Old Master Prints are rare and tend to refer to the prints of the 15th century. The 1830's is where the end of the Old Masters prints time period is said to cover. Old Master prints techniques include woodcutting, engraving, and etching. Some rare exception also includes silk prints, vellum prints, and some paper prints.
Woodcut is the oldest technique associated with Old Master prints. This technique consisted of the artist either carving out a design on wood blocks themselves or at least inking the design on the blocks for another person to carve them out. When paper became more widely available there was a great increase in these types of prints, but with this, there was a decrease in the artistic integrity of the works printed. Most of the surviving woodcut prints from the 15th century are mainly religious-based prints. Woodcut blocks allowed for thousands of impression to be created with very little pressure, which is what made this technique so popular and widely used during the 15th century. The prints were then hand colored using watercolors, a technique that was used for many centuries. It is from this method of printing that block books began to arise. This allowed for text and images to be printed on a single page together and by the end of the century, these were in high demand.
Engravings were done on metal as was primarily a goldsmith’s craft or skill for most of the Medieval period. Most artist that began using this engraving method mostly came from a goldsmith background. A majority of the surviving engravings from this time are mainly religious as well. The most prolific engraver from this time period is known as the Master E.S. who was the first to monogram his works.
Martin Schongauer was one of the first notable engraving artists who worked in Southern Germany. His works became well known in Italy and Northern Europe and he made a number of improvements on the engraving techniques.
Housebook Master was another famous artist of this time. Also from Germany, his works were made in dry point where he would scratch lines into the metal plate as opposed to the burning process that had been commonly used. This technique, however, would only yield a few impressions, but his works became widely known and circulated accords Europe. None of his original works are known to have survived.
Durer made a major impact on the engraving and woodcutting practice. He produced a number of woodcuts and engravings that were of the highest quality at the end of the 15th century. Many artists copied his works and his prints were among the most widely copied works at the time. He set the standard for an artist to produce higher quality prints and a number of them began to follow in his footsteps, though very few had their own distinctive style.