Engraving in color

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Traditionally, to make a polychrome engraving has always used a sheet for each of the ink that the artist want to use, so that when they are superimposed properly recorded on the same paper to obtain a larger number, though always limited tones. It should be noted that this type of printing requires experience in the mixture of inks, some technical expertise and a very clear idea of what you want to achieve, since the variables involved in the process will be considerably increased. It is also important to choose the most suitable method for the work required and record sheets as exactly as possible.

It was Jacob Christoph Le Blon (1667-1741) who founded on Newton's Theory of Color, conceived the CMYK (trichromIe in origin). This method, based on industrial printing in color, is to make three plates to affix mezzotint then overlaid with the primary colors cyan, magenta and yellow. Jacques Fabien Gautier-Dagoty included a black color plate in the absence of contrast offered by the trichromatic prints. This is motivated because the subtractive mixture of the primary produces a fading black, contrast and intensity exceeded by the addition of black pigment mineral. It is important to emphasize that human vision gets the full color range (think of an advertisement photo of a billboard) requires two things: the four plates with the basic range and a point system (frame) that combine to then, the perceptual system to form the colors (something like what happens to the pointillist painting movement) The recorder / stamper knows that four plates, for example, woodcuts, inked and overlapping with flat shapes (not points) will not result in more that the combination of the four primary colors and blends.

The color appears in the woodcut long. Leaving aside the climb (colored with stencils) or illuminated plates, is attributed to Italian Ugo da carpi early cameos (camaieu). These prints consist of two or three blocks that were covered in different shades but always within the same range: white, halftone, and dark line. Special mention deserves the Japanese woodcut whose system of water-based ink, applied with brushes, and tight color registration of sometimes up to 54 plates, gives the results we all know.

The methodology of polychrome printing is immediately distinguished from monochrome on the registration process, which will determine the proper overlap of plates in one place so that the colors are combined properly. To register a printing there are several techniques and methods according to the complexity of the drawing, and must consider both the time of preparation of matrices, with the use of the silhouette or by rebuttal, as the situation of different plates during printing. It is also desirable to take into account the increase in size that occurs in the paper when wet.

I summarize, without going into much depth, some methods of printing in color. They can be used singly or in combination:


Already described. It is considered the most versatile system and produces more complete results. We must bear in mind during the design registration (defining silhouette) and during printing, either in one session or multiple sessions. It is used in all printing processes.


The different colored areas must be separated geographically, proceeding to inking each part separately with small rolls. In the modern woodcut was Munch who devised the wood split into zones (colored), cropped and then assembled like a puzzle. It is primarily used in embossing.


In the case of stamping hole will follow the procedure of stud or poupée. With this method, different colors are placed on the same plate, inking and progressively with tarlatan limpliando respecting the limits beginning and then fading slightly. It was conceived in the late seventeenth century by Johannes Teyler.


Picasso was first the drawbacks of a record set, who devised this method in which the colors produced and stamped successively on a single plate. It is necessary to clearly predict the outcome and establish a higher number of prints to the total issue, called reserve. As in the previous method, it is advisable to start with the lighter color. Used specially for embossing, has limitations because the iron is lost in the very process of development and required to have extensive experience in color combination.


Templates is to place to protect the areas not wish them to appear. These templates can be inked or not. It is also understood under this name, the addition of different cut and inked surfaces (eg acetate) that are placed on the face plate to the paper when printed.


This method will use it primarily on the linoleum printing. Consists of mixing two colors (minimum) on the same array, eliminating part of the first and having a quick roll with the second color to adhere to the clear. Staff very striking.


For matrices chalcographic. First the plate is inked by the procedure in hole, then by the procedure in relief. Where appropriate, we recommend cleaning the surface with white from Spain and have a sufficient diameter roller to ink the entire surface of a single revolution. The method is based on Hayter and advised that the hollow ink is more viscous than the relief.


Also known as Chinese applique, comes to be translated as tissue paper glued. It is a very colorful and easy to use that deposit in tissue paper color on the surface of the inked plate, applying glue on the back spray. By affixing the tissue paper will be attached to the stamp with ink on its surface, appear the color of the silk in vain. Can be used with any etching technique.


It will have several colors on a roll, adjusting the pattern of drawing, which become fused as they make successive pass of the glass. Its origin seems to be nineteenth-century. Works great as a supplement since it is somewhat artificial as the only method.


W. S. Hayter's Atelier 17 in his groundbreaking (founded in Paris in 1933) developed in half of last century a procedure already widespread among all recorders with which various colors are achieved in a single plate. It is based on the rejection occurred between two inks of different viscosity, in the realization of different levels in the iron and the use of rollers of different hardness.


Walter Ziegler procedure developed by the early twentieth century and updated by Concepción Sáez poplar (M. Concepción Sáez del Alamo, a color etching by zieglerografía, Bilbao, Caja de Ahorros Vizcaína, 1989). It consists of making multiple plates and stamp it with soft glaze in different colors superimposed.


.Maria del Mar Bernal (professor of engraving at the School of Fine Arts, University of Seville).



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