Editors Introduction: Today we have guest contributor Lindsay Appel introducing you to the world of printmaking processes that include photography. She will cover the basics of screen printing, photogravure, and photo plate lithography. We also have a Part 2 to this series that will be up next week covering other lithographic processes for printing photos (stone lithography and polyester plate lithography).

Printmaking can be a fun, alternative, and beautiful way to print your photographs, and there are many different ways to do so. The different techniques can produce different effects, and also in many cases allow you to combine both photography and drawing. Some of the techniques can be done at home with the proper set up and can be hand printed, but most of these techniques will require the use of a printmaking studio and presses. If these techniques interest you, we suggest taking a class in your area to get a better understanding of the process and to have access to the equipment needed.


Photogravure, by: Robert Brown *


If you’re like most people, the printmaking world may seem to be comprised solely of Warhol soup cans and the potato prints you did as a child. However, the reality of printmaking is that the options are endless. In the realm of photography, a varied array of printmaking techniques exist to enhance the beauty and depth of your photographs.

8 Color Screen Print by: Elizabeth Castaldo *

For the beginner, or someone who is looking for the most instant of instant gratifications, screen printing is your best bet. Although easier with a studio outfitted specifically for the process, screen printing can be done at home with a modest list of supplies, ample room to get messy, and ready access to a water supply. You can find a step-by-step tutorial here, complete with photos to guide you through the process. The basic idea behind screen printing is that a tightly stretched mesh screen is coated with photo emulsion, exposed to light and then pressure washed to leave behind a stencil of the image exposed. When ink is drawn over the surface of the screen, it is forced into the mesh openings and a print is made. When selecting your images for screen printing, it’s best to choose photographs or drawings with stark contrast, as some of the detail will be lost in compositions with more tone. Screen printing can be done on either fabric or paper, just remember to change the type of ink you’re using based upon the surface you’re printing on.

Screen Print, by: Eric Brown
Screen Print, by: Eric Brown


Photogravure, by: Kathryn Hartmann *    

"I wanted to update the idea of a classic photograph into a modern piece of art while integrating one of the most classic processes of printmaking and photographic reproduction." - Kathryn Hartmann

Not for the faint of heart, photogravure is the ideal printmaking process for replicating your photographic images. In a (very small) nutshell, photogravure is an intaglio printmaking or photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which has been exposed to a film positive, and then etched in ferric acid, resulting in a high quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph. In layman’s terms, the photogravure process takes a photograph and turns it into a charcoal-esque, beautifully tonal, editionable image. While very finicky and highly detail oriented, photogravure is easily learned with the proper teacher and the right amount of desire and patience. For more in-depth information on the process, I recommend taking a look here.

Photogravure, by: Nate Kamp *


Photogravure, by: Shaun McCallum *

"For this image, the copper plate was reprocessed several times in multiple acid baths and printed layer by layer on thin sheets of Goyu paper." -Shaun McCallum

Photogravure, by: Robert Brown *

Another printmaking process that lends itself to photography is that of photo plate lithography. Positive working litho plates are aluminum plates coated with a photosensitive emulsion. When exposed to ultraviolet light through a film positive, the emulsion hardens and through further processing a positive image is revealed. Plate lithography, like screen printing, does better with higher contrast images and is ideal for artists who are interested in 4-color separations. These light sensitive aluminum photo plates offer a fast and easy way to create high quality lithographs with a minimum of processing, chemicals, and techniques required.

Hand-colored Photo Litho and Collage, by: Elizabeth Castaldo *


If you're interested in taking a printmaking class, you can search for them locally through colleges or universities, art centers, or printmaking studios. To get you started, here are a few places around the U.S. that offers classes-
* Crown Point Press Workshops- San Fransisco, CA
* Kala Art Institute- Berkeley, CA
* Zea Mays Printmaking- Florence, MA
* The Savannah College of Art and Design- Savannah and Atlanta, GA
 (Writers note: If you’re looking to invest in some focused printmaking education, SCAD-Atlanta offers minor, major, and masters programs in printmakingand occasionally features printmaking courses to the public via its Community Education program. I received my BFA here and managed the print shop for three years. The school does a great deal of photogravure, and has a wonderful teacher and Printmaking Chair, Robert Brown. *His and the work of some of his students are featured in this article.)
Contributor Bio: Lindsay Appel is a photographer/interactive designer living in Atlanta, GA. She divides her time between her art ventures, her band, and her backyard garden.