Intaglio is a process of printmaking that likely evolved from metal engraving. Intaglio is the overarching term for prints made by engraving, etching, drypoint, aquatint and mezzotint methods. Engraving, etching and drypoint involve drawing lines into a copper or zinc plate, which is then inked and printed with the pressure of a press. Aquatint and mezzotint are methods used to create tonal areas. An intaglio print may include various methods; the line might be etched while the shadows or background might be aquatint or mezzotint.
Early photographers also used the intaglio process through a method called photogravure, in which a copper plate is used to print photos. This process is highly toxic and therefore became less common in modern day practice.
Intaglio prints are most easily identified by the plate mark or impression found on the paper where the metal print was pressed into the paper. Most intaglio prints have a margin area around the image. Often times the edition number, title and signature can be found in this margin. If your print is a bleed print, meaning there is no plate mark, you can study the quality of the ink. Etched lines are raised above the surface of the paper. Aquatints and Mezzotints are tonal but still have a stippled or grainy texture if you look closely.
Many Old Masters published intaglio prints. Some of the most famous names include: Francisco Goya, Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer. Modern artists such as Pablo Picasso continued to use the process throughout the 20th century.
Intaglio prints continue to be highly valued by collectors. Their monetary value can depend on the edition number and their rarity on the market.