The Typographic Hub

A la poupée colouring

30th October 2012

A la poupé was a method used in colour intaglio printing in the 18th and 19th centuries

A la poupé was a method used in colour intaglio printing in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a process by which the printer would ink up separate parts of a plate in a number of different colours. A la poupée meant ‘with a doll’ and it refers to the doll-shaped fabric that was used to dab the ink of various colours in to the grooves and dots that were recessed in the surface of the plate. In this method of colouring the printer was, in effect, painting the picture on the plate for each impression and no matter how much care the printer took, each impression was different in its colouring. Mezzotints and aquatints were frequently inked in this way but the stipple was the best medium as the dots gave distinct areas for the different colours. A great deal of care and attention was needed to produce even the most simple of prints. Some printmakers in the 20th century adapted the intaglio à la poupée technique to relief printing from a single wood block. It could only be used on images with clearly defined areas of colour. Each area was inked individually with a brush. To separate the areas a small groove was cut between the patches of colours. In the final print this gave a white line between the colours and each area of colour shows the relief characteristics of the ink being squashed to the edge against the white line.