History of Printmaking

Printing and printmaking originated in China after paper was invented there in the first century A.D. Although it is thought that the Chinese developed a primitive form of print from rubbings in the 2nd century A.D., it was really the Japanese who produced the first authenticated prints towards the end of the 8th century, using wood-block rubbings of Buddhist charms. Early European printmaking began with textile printing in the sixth century. The first woodcuts, a set of playing cards printed on paper, were made in the Western world in the 15th century. Printmaking became more widespread across Europe during this century with the development of intaglio, the process by which ink is pulled out of grooves made in a plate. The earliest dated printed engraving, 1446, is a German print entitled “The Flagellation”. While Dürer, in the 15th century, mastered printmaking, it wasn’t until the well after the 17th century that printmaking became popular when it was used by such masters as Rembrandt and Goya.Fine Art Printmaking in Ireland has a much shorter history with only very few artists working in the medium of print up to the 1960s. Among the Irish artists who exhibited fine art prints during this time were Harry Kernoff, Estella Solomons and Elizabeth Rivers. The latter was one of the founder members of the Graphic Studio in Dublin.

Printmaking Techniques catered for in the LPS Studio


The matrix generally consists of a metal plate, usually copper, aluminium, zinc or steel. Plastic or card can also be used. Sometimes a number of processes can be combined on the same plate, such as:

Drypoint - Manually engraved image onto plate using special tools.

Carborundum - an abrasive powder made of carbon and silicon, mixed with pva and painted onto the plate. 

Etching - is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create an image. The studio has facilities for etching copper, aluminium and steel plates
Aquatint - an intaglio process for creating a tonal field.


The matrix, in this studio, consists of a metal plate which is coated with a photo-sensitive emulsion. After the image is transferred onto the plate the plate is rolled up and the image is then transferred onto the prescribed printing material under pressure by the etching press.

Similar to Plate Lithography except once the photo-etching process is complete, the plate can be worked further as a normal intaglio plate, using drypoint, further etching, engraving, etc. The final result is an intaglio plate which is printed like any other.