How Do I Become a Printmaker?

Angela Farrer

To successfully become a printmaker, you should generally first decide on a set of specific goals as far as which areas of printmaking hold the most interest for you. Skilled printmakers have plenty of career opportunities in artistic specialties such as lithography, textile design, engraving, or architecture model building. The next step is to select a course of study that will give you the needed skills as a print artist. Many printmakers learn their trades through art school programs while others are able to learn through apprenticeships. The final requirements to become a printmaker include developing a portfolio and securing a regular client base.

Printmaking was a major art form during Japan's isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate.
Printmaking was a major art form during Japan's isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate.

A quality art school will often give you the opportunity to complete a four-year art degree with an emphasis in printmaking. After completing a set of basic courses in topics such as design concepts and color principles, you will generally be able to choose your specialty courses in traditional as well as digital printmaking techniques. Many beginning printmakers start with learning hands-on methods such as wood and lino cutting, etching, embossing, and a variety of tinting methods with specialty inks and paper. You may decide to become a printmaker who focuses mainly on creating works of art with these media, or you may decide to specialize in digital printmaking with devices such as ink jet printers and electronic imaging equipment.

Once you have completed the majority of your coursework in printmaking, you will usually have the opportunity to create a comprehensive portfolio of your best work to be shown to possible future clients. This portfolio can often be done as part of a capstone course or as an independent study project with the guidance of a faculty adviser. Some art schools may also require senior students to organize and showcase their printmaking work in a gallery exhibit. This experience can often be valuable for gaining feedback on both artistic strengths and areas for future improvement.

Apprenticeships offer a somewhat different avenue for you to become a printmaker. The majority of these opportunities offer training from an experienced printmaker in a working studio. Apprentices can be either paid or unpaid, although many are given as much free studio time as they need to hone their skills. Some may also have additional studio responsibilities such as cleaning up and delivering finished prints to clients. To become a printmaker apprentice, you usually need to submit a résumé and statement of intent along with one or two letters of recommendation.

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