Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Hybrid printmaking is the type of printmaking that involves more than one printmaking technique used to create an image. Over-layering is not uncommon in printmaking practices; however, achieving a successful marriage of techniques is not easy. There is visual magic in these places where two or more techniques come together so neatly that it is hard to say where one stops and another starts. Magic ha! Why else to do it for, right?
In my view, every print technique offers unique qualities; linocut is very graphic, etching provides crisp, clean lines and soft tones, digital print high resolution, lithography has drawing-like mark-making, and so forth. Likewise, every print technique has its limitations; copper is expensive, and most acid baths are relatively small, so large-scale etching is as a technique of choice unsustainable or, quite frankly, unattainable...for most artists. If you are rich and can afford it long term and have access to an enormous ferric chloride bath, good for you! And please adopt me.
Linocut is graphic; it is its remarkable feature but also its limitation. I always aspire to include the sky in my work, which makes sense since most of my work is within the landscape realm. AND I want my sky to be airy to balance out the usual heaviness of foreground structures in my prints, and I would not be able to pull it off using linocut. When I look at Albrecht Dürer's wood engravings, I am absolutely astounded by the master-fullness of the carvings, but the sky, I don't believe it. Some things are to be heavy; heavy in tone, heavy in contrast and mark-making, and other elements are to be light and subtle. And that is why we have hybrid printmaking; to harvest the best out of each technique and leave the rest out. At least, that is why I do it.
This image above is my hybrid of etching and digital print. It is exactly 22" x 30" printed on Fabriano Artistico hot-pressed in 2010 (titled "Wave of Subconsciousness" ). I printed the figure and some of the dark tone on the left first via ink-jet. Everything else is a copper plate etching and was the second layer.
As you can conclude, the fine detail in the figure, including the texture of the hat and jeans and the jacket's pattern, would be impossible to achieve through etching. On the other hand, the delightful mark-making in the waves and the bird would be disappointing if it was just a photograph.
Additionally, if you look closely at this print, you might notice that it is, two etching plates printed next to each other. That wavy line running vertically in the middle of the image is where the plates meet. The reason for this was precisely the size limitation of the vertical acid bath at GMIT (Galway, Ireland), where I printed it. As an ambitious undergraduate student, I wanted my prints to be bigger. Yes, bigger doesn't always mean better but try to explain it to me. You can't. Am I compensating for my shortness? Maybe. Anyway, what I did here was; I applied a thick layer of hard ground onto my twice-as-large-as-the-bath copper plate, I scratched that wavy line in the middle, thus exposing the copper underneath, and I placed my plate in the bath. There was just enough depth in the bath to cover my line, and the rest of the plate was literally sticking out of the container with ferric. I left my plate for a day, and by the next morning, acid bit through the line and separated these two plates. Voilà! I had two plates small enough to submerge them in acid fully, yet when printed together, they create one unified image as if printed as one plate.
I hope you enjoyed this little tale of printmaking storytelling. Happy printing! TA!