Basically, there are three main methods:
Relief printing: the design is located on the surface of a matrix; the rest of the matrix is carved lower than the design. The ink is applied to the non-lowered surfaces. This technique is mostly used in letter press printing, also woodblock print and linocut.
Intaglio printing: the design is engraved into a matrix and the incised line, or sunken area, holds the ink. There are different variations of this technique; most common are etching, dry point, aquatint, photogravure. This technique is very common.
Stencil printing: using a template with the design cut out or left blank. This technique is the simplest way to multiply a design. Screen printing represents its most artistic form.
The most common techniques:
This uses a frame and a fabric screen, formerly silk (also referred to as silkscreen technique or screen print). It is essentially a highly specialised stencil print using acrylic paint, characteristically bright with thick colouring. ItIt is also a printing technique which can be used to easily produce large prints. One of the most famous artists to use this technique was Andy Warhol.
The most common intaglio print technique. A matrix consisting of a metal plate, such as copper, is covered with an acid resistant paste. Using a needle, the artist then scrapes off the paste where he wants the lines to appear on the print. Dipped in, or washed over with, acid, the carved drawing is pressed into the matrix, allowing the ink to create the print. Using a high-pressure printing press, the ink is transferred to the paper. This high-pressure printing also embosses the paper and leaves the edges of the plate visible. Albrecht Dürer was one of the earliest masters of this technique. Nowadays, it is a very common printmaking technique.
Lithography (means drawn on stone) is a technique that uses a polished stone or metal plate as a matrix. The design is drawn on the stone with a greasy substance that attracts ink. The matrix is then put into a printing press using very low pressure to transfer the ink to paper. The ink lies entirely on the surface of the paper and is neither raised nor embossed.
Woodblock printing is the oldest relief printing technique, originating in China. The most well-known and specialised woodblocks use the Japanese technique of multi-coloured printing, (for detailed information and artworks visit woodblock-print.eu). Lino is used more often in modern and contemporary prints; it is softer and more durable than using wood as a matrix.