Printmaking 101: Introduction to Paper

Printmakers face an important decision when it comes to what paper to use for their print.  Usually, when in the art store, the type of paper will be labeled with what it’s meant for, such as “Watercolor” “Charcoal” and of course, “Printmaking.” However there are also kinds that can be used for any of these purposes. There’s nothing wrong with using multi-purpose papers as long as it holds ink without rippling. Generally, the thicker it is increases its ability to not be affected by the moisture of the given medium. Here are some popular brands among printmakers:

Arches 88-a great general paper for silkscreens.

Copperplate-made especially for intaglio, it has no sizing and therefore soaks immediately when being prepared in a water bath before it is run through the press.

Cover (particularly Arches cover)—a heavy-weight paper that comes in a variety of shades which is great for lithography, intaglio, silkscreen, and collograph.

Rives Lightweight– perfect for lithography, intaglio, screen printing, relief printing, linocut, and collograph.

Stonehenge– intended for a variety of printmaking techniques including etching and silkscreen.

These papers come in a variety of textures and shades, which can make a difference in affecting the mood of your piece. For example a warmer tone of white may look better with a summer landscape, while a cooler-toned white may enhance the wintry feeling of a snowy landscape. Also, the smoother the paper, the more crisp and precise the image will look in comparison to printing on a rough-grained paper. Finally, as we have mentioned before, paper intended for printmaking (such as the ones above) should be acid-free. The natural acids that occur in the wood pulp used in copy paper or newsprint break down eventually causing the paper to yellow and deteriorate, but getting acid-free paper will ensure your piece lasts longer!

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