The process for making etchings is nearly 500 years old, in which time the basic steps haven’t changed that much. The etchings on this website were created as follows.
- Figure 1. After filing and burnishing the sharp edges of a metal plate (typically copper), a resin ground consisting of asphalt and wax is applied to a well-warmed plate. A roller is used to create an even thickness and color, and the plate is allowed to cool. If desired, smoke (from a candle) may be added to the resin surface to create a darker background.
- Figure 2. The artist then uses a needle or other fine tool (we use a diamond point) to lightly scratch away the resin ground from the plate. These scratches become the visible lines of the final print and will be made deeper once they are etched in an acid bath.
- Figure 3. Once the image is completed on the plate, the plate is subjected to an acid bath (we use iron perchloride or hydrochloric acid). The plate must be lightly swept with a disposable brush or feather every few minutes to remove bubbles that impede the etching process. The depth of the lines is monitored with a needle, and the plate is removed once the desired depth is reached.
- Figure 4. After the resin ground is removed with mineral spirits, the plate is ready to print. A small amount of ink (we use Carbonnel or Graphic Chemical Ink) is applied to a lightly warmed plate. The ink is squeegeed across the plate (matboard works well) to ensure the etched lines are full. The excess ink is then removed using Tarleton cloth so that the only ink remaining is that held in the plate’s etched lines.
- Figure 5. After lightly rewarming the plate again, the inked plate is laid face up on the metal bed of an etching press. Rag paper (we use Rives heavyweight 100% rag), soaked overnight and then blotted dry, is placed on top of the plate. Felt blankets are laid on top of the paper to create sufficient pressure between the plate and paper once it is rolled through the press.
- Figure 6. The plate, paper, and blankets are then rolled through the press, sometimes twice (forward and reverse). The ink held in the plate’s etched lines is transferred to the damp paper, which is then removed and allowed to dry to create the final print.