art glossary & print terminology

A

ABSORBENT GROUND
A chalk ground which absorbs oil and is used in oil painting to achieve a matt effect and to speed up drying.

ACRYLIC EMULSION
A water dispersion of polymers or co-polymers of acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, or acrylonitrile. Acrylic emulsions dry by evaporation of the water and film coalescence.

ACRYLIC SOLUTION
A solution of acrylic resin in a volatile solvent. Paints made with an acrylic solution binder resemble oil paints more than those made with acrylic emulsion binders.

ADDITIVE COLOUR
Colour that results from the mixture of two or more colored lights, the visual blending of separate spots of transmitted colored light.

ALKYD
Synthetic resin used in paints and mediums. As a medium Liquin from Winsor and Newton works as a binder that encapsulates the pigment and speeds the drying time. In Paints W&N Griffith paints are good example of alkyd paints.

ALLA PRIMA
Technique in which the final surface of a painting is completed in one sitting, without under painting. Italian for "at the first".

ANHYDROUS
Free from water.

ARCHIVAL
Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.

B

BINDER
The nonvolatile adhesive liquid portion of a paint that attaches pigment particles and the paint film as a whole to the support.

BISTRE
A brown, transparent pigment.

BLEEDING
In artwork, the effect of a dark color seeping through a lighter color to the surface.

BLENDING
Smoothing the edges of two colors together so that they have a smooth gradation where they meet.

BLOOM
A dull, progressively opaque, white effect caused on varnished surfaces by damp conditions.

BODY COLOUR
Opaque paint, such as gouache, which has the covering power to obliterate underlying color.

BRUSHWORK
The characteristic way each artist brushes paint onto a support..

C

CANVAS
Closely woven cloth used as a support for paintings.

CARTOON
Other than what we watch on TV it is a planning device in mural painting, often a full-scale line drawing of the design, without color and tone.

CASEIN
A natural protein obtained from cow's milk. Produces a flat, water-resistant film.

CHIAROSCURO
Term is used to describe the effect of light and shade in a painting or drawing, especially where strong tonal contrasts are used.

CROSSHATCHING
More than one set of close parallel lines that crisscross each other at angles, to model and indicate tone.

CHROMA
The relative intensity or purity of a hue when compared to grayness or lack of hue.

COCKLING
Wrinkling or puckering in paper supports, caused by applying washes onto a flimsy or improperly stretched surface.

COLLAGE
A technique of picture making in which the artist uses materials other than the traditional paint, such as cut paper, wood, sand, and so on.

COMPOSITION
The arrangement of elements by an artist in a painting or drawing.

CO-POLYMERS
A polymer in which the molecule is of more than one type of structural unit.

COPAL
A hard resin used in making varnishes and painting mediums.

D

DAMAR
A resin from conifer trees, used in making oil mediums and varnishes.

DEAD COLOUR
A term for colors used in underpainting.

DECKLE EDGE
The ragged edge found on handmade papers.

DECOUPAGE
The act of cutting out paper designs and applying them to a surface to make an all over collage.

DESIGNER COLOURS
Best quality Gouache paints, often used in commercial art.

DILUENTS
Liquids, such as turpentine, used to dilute oil paint, the diluent for waterbased media is water.

DISPERSION
Applied to paint, a smooth, homogeneous mixture of ingredients; the process of dispersal, in which pigment particles are evenly distributed throughout the vehicle.

DISTEMPER
A blend of glue, chalk and water-based paint, used mostly for murals and posters.

DRIER
A material that accelerates or initiates the drying of an oil paint or oil by promoting oxidation.

DRYING OIL
An oil that, when spread into a thin layer and exposed to air, absorbs oxygen and converts into a tough film.

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E

EMULSION
A liquid in which small droplets of one liquid are immiscible in, but thoroughly and evenly dispersed throughout, a second liquid. eg. Acrylic Emulsion

ENCAUSTIC
Literally, to burn in. A painting technique in which the binder is melted wax.

F

FAT
A term used to describe paints which have a high oil content.

FILLER
Inert pigment added to paint to increase its bulk, also called extender.

FILM
A thin coating or layer of paint, ink, etc.

FIXATIVE
A solution, usually of shellac and alcohol, sprayed onto drawings, to prevent their smudging or crumbling off the support.

FRESCO
A painting technique in which the pigments are dispersed in plain water and applied to a damp plaster wall. The wall becomes the binder, as well as the support.

FUGITIVE COLOURS
Pigment or dye colors that fade when exposed to light.

G

GESSO
A white ground material for preparing rigid supports for painting. made of a mixture of chalk, white pigment, and glue. Same name applied to acrylic bound chalk and pigment used on flexible supports as well as rigid.

GLAZE
A very thin, transparent colored paint applied over a previously painted surface to alter the appearance and color of the surface.

GOUACHE
Opaque watercolors used for illustrations.

GRISSAILLE
A monochromatic painting, usually in gray, which can be used under colored glazes.

GROUND
Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to make it ready for painting.

GUM
A plant substance that is soluble in water.

GUM ARABIC
A gum, extracted fro Acacia trees, used in solution as a medium for watercolor paints.

H

HATCHING
A technique of modeling, indicating tone and suggesting light and shade in drawing or tempera panting, using closely set parallel line.

HUE
The perceived color of an object, identified by a common name such as red, orange, blue.

HYGROSCOPIC
Absorbing or attracting moisture from the air.

I

IMPASTO
A style of painting characterized by thick, juicy color application.

IMPRIMATURA
A thin, veil of paint, or paint-tinted size, applied to a ground to lessen the ground's absorbency or to tint the ground to a middle value.

INTENSITY
The purity and brightness of a color. Also called saturation.

J

K

KEY
Used to describe the prevailing tone of a painting. A predominantly light painting is said to have a high key. In contemporary mural painting, the key is the result of scratching a walls surface to prepare for final layer of plaster - similar to "tooth"

L

LAKE
A dye that has been chemically or electrically attached to a particle and does not bleed or migrate.

LATEX
A dispersion in water of a solid polymeric material.

LEACHING
The process of drawing out excess liquid through a porous substance.

LEAN
Used as an adjective to describe paint thinned with a spirit, which therefore has a low oil content.

LEVIGATING
A method of water-washing pulverized pigments to clear the particles of dissolved salts or organic matter.

LIGHTFAST
Resistant to fading or other changes due to light.

LOCAL COLOUR
The actual color of an object or surface, unaffected by shadow coloring, light quality or other factors.

LOOM STATE
Canvas that has not been primed, sized or otherwise prepared beforehand for painting.

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M

MATIERE
Paint.

MAROUFLAGE
A technique for attaching, with glue, mural size painting on paper or fabric to a wall.

MASSTONE
The top tone or body color of a paint seen only by reflected light.

MAT
A stiff cardboard with a window cut out of the center, attached to a backboard.

MATTE
Flat, nonglossy; having a dull surface appearance. Variant spelling - matt.

MEDIUM
The liquid in which pigments are suspended. Also a material chosen by the artist for working. Plural is media.

MIGRATION
The action of a pigment or dye moving through a dried film above or below it.

MIXED MEDIA
In drawing and painting this refers to the use of different media in the same picture.

MONOMER
A material with low molecular weight that can react with similar or dissimilar materials to form a polymer.

MOSAIC
Picture making technique using small units of variously colored materials (glass, tile, stone) set in a mortar.

MURAL
Also referred to as wall painting. this word describes any painting made directly on the wall.

MUSEUM BOARD
Multi ply board made of cotton rags or buffered cellulose to ensure chemical stability and neutrality.

N

O

P

PALETTE
The surface which a painter will mix his colors. Also the range of colors used by an artist.

PATINA
Originally the green brown encrustation on bronze, this now includes the natural effects of age or exposure on a surface.

PENTIMENTO
A condition of old paintings where lead-containing pigments have become more transparent over time, revealing earlier layers.

PIGMENTS
Particles with inherent color that can be mixed with adhesive binders to form paint.

PLASTICISER
Ingredients added to paint to either make it flow or be easily redissolved.

PLEIN AIR
French for "open air". Term describing paintings done outside directly from the subject.

POLYMER
A series of monomers strung together in a repeating chainlike form. 

PRECIPITATE
An inert particle to which dyes can be laked.

PRESERVATIVE
A material that prevents or inhibits the growth of microorganisms in organic mixtures.

PRIMER
Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to prepare it for painting.

PVA
Polyvinyl acetate, a manmade resin used as a paint medium and in varnish.

Q

R

REFRACTION
The bending of light from one course in one medium to a different course through another medium of different refractive index.

REFRACTIVE INDEX
The numerical ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to its speed in a substance.

RESINS
A general term for a wide variety of more or less transparent, fusible materials. The term is used to designate any polymer that is a basic material for paints and plastics.

S

SANQUINE
A red-brown chalk.

SAPONIFICATION
The process in which a paint binder, under moist and alkaline conditions, becomes transparent or discoloured.

SCUMBLING
The technique of applying a thin, semi-opaque or translucent coating of paint over a previously painted surface to alter the color or appearance of the surface without totally obscuring it.

SECCO
Italian for "dry". A technique of wall-painting onto dry plaster, or lime plaster that is dampened shortly before paint is applied

SFUMATO
Italian for "shaded off". Gradual, almost imperceptible transitions of color from light to dark.

SGRAFFITO
Technique in which the surface layer is incised or cut away to reveal a contrasting colour.

SHADE
Term for a color darkened with black.

SHELLAC
A yellow resin formed from secretions of the LAC insect, used in making varnish.

SILICATE
Material, such as sand, that is composed of a metal, oxygen, and silicon.

SILVERPOINT
A drawing method using a piece of metal, usually silver wire, drawn on a ground prepared with Chinese white, sometimes with pigment added.

SINOPIA
A red-brown chalk used for marking-out frescoes; also the preliminary drawing itself.

SIZE
Material applied to a surface as a penetrating sealer, to alter or lessen its absorbency and isolate it from subsequent coatings.

SKETCH
A preliminary drawing of a composition.

SQUARING UP
A method for transferring an image to a larger or smaller format.

STRAINER
A wooden chassis for textile supports that has rigid, immovable corners.

STRETCHER
A wooden chassis for textile supports that has expandable corners.

SUBTRACTIVE COLOUR
Colour resulting from the absorption of light.

STUDY
A detailed drawing or painting made of one or more parts of a final composition, but not the whole work.

SUPPORT
The basic substrata of the painting; paper, cotton, linen, wall, etc..

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T

TEMPERA
Technique of painting in which water and egg yolk or whole egg and oil mixture form the binder for the paint. Used also as a term for cheap opaque paints used in schools.

THIXOTROPIC
Referring to materials that are thick and viscous while at rest but will flow if brushed, stirred, or shaken. Resumes its viscous state when the agitation stops.

TINT
Term for a color lightened with white. Also, in a mixture of colors, the tint is the dominant colour.

TONER
An unlaked dye that can bleed or migrate through dried paint films.

TOOTH
Small grained but even texture. Tooth provides for the attachment of succeeding layers of paint.

TRACTION
In oils, the movement of one paint layer over another.

TRAGACANTH
A gum , extracted from certain Astragalus plants, used as a binding agent in watercolor paints and pastels.

TROMPE L'OEIL
French for "deceive the eye". A painting with extreme naturalistic details, aiming to persuade the viewer that they are looking at an actual object, not a representation.

U

UNDERPAINTING
The traditional stage in oil painting of using a monochrome or dead color as a base for composition. Also known as laying in.

V

VALUE
The relative lightness or darkness of a hue. Black is low value. White is a high value.

VARNISH
Generally, a more or less transparent film-forming liquid that dries into a solid film.

VEDUTA
Italian for "view". An accurate representation of an urban landscape.

VEHICLE
The entire liquid contents of a paint.

VENICE TURPENTINE
An oleo resin - the semisolid mixture of a resin and an essential oil - derived from the larch and used primarily in making mediums and diluents for oil painting.

VERDACCIO
Old term for green underpainting.

VOLATILE
Evaporating rapidly or easily.

VOLUME
The space that a object or figure fills in a drawing or painting.

W

WASH
A thin, usually broadly applied, layer of transparent or heavily diluted paint or ink.

WATERCOLOUR
A technique of painting using a binder made from a water-soluble gum. Watercolors can be transparent or opaque.

WATER TENSION BREAKER
Substance added to water or to water-based paints in order to reduce surface tension. eg. Ox Gall.

WAX PAINTING
See Encaustic

WAX RESIST
The use of a waxy medium to make a design over which a colored wash is spread.

WET ON WET
The application of fresh paint over an area on which the paint is still wet.

WETTING AGENT
See Water Tension Breaker.

WHITE SPIRITS
A thinner used with oil paints replacing Turpentine.

WHITING
Chalk which is purified, ground with water and dried to form an inert pigment.

X

XYLOGRAPHY
Rarely used term for woodblock printing. Also the mechanical reproduction of wood grain for decorative purposes.

Y

YELLOWING
This effect on oil paintings is usually caused by one of three reasons: excessive use of linseed oil medium; applying any of the varnishes that are prone to yellow with age; or most often - an accumulation of dirt embedded into the varnish.

Z

ZOOMORPHIC
Describes the forms of works of art and ornaments based on animal shapes.

 

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COMMON ART PRINT TERMS

Acid-free Paper or Canvas - Paper or canvas treated to neutralize it's natural acidity in order to protect fine art and photographic prints from discoloration and deterioration.

Canvas Transfer - Art reproduction on canvas which is created by a process such as serigraphy, photomechanical or giclée printing. Some processes can even recreate the texture, brush strokes and aged appearance of the original work.

Color-variant Suite - A set of identical prints in different color schemes.

Impression - Fine art made by any printing stamping process

Limited Edition - Set of identical prints numbered in succession and signed by the artist. The total number of prints if fixed or "limited" by the artist who supervises the printing. All additional prints have been destroyed.

Monoprint - One-of-a-kind print conceived by the artist and printed by or under the artist's supervision.

Montage (Collage) - An artwork comprising of portions of various existing images such as from photographs or prints and arranged so that they join, overlap or blend to create a new image.

Multiple Originals - A set of identical fine prints in which the artist personally conceived the image, created the master plates and executed or supervised the entire printing process. Example: etching.

Multiple Reproductions - A set of identical fine prints reproducing the image of an original artwork created by a non-printing process. Example: serigraph of an oil on canvas.

Open Edition - A series of prints or objects in an art edition that has an unlimited number of copies.

Original Print - One-of-a-kind print in which the artist personally conceived the image, created the master plates and executed the entire printing process.

Provenance - Record of ownership for a work of art, ideally from the time it left the artist's studio to it's present location, thus creating an unbroken ownership history.

Remarque - Small sketch in the margin of an art print or additional enhancements by the artist on some or all of the final prints within an edition.

Restrike - Additional prints made from a master plate, block, lithograph stone, etc. after the original edition has been exhausted.

 

PRINTMAKING PROCESSES

Intaglio - The process of incising a design beneath the surface of a metal or stone. Plates are inked only in the etched depressions on the plates and then the plate surface is wiped clean. The ink is then transferred onto the paper through an etching press. The reverse of this process is known as relief printing.

Planographic - The process to print impressions from a smooth surface rather than creating incised or relief areas on the plate. The term was devised to describe lithography.

Relief - All printing processes in which the non-printing areas of the block or plate are carved, engraved or etched away. Inks are applied onto the projected surface and transferred onto the paper. The reverse process is known as intaglio printing.

 

PRINTMAKING TECHINIQUES

Aquatint - Printing technique capable of producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolor drawings by etching microscopic cracks and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper or zinc. Spanish artist Goya used this technique.

Blind - Printing using an uninked plate to produce the subtle embossed texture of a white-on-white image, highlighted by the shadow of the relief image on the uninked paper. This technique is used in many Japanese prints.

Collograph - Printing technique in which proofs are pulled from a block on which the artwork or design is built up like a collage, creating relief.

Drypoint - Printing technique of intaglio engraving in which a hard, steel needle incises lines on a metal plate, creating a burr that yields a characteristically soft and velvety line in the final print.

Engraving - Printing technique in which an intaglio image is produced by cutting a metal plate or box directly with a sharp engraving tool. The incised lines are inked and printed with heavy pressure.

Etching - Printing technique in which a metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant material, then worked with an etching needle to create an intaglio image. The exposed metal is eaten away in an acid bath, creating depressed lines that are later inked for printing.

Iris or Giclée - A computerized reproduction technique in which the image and topography are generated from a digital file and printed by a special ink jet printer, using ink, acrylic or oil paints. Giclée printing offers one of the highest degree of accuracy and richness of color available in any reproduction techniques.

Lithography - Printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that ink sticks only to the design areas and is repelled by the non-image areas. Lithography was invented in 1798 in Germany by Alois Senefelder.

Mezzotint - (mezzo = half + tinta = tone), a reverse engraving process used on a copper or steel plate to produce illustrations in relief with effects of light and shadow. The surface of a master plate is roughened with a tool called a rocker so that if inked, it will print solid black. The areas to be white or gray in the print are rubbed down so as not to take ink. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries to reproduce portraits and other paintings, but became obsolete with the introduction of photo-engraving.

Monotype - One-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet of metal or glass and transferring the still-wet painting onto a sheet of paper by hand or with an etching press. If enough paint remains on the master plate, additional prints can be made, however, the reprint will have substantial variations from the original image. Monotype printing is not a multiple-replica process since each print is unique.

Offset Lithography - A special photo-mechanical technique in which the image to be printed is transferred to the negative plates and printed onto paper. Offset lithography is very well adapted to color printing.

Serigraphy (Silk-screen) - A printing technique that makes use of a squeegee to force ink directly onto a piece of paper or canvas through a stencil creating an image on a screen of silk or other fine fabric with an impermeable substance. Serigraphy differs from most other printing in that its color areas are paint films rather than printing ink stains.

Woodcut - Printing technique in which the printing surface has been carved from a block of wood. The traditional wood block is seasoned hardwood such as apple, beech or sycamore. Woodcut is one of the oldest forms of printing dating back to the 12th century.

 

Print Proof Types

Proofs are prints authorized by the artist in addition to the limited signed and numbered edition. The total size of an art edition consists of the signed and numbered prints plus all outstanding proofs. If a set of proofs consists of more than one print, numbers are inscribed to indicate the number of the prints within the total number of the particular type of proof, (e.g., AP 5/20 means the fifth print in a set of twenty identical prints authorized as artist proofs). Proofs are generally signed by the artist as validation of the prints.

ARTIST'S PROOF - Print intended for the artist's personal use. It is common practice to reserve approximately ten percent of an edition as artist's proofs, although this figure can be higher. The artist's proof is sometimes referred to by it's French épreuve d'artist (abbreviation E.A.). Artist's proofs can be distinguished by the abbreviation AP or E.A., commonly on the lower left of the work.

Cancellation Proof - Final print made once an edition series has been finished to show that the plate has been marred/mutilated by the artist, and will never be used again to make more prints of the edition.

Hors d'Commerce Proof - Print identical to the edition print intended to be used as samples to show to dealers and galleries. Hors d'Commerce (abbreviated to H.C.) proofs may or may not be signed by the artist.

Printer's Proof - Print retained by the printer as a reference. Artists often sign these prints as a gesture of appreciation.

Trial Proof - Pre-cursor to a limited edition series, these initial prints are pulled so that the artist may examine, refine and perfect the prints to the desired final state. Trial proofs are generally not signed.

 

Abbreviations Used in Art

2nd ed - Second edition: prints of the same image as the original edition but altered in some way (as in change of color, paper or printing process).

2nd st - Second state: prints of proofs which contain significant changes from the original print.

AP - Artist's Proof (see definition)

Del - (Latin, delineavit) He (she) drew it. Generally inscribed next to the artist's signature.

E.A. - (French, épreuve d'artist) An artist's proof (see definition)

Exc or Imp - (Latin, excudit) He(she) executed it. The meaning is synonymous with (Latin, impressit) he(she) printed it.

HC - (French, Hors d'Commerce) Prints from an edition intended to be used as samples to show to dealers and galleries.

Inc. or Sculp - (Latin, incidit) He(she) cut it. The meaning is synonymous with (Latin, impressit) he(she) carved it. These abbreviations refer to the individuals who engraved the master plate.

Inv. or Invent - (Latin, invenit) He(she) designed it. Generally inscribed next to the artist's signature.

Lith. or Litho - "Lithographed By". Usually follows the name of the printer of the lithograph.

Pinx. - (Latin, pinxit) He(she) painted it. Generally inscribed next to the artist's signature.

PP - Printer's proof (see definition)

TP - Trial proof (see definition)

 

Sources: www.progressiveart.comwww.rexart.com

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