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Intaglio printing


Etching, one of the oldest printing processes, is a form of intaglio printmaking. Intaglio (printing below the surface) images are printed from lines or pits in a metal plate which holds the ink when the surface is wiped clean.

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Under high pressure, in a mangle-type press, dampened paper is pushed into the lines and pulls out the ink.

in red and blue James hill

Working on a metal plate covered with an acid-resistant varnish or waxy ground, the design is drawn with a point to expose the metal. The plate is dipped in an acid which bites into the exposed areas; the longer the plate is left in the acid the deeper the lines become.

When the ground is removed, after inking up and wiping clean the surface, the etched image holds the ink in the surface from which the print is taken, producing a mirror image of the original design. A ‘hard ground’ is used for fine line work and a ‘soft ground’ is used for achieving softer pencil-drawn effects or interesting textures from objects or materials pressed into the surface, which can be etched and printed.

An exciting range of effects can be achieved with just these techniques in one day even for the beginner and it is not necessary to be professional artist to produce a very satisfying print.

Additional techniques can be explored such as:

  • Sugar-lift enabling one to draw directly on the plate creating positive painterly marks;
  • Aquatint to create even tonal areas;
  • Open bite, deep bite;
  • Dry point;
  • The use of carborundum for rich collage effects and dense black or colour shapes;
  • Photo-etching solar plate; 
  • Collagraphs;
  • multi plate printing;
  • Soft ground pencil technique

The inks we use are oil based. I suggest using detergent-washable inks, which have the same characteristics as oil-based inks but clean up easily and do not need white spirit to clean with. we can use ferric chloride, salt etch or nitric acid to bite the plates