Reference Library: Intaglio (printmaking)
'Intaglio' is a printmaking technique in which the image is incised into a surface. Normally, copper or zinc plates are used as a surface, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, or mezzotint. Collographs may also be printed as intaglio plates. To print an intaglio plate, the surface is covered in ink, and then rubbed vigorously with tarlatan cloth or newspaper to remove the ink from the surface, leaving it only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top, and the plate and paper are run through a printing press that, through pressure, transfers the ink from the recesses of the plate to the paper.
Etching is also an intaglio process, differing from engraving in that the lines are eaten into the plate by the action of an acid instead of being gouged with a tool. The printing process is as described above.
Intaglio engraving, as a method of making prints, seems to have developed in the middle 15th century, perhaps in Germany. Some kind of engraving had been used to decorate weapons and armour, musical instruments and religious objects since ancient times, and this sometimes involved rubbing a black pigment into the lines so that they would stand out more clearly, so that the transition to laying a sheet of paper on the engraved object and obtaining an impression of the design might readily suggest itself. Martin Schongauer was one of the earliest known artists to exploit the copper-engraving technique. In the 17th and 18th centuries this method was at its height and was often used to reproduce portraits. Today intaglio engraving is largely used for banknotes, passports and occasionally for high-value postage stamps.
Intaglio printing is frequently used in the production of currency and passports.
Contrast with relief printing, and with planographic printing techniques such as lithography.
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