What is a print? According to Webster's dictionary a print can be defined as:
(1): a copy made by printing
(2): a reproduction of an original work of art (such as a painting) made by a photo-mechanical process
(3): an original work of art (such as a woodcut, etching, or lithograph) intended for graphic reproduction and produced by or under the supervision of the artist who designed it
Although a variety of printing-techniques has been developed over time, most can be categorized under five basic techniques:
: relief printing
: intaglio printing
: planographic printing
: stencil printing
Amongst the earliest forms of prints are the ones that were made by cutting blocks (mostly in wood or metal), only to remove the areas that were not supposed to be inked and therefore printed. This form of printing has been applied by famous artists such as Albrecht Dürer and masters from the far east such Katsushika Hokusai.
For over centuries the most common practice of printing became intaglio printing, or engraving. Many are familiar with Rembrandt's etchings, maps that were copper-engraved and steel-engraved city-views from the nineteenth century. Prints like these were usually printed in black and white and could later be coloured in outline.
Planographic printing means printing from a flat surface. The most common technique is lithography (lithos = stone). This technique was developed in the 19th century and ensured larger print-runs, more details and effective printing in many different forms. Music-scores; sheet-music, class-room posters, magazine-covers, theatre-posters and book-illustrations: lithographic produced images are available in a wide variety of uses. Modern printing techniques such as offset-printing used for newspapers and other full-colour illustrations gradually replaced lithography. But many great modern artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse saw the potentials and quality of reproducing their artworks using this technique.
stencil printing is a technique that is mostly known under the French word: pochoir and the English word: silkscreen. A stencil (or cut-out) is used to apply colours in several layers; this creates an effect as if every single print has been hand-painted (and therefor unique). The French Art Deco magazine: La Gazette du Bon Ton used this technique for its illustrations and full-colour plates.
photography is according to some, a special technique, and category on its own. Instead of using a copper, wooden or stone plate; light is the primary medium that makes the impression and therefor the depiction. Silver or any other light-sensitive substance is being used to capture the image that was shot by a camera. Often a negative would act as an agent for transferring the image from camera to paper. Albumin photography is the most applied form of photography during the nineteen century, often depicting street scenery and used for the production of qualitative souvenirs. Hybrid techniques such as heliogravure and photolithography were later developed and used by artists such as Karl Blossfeldt.