Misch Kohn explored a great variety of printmaking techniques, experimenting widely to develop innovations to better serve his art. Listed below are some of the techniques he has used.
In this process, all areas which the artist intends to remain white are cut away from the surface. The ink is applied to the remaining raised areas and is transferred onto paper via press or hand burnishing. There are three main variations of this process.
Woodcuts are cut into wooden blocks in which the surface of the wood runs parallel to the grain. As the resistance of the grain makes detail difficult to achieve, the technique is often used for bold, graphic designs.
Wood Engravings are cut into the end-grain surface of wood blocks. The lack of grain pattern allows for and enhances detail work. A cutting tool called a burin is often used. Due to the difficulties inherent in creating large blocks of end grain out of many smaller blocks, until Kohn’s efforts most wood engravings were produced in very small scale.
Linocuts are relief prints in which the image is cut from linoleum blocks.
Intaglio encompasses a variety of techniques in which ink is pushed into grooves incised into a plate, creating the design. The raised surface is wiped clean, in exactly the opposite manner of relief printing, where the raised surface holds the ink. Tremendous pressure must be applied with a press; dampened paper is used to further facilitate the transfer of the inked image. Intaglio has most commonly been used on metal plates (copper, zinc, magnesium), but may also be used on lucite or other surfaces.
Engravings As in engravings on wood, the artist cuts into the surface of the metal plate with a burin or other sharp tool. With it, he can inscribe multiple lines and dots, crosshatching, or thick and thin lines, and is able to achieve shadings and textures with an enormous range of complexity.
Drypoint engravings are incised with an extremely sharp tool, which raises a burr on each side of the incised line. The resulting print is characterized by soft velvety lines.
Etchings are the result of the chemical process of acid eating away at lines cut into a metal plate. A thin sheet of metal is coated with an acid-resistant ground. When dry, the design is scratched through the ground, exposing the metal, yet not incising the plate. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath which “bites” into the exposed metal, etching furrows into it. This process determines the amount of ink the line will hold and may be repeated several times to obtain desired line quality. When complete, the ground is removed, ink is rubbed into the lines bitten into the plate, the surface is cleaned off, and the print pulled.
Aquatint is the principle method of achieving larger sections of even tone on an etching plate. The clean plate is dusted with powdered resin, which is then melted onto the plate. When bitten with acid, it becomes uniformly pitted, resulting in an even tone ranging from light grey to deep black, depending on depth of acid bite.
Sugar-Lift Ground Aquatint The desire to draw directly on the plate led to the development of the lift ground technique. Kohn created his own recipe for a sugar-syrup based lift-ground–which when combined with ink–can be used for drawing directly on the plate. When the drawing is dry, the entire plate is covered with liquid varnish and immersed in hot water. The sugar dissolves, lifting the varnish and exposing the plate where the drawing had been. The process then continues as for a regular aquatint.
Lithography relies on the incompatibility of grease and water. An image is drawn on lithographic stone or plate with a grease crayon or tusche ink. The surface is chemically treated, washed with water–which is repelled by the grease–then with ink, which the grease absorbs. The ink is transferred from stone or plate to the paper by passing it through a press. Lithographs of several colors use separate stones or plates for each color.
Also known as silkscreen or screen printing, this method uses stencils which are attached to silk or synthetic material tightly stretched across a frame. A squeegee is used to force ink across the screen; the stencils prevent the ink from passing through and the print is created from the open areas. The use of photographic imagery is an important component of contemporary serigraphy.
Monoprints An image is painted directly onto a plate, which is then transferred to paper by passing it through a press. This process creates a unique image.
Monotypes Similar to the monoprint in that it produces a unique image, here the inked plate is not smooth, but has been previously etched or engraved.
Chine Collé Literally translated as “China Collage,” this process refers to adhering thin and/or colored papers to the background support paper at the moment of printing. The reverse side of these thin papers is painted with glue, and they are positioned precisely so they will adhere to the background paper as it is passed through the press with the plate. Traditionally used as a background for intaglio techniques, these delicate papers absorb ink extremely well, resulting in prints of great clarity. Kohn was the first to use china papers as a primary component of his image, rather than simply as an aid for print clarity.
Rainbow-Roll A specialized technique in which a plate or stone is inked with strips of several different colors at once, forming a broad band of ink. When evenly blended, a large roller which covers the entire surface of the block is passed over its surface in one direction only. These blended colors produce the rainbow-like effect.