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Glossary of terms

Reduction woodcut

Using this method of relief printing, the ink is rolled and/or painted onto the surface of a piece of wood. The surface of the block is cut away or reduced between each layer.

This produces rich, layered, painterly prints. It is a complex process as each colour is printed in succession from the same wood block, pieces of a block are cut up into areas and inked in different sections, reassembled and passed through the press. The whole edition has to be printed at one time because the plate will change after every colour, this results in editions variable.

As an example The Sociable Time, below, illustrates where three sections of the image were jigsawed into separate pieces. The figures were carved away so the paper becomes a colour. Where the jigsaw blade removed a slither of the block the effect of a drawn line silhouetting sections of the image was created.

Family at the beach.


A print produced by the process of etching, uses a technique whereby a chemical action is used to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate. This is referred to as an intaglio technique. The incised plate is placed against dampened paper and passed through a printing press with great pressure to transfer the ink from the recessed lines forming the image.

There are many ways to create an etching which are often used in conjunction with each other. Tom often experiments with a combination of different methods.


Drypoint printmaking uses an intaglio technique, an image is incised or scratched into a plate with a sharp-pointed implement. The marks created hold the ink, when it is wiped off the plate, this sunken image in turn transfers to paper to create the printed image. This delicate method usually produces a small edition of prints. This method can be combined with other print methods too.


Another intaglio printmaking technique, it works like etching but only produces areas of tone rather than lines. It is often used in combination with other intaglio techniques.

A copper or zinc plate is prepared as an aquatint by covering it with a fine and even coat of powdered rosin and baking this powder onto the surface. The rosin hardens into tiny round particles evenly covering the plate. When the plate has cooled you dip the aquatinted plate into an acidic solution, nitric for zinc and ferric chloride for copper. The droplets of rosin protect the areas of the plate they sit on, and the acid eats into the unprotected areas of the plate between each droplet. Over time this creates an uneven surface a bit like fine sandpaper which at the end of this technique holds ink. The tonal range of the aquatinted plate can be further extended by paying attention to the length of time the plate lies in the acid. Until the acid eats away the rosin, by and large the longer the time submerged in the acid, the darker the tone that is created.


This type of printmaking involves drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface or matrix. As its name suggests produces a single unique print, colour and textures are added to create the image.

Spit bite

Spit bite is an etching which has a painterly quality and acts as an extension to the language of aquatint. The copper or zinc plate is prepared as an aquatint, by covering with a fine, even coat of powdered rosin and baking this powder on to the surface. The rosin hardens into round particles evenly covering the plate. Rather than dipping this prepared plate into an acidic solution, as with an aquatint, you paint on the plate with a watered down solution of acid mixed with gum arabic, or traditionally saliva. This solution "bites" into the exposed areas of metal around the rosin particles - hence the name "spit bite". Saliva was originally used because the consistency allows it to stick to the metal plate's surface. You can drip or splatter or paint the mixture onto the surface of the plate, producing washes of tone a bit like a sky full of clouds. The darkness of the marks produced depends on the concentration of acid in the mixture. These many variable make spit bite very hard to control. The effect of spit bite is often compared to watercolour.