Bearden used conventional and innovative processes in his printmaking, including cutting copper plates into sections, inking plates through a variety of methods, applying rainbow rolls, hand coloring and using photographic processes. This experimentation allowed him to create prints that vary dramatically in appearance.
A screenprint is produced by first placing a stencil with an image on it over a mesh screen. A squeegee presses ink over the stencil and through the mesh onto the printing surface below. Each screen creates one color, and multiple screens may be used to make one print. Screenprints are also known as silkscreens and serigraphs. During the 1970s Bearden produced two major suites of screenprints.
Etching is a chemical process. A metal plate is coated with an acid-resistant material. The image is then incised with a sharp tool through this material to expose the raw metal plate below. The plate is submerged in an acid bath that etches the exposed areas of the plate to create recesses. These recesses are the image areas of the plate and hold ink for the print.
Aquatint, a form of etching, creates areas of color ranging from light to dark, with a rich granular effect. A metal plate is dusted with a fine layer of rosin, (an acid-resistant powder) and heated, to affix the rosin to the plate. The plate is then submerged in acid, which etches the areas not dusted with rosin. This produces a series of tiny recessed dots that form image areas and receive ink. The more dense the dots are, the darker the image. Aquatint is usually combined with other printmaking techniques.
The Train and The Family combine the processes of etching and aquatint.