Intaglio refers to prints made from plates in which the areas that carry the ink are recessed below the surface of the plate. The plates may be made of copper, zinc, brass and occasionally other materials.

There are five traditional intaglio processes: engraving, etching, drypoint, aquatint and mezzotint. Each technique produces a different look and feel, and many artists use a combination of two or more of these processes when working in intaglio.

Once created, an artist applies ink to the entire surface of the finished plate, forcing the ink into every recessed line and area. The plate is then wiped with a rag, usually a tarlatan. This removes the ink from the raised portions of the plate, leaving only the ink in the recessed areas to be printed. Plates may be wiped clean of all surface ink, leaving ink only in the recessed area, or the artist may choose to leave some ink on the surface to give plate tone or other selected effects.

The plate is then placed onto the bed of an etching press with a dampened sheet of etching paper laid on top. Felt blankets are placed on top of the paper.

The plate is moved through the press by cranking the arm on the side, which moves the press rollers. Once complete, the paper is removed to reveal the finished print, or impression.


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