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  general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

General Terms

Collage - an artistic technique made famous by artists like Picasso and Braque, it is a term associated closely with art of the 20th century. It incorporates various displaced materials attached to a flat ground.

Complimentary colors - Pairs of colors that are opposite in hue and that, when combined, create a neutral color such as grey, white or black.

Digital / inkjet - associated with the term Giclee (see photographic terms, it refers to prints or photographs that are produced digitally.

Ground - the base or surface to which a medium is applied.

Hue - the gradation or variety of a color. The classification of color in reference to the spectrum.

Medium - the physical material used to create an art object.

Mixed media - art of the 20th century that combines different types of physical material.

Molding - a border or casing to enclose a picture.

Pigment - a dry, colored substance, usually a powder, that when suspended in a liquid becomes paint.

Primary colors - blue, yellow and red: the colors from which all other colors derive, and which cannot be resolved or composed into other colors.

Tone - the prevailing hue in a picture.

Drawing/ Works on Paper

general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

Conte - a synthetic chalk available in black, sanguine and sepia.

Drawing - a representation by means of lines using various media such as graphite, oil stick, ink & pastel.

Gouache - painting in opaque colors: the pigments have a gum binder, and the filler is invariably some form of opaque white (such as clay or barite) which gives a typical chalky look even to dark hues.

Graphite - a soft, black form of carbon used in pencils.

Hand-made paper - the process of transforming raw vegetable pulp into paper.

Oil Pastel - dry pigment suspended in oil to create an oily, malleable stick.

Oil stick - oil paint compressed into a solid stick form.

Pastel - ground pigment suspended in gum-water to create dry chalk-like sticks.

Pulp - the raw vegetable material that makes up paper.

Painting on paper - an artwork comprised of paint media applied to a paper surface.

Silhouette - a two dimensional representation of an object with black and another color, creating only an outline.

Watercolor - water-soluble pigments combined with water-soluble gum as a binder, and water as a medium, to make transparent paint.


general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

Encaustic - a painting technique that originated in ancient times, using pigments mixed with hot wax as a binder. This medium is highly sensitive to sunlight and heat. Direct exposure will damage it.

Fresco - true fresco (known as buon fresco) is painting done with mineral or earth pigments upon wet lime or gypsum plaster. The pigments are suspended in water, and unite with the plaster as they dry.

Glaze - a transparent layer of paint applied over another layer, or over a ground.

Ground - a surface specially prepared for painting, perhaps with gesso or a layer of paint of even tone.

Medium - the liquid in which pigment is suspended in any kind of painting.

Mural Painting - any painting directly on the surface of a wall or permanently installed on a wall.

Oil paint - paint made with pigments bound with drying oils.

Painting on canvas - an artwork comprised of a binding paint medium applied to a canvas ground.

Panel painting - a painting on wood or masonite.

Plaster - malleable material which hardens when dry and is made from a wide variety of materials, most of the mixtures containing limestone, sand and water, with hair as a strengthener.

Secco, fresco secco - painting which, unlike true fresco, is carried out on plaster which has already dried. It can be done in tempera, or with pigments in a medium of lime-water.

Size - a weak solution of glue used to stiffen paper or textiles, or to render canvas less absorbent

Tempera - a type of paint traditionally made with whole eggs, egg-yolk, milk, various kinds of glue or gum, dandelion juice or the sap of the fig-tree. The medium is particularly associated with Italian painters of the 14th and 15th c., who used it both for fresco and panel paintings.

Photographic Terms

general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

C-Print - a color photograph.

Cyanotype - one of the earliest photographic processes, it is produce by the exposure of light to a ground consisting of iron salts. The prints have a heavy blue overtone.

Giclee - a print process in which tiny droplets of ink are sprayed onto paper. Examples are Iris®, NovaJet®, inkjet.

Gelatin Silver Print - refers to any print in which the ground is composed of silver salts. Most modern black and white prints are gelatin silver prints.

Hand-colored Print - a process in which a photograph is hand painted after printing.

Platinum and Palladium Print - turn of the century black and white processes that produce a wide range of gray tones not available with a standard Gelatin Print. Both processes are permanent.

Photogravure - a photograph made with a copper plate that creates a similar affect as a Platinum Print. It can be identified by an embossed edge and a grainy, pitted effect in the gray tones.

Photo-montage - an assemblage of different photographs or negatives combined to create one image.

Polaroid® - a print that develops in the camera moments after the picture is taken. Contained in the paper are the negative and all the processing chemicals making the permanence of the print questionable. Available in both black and white and color.

Selenium-toned Print - a toning process involving the use of silver. It creates an overall brown tint to the photograph. The brown tends to be cooler and milder than a Sepia-toned print.

Sepia-toned Print - a toning or printing process involving the use of sulfur. The photograph takes on a brown/orange tone making it appear aged. The color tends to be warmer and stronger than a Selenium-toned print.

Tintype - also known as a ferrotype. A photograph made on an enameled piece of iron or tin.

Print Terms

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Chine colle - the artist applies a thin sheet of paper to a heavier sheet with special glues either before or during printing. This process is often used to expand the creative and textural vocabulary of the print.

Embossing - a process that creates three-dimensional effects in the print by using the press to force the printing paper under high pressure against a matrix.

Intaglio prints - any type of etching or related technique in which the recessed lines or areas are incised in a matrix (most commonly copper, but sometimes zinc or plastic plates) that holds the printing ink. The plate surface is wiped clean leaving the ink in the recessed areas to be forced into the printing paper when it is run through a press under high pressure.

Hardground etching - the plate is covered with an acid-resistant ground that hardens once it is dry. The image is made by scratching or drawing through the ground. The plate is then submerged in acid, etching the exposed areas.

Softground etching - the acid-resistant ground is made from viscous materials such as asphaltum or Vaseline. This allows the artist to create painterly marks or impressions from textured materials.

Liftground etching - the image is drawn with a water-soluble material and then covered with an acid-resistant ground and allowed to harden. The image is washed away with water, lifting away the acid-resistant ground on top. The plate is immersed in acid, etching the exposed metal. Liftground etchings are commonly made with salt, soap and sugar hence the terms soapground and sugar lift etchings.

Aquatint - the plate is dusted with resin powder or sprayed with enamel paint creating a dot matrix. This material acts to resist acid. The plate is immersed in acid producing a granular surface on the plate. The effects produced are similar to watercolor washes.

Mezzotint - a process that also creates a dot matrix on the plate so precise the tonal effects produced are often photorealistic. A process that does not require acid, the artist begins by "rocking the plate" using specialized tools. The tools have tiny teeth that leave an overall and precise texture. This begins a laborious retractive process where the artist works from dark to light tones creating the light or gray areas by burnishing and scraping away the surface texture. The areas with the deepest texture print black and vise-versa, the shallowest texture prints gray to white.

Openbite - areas of the plate are left uncovered by either aquatint or other acid-resistant grounds and submerged in acid. The result creates tonal areas which are molted.

Spitbite - acid is applied directly on the plate with a brush. The traditional method was for the artist to use his/her saliva to mix with the acid for better control on the plate, hence the term spitbite.

Carborundum print - another tonal technique in which an abrasive powder (carborundum grit or sand) is applied to the plate with glue. The plate is then inked and wiped like any other intaglio print.

Collograph - an image produced by building up glue and allowing it to harden on the plate. Objects are sometimes imbedded in the plate. The three dimensional surface is then printed using either intaglio or relief methods.

Drypoint - lines are incised into the plate with a sharp needle creating a raised burr on either side of the line. The effects of this technique are often described as velvety.

Engraving - similar to drypoint, lines are incised into a plate with special engraving tools. It produces a sharp and precise line as seen on printed money.

Lithography - a complex process that works on the principle that grease and water do not mix. A greasy drawing material is applied to a specially treated slab of limestone or metal lithographic print. The materials are chemically imbedded to attract the ink on the slab or plate. The limestone slab or plate is then inked, paper is laid directly on the slab or plate and thus run through the press.

Monoprint - a uniquely inked impression made from any of the mentioned processes.

Monotype - the artist begins by painting and drawing with printing ink, paints, or oil pastels directly onto a flat surface such as glass, plastic, or metal. The impression is made when the printing paper is placed on the surface and hand rubbed or run through a press. Montypes are unique in that each print is varied in the small editions produced.

Serigraphy - the image is applied or drawn on a fabric mesh made of silk or nylon creating a stencil. The ink is then forced through the open areas in the stencil with a squeegee onto the printing paper beneath. Seriagraphs are often called silkscreens or screen prints since silk was a material traditionally used for the screen.

Relief prints - any process in which the ink is applied to the top surface of the printing matrix after the image has been cut, carved, or formed otherwise. This process is the opposite of intaglio printing where ink is held in recessed areas of the matrix.

Linoleum cut or Linocut - a sheet of linoleum is cut or carved. Ink is then rolled onto the surface and a sheet of printing paper put on top. The artist either handprints or runs the matrix through a press.

Woodcut - a slab of wood is cut or carved to create the image and printed in the same manner as linoleum cuts.

Wood Engraving - extremely hard end-grain wood is used as the matrix. Fine lines are cut into the surface with specialized tools and printed in a press.


general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

Aluminum - a silver/white metal

Brushed Aluminum - aluminum that has been treated with an abbrated surface.

Assemblage - a piece that combines the use of mixed media and found objects.

Blown Glass - an object formed by shaping a mass of molten or heated glass by blowing into it through a tube.

Bronze - an alloy consisting of copper and tin that has a metallic brown color.

Cast Glass - an object formed by blowing molten glass into a mold or cast. This process makes close replications possible.

Ceramics - a general term, in use since the 19th c., pertaining to objects made of clay and similar materials.

Enamel - colored glass, in powder form and sometimes bound with oil, which is bonded to a metal surface or plaque by firing.

Firing - heating ceramic, glass or enamel objects in a kiln, either to harden them, to fuse the components, or to fuse glaze or enamel to a ceramic body or metal plaque.

Glaze - in ceramics, a vitreous coating designed to make the body impervious to water, and also serving as decoration.

Luster - the iridescent metal overglaze that creates a metallic-like finish

Overglaze - decoration in enamel on ceramics, applied on top of the glaze, and fixed by means of a second firing at a lower temperature.

Terracotta - a traditional deep brown/red fired clay that is usually left unglazed.

Environmental Sculpture - a sculpture that has a vested interest in its surroundings, utilizing or redefining that space.

Fiber Optic - a system of cables incorporated into a sculpture that provides illumination.

Monumental Sculpture - an outdoor, freestanding sculpture, typically over fifteen feet.

Mosaic - A picture or design comprised of small inlaid pieces of glass, stone or ceramic tile.

Organic material - objects existing in nature, plant or animal.

Stained glass - glass that has had color infused by way of heat and the use of various metallic oxides.


general terms | drawing / works on paper | painting | photographic terms | print terms | sculpture | textile

Tapestry - woven colored fabric, often pictorial in design that acts as wall hanging.

Quilt - a traditional, ornamental bed covering made up of two layers of fabric, sewn together with a soft interlining.

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