Stock Series No. 7, for Jim and Rolling Stock No. 22, for Bill illustrate this process.

MONOTYPE is a combination of printing and painting techniques. An artist paints or places ink directly on top of an unmarked printing plate. A single image is then lifted from the plate and transferred onto paper or other support by traditional printing techniques.

PHOTOREALISM refers to a style of painting and printmaking popular in the late 1960s and 1970s that featured detailed representational subjects (cityscapes, still-lifes, motor vehicles, portraits) based on photo images. More generally, it can refer to any photo-based, sharp-focused, highly detailed style.

POCHOIR, French for stencil, is a process for making multicolored prints. This method can be used to add color to one area of a print or to create an entire print. Color is applied with a brush or roller through the stencil openings. Candy, from the Facades series, is an excellent example of this technique.

SOFT-GROUND ETCHING is a type of etching in which a metal plate is covered with a thin liquid coating (ground) that does not harden. Tracing paper can be placed over the ground, permitting the reproduction of a drawing. The plate is then placed in acid where the exposed metal is etched. As in a standard etching, ink is applied and the plate is printed. Ice combines this method with aquatint.

WATERCOLOR is a type of paint made with pigment that is dissolved in water combined with an adhesive solution, usually gum arabic. A watercolor is also the type of painting made using watercolor paints. The paints are usually applied to special absorbent paper.

WOODCUT is a technique in which an image is cut from a plank of wood. Using knives and gouges, the artist cuts away the background of a design, leaving an image in relief that is inked and then printed. Color woodcut prints are created using multiple, successive blocks for each color, as in Rolling Stock No. 27.

Essay | On the Road | In the Museum | Menu

Smithsonian American Art Museum Online Exhibitions | American Art Home