Printmakers and Printmaking

A group to showcase traditional forms of hand printmaking from Etching to Linocut, from Silkscreen to Collagraph.

Is Digital printmaking really printmaking?

Marion Chapman Marion Chapman 304 posts

Anybody have a strong opinion on this?
I have to write an essay on whether digital printmaking is really printmaking? Should digital prints be included in printmaking competitions? Do digital prints require as much skill as traditional prints?
All and any opinions more than welcome, in fact, i am desperate.

Tama Blough Tama Blough 689 posts

I would need a better definition of “digital print”, I think. To me a digital print is a printout of digital media, which can be anything from a snapshot to a full-blown software-created artwork.

We have to create digital files of our artwork to upload here, but I wouldn’t sell a print created from that digital file as a “print”. It would be a digitally created copy of my artwork, and I would not sign or number it as a print. No matter how many of my prints I create in an edition I still think of them as original works, whereas I wouldn’t think of a digital print of one of my prints as an original. Now, how many times can I say “print” in one paragraph? lol

Now, a work created entirely in the computer and then printed is a digital print – there are no other ways to obtain the image. It is a print of computer-generated art, not “printmaking”. The original image was not created by hand on paper using various plates or screens or whatever in a traditional printmaking process.

There are extraordinarily talented folks who create their art entirely in the computer, so I don’t think talent is an issue. I don’t think of them as printmakers, though.

My two cents.

Marilyn Brown Marilyn Brown 4336 posts

Nicely put Tama. What you say really makes sense to me. Their are those out there, the prestigious ‘Sydney Printmakers’ for one who are beginning to allow digitally created prints into their collective.
To me Printmaking is all about creating a plate, not about rearranging pixels. You are definitely right about the talent issue, it’s not about that at all.

Creating a digital print is a whole different process. If I may use a metaphor its like the difference between two different makes of car, equal in everything except one is a Porsche and one is a Ferrari.
I know which I would prefer to drive!

The other scary thing about the ‘digital’ print is that by catergorizing them together with plate/screen prints it dilutes the ethos of a century old hand crafted practice. Now I’m all for experimenting with printmaking but lets just keep the apples and oranges in different bowls.

brettus brettus 22 posts

Yep, I’d agree with everything written above. I do a lot of digital stuff away from my printmaking practice and there is no way I would consider it to be printmaking.

I think digital work can only be considered “printmaking” when it is used in combination with traditional practices. For example, if a digital print is subsequently printed over with a combination of intaglio and/or wood/lino blocks in various combos of colours, transparencies, whatever, then I think it has a legitimate claim to be “printmaking”.

The head of printmaking at my uni (UTAS Schoolof Art) is a master of the hybrid digital/traditional print. He calls them digital woodblocks. You should check out his work and see what you think – Milan Milojevic. He is certainly well respected and known in the printmaking world, and has pioneered a lot of the digital/traditional practices.

Hope this helps. Cheers, Brett.

Alexandra Felgate Alexandra Felgate 77 posts

I would agree that it really depends on the definition of Digital Printmaking!! In my own, limited understanding, digital prints are REPRODUCTIONS, not PRINTS.
To me, Printmaking is something created from an etchingplate/lino/screenprint/card print/collograph/lithograph etc. Something that you create (physically, not digitally) and then print onto paper in a traditional method.
Digital prints (eg Giclee) to me are just a reproduction of something from a computer, whether it be a photograph, digital painting or from a photo of an original/traditional piece of artwork. But if I take a photo of one of my linocuts, then digitally print it, to me this is no longer printmaking in anay real or traditional sense, it is a reproduction of an original artwork. I think there is a huge misunderstanding of what a “print” actually is, even sites like RB mis-use the term print to mean reproduction!!
Not sure if this helps you at all Marion, but its certainly my view!

Marilyn Brown Marilyn Brown 4336 posts

#Do digital prints require as much skill as traditional prints?

Yes but it is a totally different skill to that of making a plate or screen. The printing process, well there in lies the difference.
It takes skill and practice in knowing how to successfully ink up or screed a print and place it through a press. Even hand printing is a lot more involved. Though I know a digital printmaker and he believes the skill involved in digital printing lies in how good your printer is and how well you can calibrate it.

Marita McVeigh Marita McVeigh 25 posts

Hi Marion,

Thanks for asking for my comments here. I believe that the 2 should be in separate categories. They are definetly different ways of making art. I have done both. Both reguire artistic skills but are different in the way they are made. I myself think that the computer digital art is harder to do because you really have to know how to use the computer. But I believe the computer is a medium, just like oil paints or watercolors etc. . I love doing all types of art but some things are just different than the other, I don’t believe that one means you have more artistic skills than the other. It is just the medium that the artist chooses to express themselves.

Whirligig Whirligig 117 posts

Traditional printmaking is the process of creating an image on one surface or finding a textured surface and transferring it to another tactile surface by means of a press, rubbing, applying physical pressure, rolling ink onto or across the surface, etc. – it encompasses a physical/tactile/mental involvement of some sort in the final printing process, vastly different from a computer to printer process. Hence printmaking or print making – the physical/manual process of manipulating tactile surfaces or finding them and physically transferring them to another surface.

Instructing a computer to send information to a printer is not printmaking, it is simply keying instructions to print what is on the computer screen – that could be a letter, digital artwork, an accounting spreadsheet, but it is NOT printmaking. In printmaking the final printing procedure is an integral part of the creative process, as creative as that first decision that led to the creation of the image being printed.

I must make it clear, as Tama does, that this does not undermine digital art in any way. Digital art is unique and wonderful in it’s own right. Digital art involves complex intellectual creative processes (as do most creative processes), and it requires sound technical knowledge of the software used. But digital art is completely different from printmaking. For one thing, you won’t find a digital artist surrounded by tubs of printing inks and inking-up surfaces for rolling out their inks, and you won’t find a digital artist wearing gloves or an apron to protect themselves during the printmaking process, or ending up with ink stained hands if they don’t wear gloves. The print of a digitally created work of art is a digital print .

That is the difference – the applications involved in creating the images and then the final printing process.

However, if a printmaking image is transferred to computer and then worked into via digital means and printed off on a computer printer, that is also a digital print. The process involves both printmaking and digital art, and should clearly be stipulated as such. Because the original image was created and printed via printmaking procedures, it still qualifies as a printmaking image. The computer printout will be a print, or copy of that printmaking image. A print is anything that is printed, but everything that is printed is not printmaking in the context of printmaking as a form of creative expression. In printmaking we stipulate that we are making original prints, each print is unique. Digital prints can have limited editions, but they are not each of them unique as printmaking prints can be, simply because each printmaking image requires individual attention in the printing process, whereas electronic images are cloned and printed identically. Once the image is stored electronically and programmed to print, it can be stored electronically forever and continue to print perfectly each time a button is pressed,and there is no further decision making or intellectual input into the printing process, other than the sort of surface it will be printed onto. Printmaking continues to demand a high level of involvement for each and every print, right through to the very last print that is produced. And because of this, each print is an original, with subtle variation in each.

Printmaking is a recognised creative form in it’s own special right, just as is painting, drawing, sculpting, digital art, film-making, etc. Obviously they can all be combined. It is the final, overall effect that is important, and the method we label it by will largely be determined by how much one method dominates the total outcome. But a work of art that only involves the application of paint, is a painting, artwork created on a computer is digital art, and artwork creating by transferring from one tactile/physical surface (other than a computer screen) to another, with physical involvement in the printing process, is printmaking.

darkestartist darkestartist 244 posts

Hi, Marion (and other printmakers)

I agree with what is being said here. I consider printmaking a fine art, a TRADITIONAL fine art, not a digital one. That said, I’m off to frame a LINO PRINT for a show in 2 weeks :) I will also admit that I am a big proponent for the traditional fine arts and I worry sometimes that we (fine artists) are a minority in the ever-increasing digital world.

artbymariodonk artbymariodonk 8 posts

Hi Marion
Its a little tricky to answer and I am not sure there is an answer but first. I would say that digital art is never as hard as traditional. Traditional does not offer you an undo, your on a tight rope, if you fall you fall for real. In digital art nothing is real or lets put it this way, virtually nothing matters except a computer crash, apart from that there is entirely no risk and as a result very little excitement in creating it.

Thats not to say that you can not make incredible works in it but I find the hardest part when working in digital is the passion, it is just not there and how can it be if every move is undo able.

Some of us use photography ether to be used on an etching plate or a photosensitive screen print, but they are usually worked into by hand and inked and printed by hand.

Computer print out is not printmaking in my opinion regardless of what the image is. The computer imitates looks, it does not create an oil painting or watercolor, it applies filters to give the various imitations. If you create a scraper board effect on computer or an oil painting there is entirely no difference in the creation. There is no feed back from the computer other then visual. If we cut a lino block it has a particular resistance to the knife, if we cut a wool cut the resistance to the knife is greater, there is feed back, our image develops because we as artist make the decision that for this idea a lino cut would be preferable over a woodcut because perhaps it has a lot of delicate flowing lines. Or we pick the wood cut because the emotion is wild ruff, jagged.

On the other hand there is artistically no reason that I can see for using a computer to create a print or an oil painting as the feed back is always the same, one of the uncomfortable sweaty feel of a plastic wacom with a plastic nib.

So the purpose of choosing a particular media to develop your expression in entirely does not exist in the computer, it imitates for no good valid reason, it adds nothing to the creative process as there is no feed back and what there is is always the same.

But to but my rambling in black and white. No, art work whatever it is that is printed from a digital file is simply mass production printing just as the newspaper or a magazine is or a Giclee print from Redbbubble, it is not printmaking.

Marilyn Brown Marilyn Brown 4336 posts

Looks like everyone here is in agreement for the most part. You should maybe start this topic in the main redbubble forums and see what responses you get.
My guess is that most would not even understand the difference as, to many, prints are and will always be those pieces of paper that come out of a printer.

Belinda "BillyLee" NYE (Printmaker) Belinda "Billy... 88 posts

Wow, I was going to read what everyone had written first but than stopped myself because I have feelings about this and want to share them from the heart. I have books on digital printmaking and simply don’t like it , only because I can’t do it. I think if I could do it I would like to combine my traditional printmaking with digital and create something really special. HOWEVER, would I be happy to be in an art exhibition printmaking prize and have a digital print next to mine . The answer is NO. I would be most upset.

The reason I love printmaking is that its so primitive. Its about getting your hands and fingernails dirty, its about feeling the paper and peeling it back. Its about the smell of the ink. Its primitive and people who do it this way are the people I aspire to. Its original and one of the oldest art forms in the world. I think Digital printmaking should be called just that and Traditional printmaking should be left in a class of its own. Be honest with the veiwer and say exactly what it is.

Being a printmaker is hard work, it takes patience and diligence and passion. There is preparation time, working time and cleaning up time. Its real work. I know that Digital art takes time also but its not the same to me. So I believe they should both be classed in different catorgories.

In saying that I would love the opportunity to go to a class and be taught digital printmaking. BillyLee

Kerryn Madsen-Pietsch Kerryn Madsen-... 581 posts

Where is the term digital ‘printmaking’ being used? As a maker of both traditional prints and computer generated digital image prints I don’t recall coming across this term being used in my travels across the internet.

I only usually see, hear or use the term ‘digital print’, which in my understanding is implying an image that has been processed digitally through electronic technology ie. computer programmed equipment – camera/scanner/computer processor & software programs and then has been printed out by an electrical computer programmed printing equipment onto whatever choice of media the artist decides.

This year as Show art steward I made a separate category section for digital prints to acknowledge these two separate image process making areas. Here is the definition I came up with after much research:

DIGITAL ART PRINT – Inkjet/Giclee – Theme: Abstract. Compilation, assembly, collage, manipulation of imagery from various sources (eg. analogue art, digital photographs, scanned imagery, computer generated/software programs) all creatively combined together into a digitally processed composite, a new whole.

Hope this helps.

Addition (sorry I had to go attend to shop business)

For the ‘traditional’ print category award I worded as following:

OFFSET PRINT – Limited Edition – Artist method/s eg. Screen print, linoprint, etching, lithograph, and collograph. Mono-prints are not eligible. Open any subject.

(Offset – printing process using ink transfer – PRINTING a method of printing in which inked impressions are transferred onto paper from another surface.)

I have also seen Gallery people refine the later by simply calling them ‘handmade traditional prints’.
For our upcoming October Innisfail Biennial Art Exhibition – click here to download an entry form
For our Print Award section > Print – Hands-on/direct ink-plate contact application required.

There have been numerous debates, discussions I’ve followed on the issues raised at

You also have artists who purely create their imagery only from within a software program using painting/drawing etc tools and is purely Digital Art making, existing only within the intangible ‘electronic light’ medium until printed out through a print machine.

So I am always revising categories/definitions to make sure it suitably fits current practice and best understanding.

Alateia Alateia 795 posts

Hey Marion,

as much as i would like to pitch in, i would rather decline, (thanks all the same for the invitation) it is not my field of expertise.
My knowledge base rests more towards colour, tone, texture of the final product, the hows and whys is something i leave to the technicians. However I prefer offset for limited edition fine art and would never consider digital for this. I guess what i am saying is that depending on the effect i want to arrive at for the exhibitions i manage, determines the type of printing i would prefer and this is always discussed with the artist/ author.

all the best in your persuits marion


Sorry I didnt comment on this before but family life is hectic at the moment – got 2 family members in hospital.

Digital printing and print making are so different that I think they should be in totaly different groups. The techniques are so different that it would be difficult to compare them for say a feature or a challenge. Unless you had a group for both but had different challenges using certain techniques, say etching, silkscreen printing, linocuts, digital printing would most certainly have to have a different challenge to say linocuts or woodcuts. This is only my opinion of course….anna

Marion Chapman Marion Chapman 304 posts

I’m starting to wonder if the term ‘digital printmaking’ may be an Americanism. Articles i’ve found using the term ‘Digital Printmaking’ have all been American. The British seem to have ‘Digital Art’ in its own genre, and rightly so. Australians seem to be half way – they object to the term ‘Digital Printmaking’ but it seems to be in use here.
Anyone know any American Pritmakers or any British Printmakers so i can check out my theory?

Susan Grissom Susan Grissom 60 posts

here is something else on it

avalyn avalyn 65 posts

Hey Marion……………. this has been one of my self-questions, yet it seems to me that it is the eye that defines art and how the heart responds, so to be too analytical about the form maybe disturbs more than is necessary…………………. and in contrary to that is the thiught that hand-made plates can be trememdously exacting……..I suppose it’s only the idea that ‘art’ needs to be labour intensive rather than just an interaction with inspiration.
love all of it anyway
hugs to you,
avalyn XX

Seth  Weaver Seth Weaver 122 posts

I agree with Tama and Marilyn on this topic. Talent is not an issue at all. There are certain stages/steps that are required in printmaking and art in general, the computer has streamlined and deleted some of those steps. Technically every picture we sell on online artsites are digital prints and bear a slight similarity to the original. It’s like baking a cake and taking a picture of one. Yeah they both look like cakes…the real one will mold in a couple of weeks…the digital one looks good until the paper decomposes…but it doesn’t taste or smell like the original. There is a process that you must follow in printmaking to call a work a print!

Mellissa Read-Devine Mellissa Read-... 11 posts

Have been off the net for over a week! Wow what a great forum. I am not a digital artist – but I have manipulated photos of my paintings to become the basis for etchings – what would you call that? The problem is language – If only “printing” was a different word for – hand printing beautifully crafted etchings, linos, monotypes, collagraphs etc etc, and not the same for what billions of machines do for us every day churning out reproductions, computer printouts, flyers, etc etc. Ok we cant change the language – Selling hand pulled prints next to someone selling prints of reproductions is never a fun day.
Anyhow. Digital Printmaking should be called Digital Art – forget what that ink filled machine does in bringing it into the world. There is a great deal of skill in the hands of some of these Dig.Artists and I dont want to belittle it. It is not printmaking.

DreddArt DreddArt 740 posts

Going to pnder this before I fully reply BUT…
to me the special part of PrintMaking is not knowing how it will look until that paper is pealed away… the last colour added…the final bits cut away…
Serendipity is my favourite word…. and is part of what I love about Printmaking…. Working on an idea…producing initial proof …. discovering ‘lucky’ mistakes…. then using them and realising a different but overall more successful end result

bites bites 71 posts

hmmmm…… I keep the two separate in my mind, the whole taking a photo of a print turns it into a ‘reproduction’ anyway then altering it for me takes away its print qualitys, example here is a lino cut that I altered digitally
I would never submit it to this group as I don’t believe it is a print anymore, and I wouldn’t even bother explaining that it was a lino cut in the first place. But this is just how my brain works, I have never really come across any information on digital printmaking but the term makes sense straight away…
hope your essay has come to a conclusion Marion : ) I would be interested in reading it!

batterfang batterfang 1 post

hi guys, i see this is an old discussion but thought i would try and start it up again, many have made the point that something digitally created and printed is not printmaking. but i have been creating things digitally, transferring them to screens/wood via exposure and laser etching, and making prints from that. i am crafting digitally but printing manually….. is this still print making? does my lack of hand (until print process) matter? does it make it not make it print making. would love to hear your opinions and will upload some of my work to the group so it will illustrate my point. thanks

lalogica lalogica 1 post

Hello, I am new to printmaking so thanks everyone for this amazing discussion! I now understand the difference between prints (printmaking) and reproductions (digital printer). @batterrang your question is tricky.

My assumption is:
If you are getting your hands dirty and actually using a physical printmaking process (whether the original image is created on digital or in brain) this is printmaking. But if you skip the physical printmaking part. Then it’s not. If you skip part of the process but end in printmaking…it’s still printmaking. Cause you are making prints. However – photographs as printmaking prints aren’t considered printmaking are they? So perhaps it does matter where the original image comes from?


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