4 Ways Digital Technology Is Used in Printmaking

Traditionally, most steps in the printmaking process have been manual. With the advent of digital technology, it has become possible to use modern equipment and software in various stages of printmaking. 

Digital technology is used in various stages of printmaking, from design to printing. Equipment like scanners and cameras is used to capture images. Image processing software like Photoshop is used to create designs. And digital printers are used to produce prints. 

In this article, I’ll expound on the various uses of digital equipment and software in printmaking. I’ll also assess the impact of digital technology on the printmaking process. In addition, I’ll discuss how digital printmaking differs from traditional printmaking. 

4 Ways Digital Technology Is Used in Printmaking

For Design

In traditional printmaking, artists make designs manuallyOpens in a new tab.. This is through processes like etching designs into the surface of a plate, for example, a wooden block. 

Today, artists can choose to go the traditional or digital way. 

The digital way of making printmaking designs involves using computers and other digital tools. For example, an artist can create printmaking designs with the help of image processing software like Photoshop

One of the main advantages of digital design tools is the fast processing of design elements. Artists can spend less time converting their vision into a work of art. 

Digital Technology Can Help Mimic Traditional Print Language

Traditionally, the design process was mechanical and required expertise in a specific technique. An example of traditional print language is the woodblock style. Traditionally, you’d have to work with natural wood to make a print template based on the woodblock style. 

VIDEO. Thanks to digital technology, you can achieve the same effect with a computer and image editing software, as shown in this YouTube video. WATCH – Create a Woodblock Print Style in PhotoshopOpens in a new tab.

John DickinsonOpens in a new tab.

Suppose you want to make prints reminiscent of Asian countries, where the woodblock print style originated. 

Instead of working with wood, you can use the following features in Photoshop to achieve a similar effect: 

  • Oil paint filter in Photoshop. You can customize the effect by changing details such as the cleanliness, bristle detail, and angular direction of light. 
  • Chalk and charcoal, located under the sketch category of the filter gallery in Photoshop. 
  • The photocopy effect in the filter gallery. 

It can take you less than ten minutes to achieve the woodblock style, provided you know which effects to apply and how to apply them. If you were doing it traditionally, you’d have to manually chip away on the surface of a wooden block, which would take hours or days. Digital technology helps save time. 

But it also has environmental benefits. Traditionally, you’d have to work with wood for every unique print. With computers, you don’t have to use wood, which reduces the impact of art and printmaking on the environment, making printmaking more sustainable. If you feel there is still so much to explore on prints preserving their materiality, you might want to read our thoughts on 6 Reasons Printmaking Is Considered an Art

Digital Technology Has Liberalized Art

Traditionally, the skills and craftsmanship required to manually make art were a significant barrier to the printmaking space. 

To be involved in printmaking, you had to have the requisite design skills. Additionally, you had to know how to work with your template of choice. For example, if you wanted to make your prints using lithography on stone, you had to have specific skills. 

Digital technology has made most of these barriers of entry insignificant. 

With a range of software, accessible even from mobile devices, a computer-literate user can turn into a designer. Anyone who knows their way around digital technology can express themselves through art and be involved in the printmaking process. 

For example, instead of having to learn lithography, all you have to do is know how to use a computer and a printer—which is already a basic competency in this age. 

For Image Capture 

The artist’s mind is the starting point of all art in the traditional printmaking process. Whether reproducing a real-life object or following a more creative approach, the design has to flow from the mind. 

Digital technology provides an alternative. 

If you want to make prints of a real-life object, you can obtain a highly accurate representationOpens in a new tab. using digital equipment like cameras and scanners

If you can’t access the object or don’t have the necessary equipment, you can search for the image on the internet. There’s a high chance you’ll find what you are looking for. 

You can use the image as it is or use software to alter it as you see fit, making the print design process significantly more robust. 

To Faithfully Reproduce Original Work

In art and printmaking, the uses of digital technology can be broadly classified into two categories. The first is creating original work, and the second group is copying original work. 

Digital technology, such as inkjet printing technology, is highly effective in copying original art. Digital engraving converts traditional engravings into digital images through a computer. The result can then be printed. 

The reproduction will be highly accurate. However even then, the digital representation might lose some of the propertiesOpens in a new tab. of traditional designs, such as imprints on engravings. 

For Printing

With modern printers, printing is efficient. Combining printers with other digital technology has made the whole process of printmaking easier. 

Additionally, in most scenarios, the results are better than traditional methods. 

For example, using digital technology in printmaking allows for vivid colors. With computers and the appropriate software, it is possible to produce a comprehensive combination of colors, giving artists more freedom. 

For the best results, it is necessary to use professional printers as opposed to conventional ones. 

It is also necessary to make certain adjustments, including: 

  • Changing the color mode in your design software to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key) to optimize for clarity. 
  • Adjusting the resolution to optimize for clarity and improve the color effect of the print. 

Final Words

The use of digital technology has revolutionized printmaking. Prints can now be made accurately and on a large scale. 

One example is tile manufacturing companies. A combination of computers, heavy-duty industrial inkjet printers, and conveyor belts makes it possible to print accurate designs on thousands of tiles every day. 

Such scale and efficiency are simply impossible with traditional printmaking. However, is this still art? This is a question that has been haunting academics recently. As Po-Hsien Lin mentions it in her article “A Dream of Digital Art: Beyond the Myth of Contemporary Computer Technology in Visual ArtsOpens in a new tab.” (2005) in Visual Art Research, we have to reconsider not only where this stands in the art world, but the new interpretation of the relationship between the artist and the viewer.

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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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