Intaglio comes from Italian, meaning "cut in". The
images are engraved, scratched, incised or etched below the surface of the
printing plate using a variety of techniques and tools. The process rests on the
opposite principle to that of the relief print. Image to be printed is deeply
cut into the plate, ink is forced into these grooves. A stiff, oily intaglio
printing ink is applied to the whole surface of the plate with a rubber brayer.
The plate is then gently wiped with tarlatans to remove the excess ink and drive
it into the recesses (wells). It is finally wiped with the fatty part of the
palm of the hand in quick glancing strokes. This removes all remaining ink from
the polished highlights and high points and leaves ink only in the etched
recesses. After that, the plate is placed on the printing bed of an intaglio
press. It is covered with a sheet of dampened rag paper and then two to three
layers of thin wool blankets. It is then run through the press at high pressure.
The high pressure pushes the fibers of the dampened paper into the wells of the
plate which then transfers the ink onto the paper thereby creating the
impression. The paper is carefully peeled off the plate and placed between
blotters and weighted so it will dry flat. The plate can now be re-inked for
Intaglio plates can be printed and the relief process. This results is negative
image - white lines on black background. Both processes can be combined on the
same plate. Because of the pressure, the outline of the plate leaves a typical
mark on Intaglio Prints. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this type
of printing is that the dried ink impression stands up from the paper in very
slight relief, perceptible by touching with the fingers or by close inspection.
We do not know who first thought of the idea of rubbing ink into the lines
incised in metal by an engraver, and then coaxing it out by pressing a dampened
sheet of paper against the metal surface. But the practice seems to have begun
near the beginning of the 16th century. The most common types of Intaglio Prints
are: Aquatint, Drypoint, Engraving, Etching, Mezzotint, Soft Ground Etching.