In Part 1 I began the process of creating an etching by drawing on a coated copper plate.  The next step is to etch the plate and then ink it up and pull a proof.  (Tragically, this chapter suffers a bit from lower image quality.  I had to borrow someone’s not-very-good cellphone camera.)

First the etching.  I submerged the plate in a tank of Ferric Chloride.  The plate hangs vertically in the tank, supported by a piece of strapping tape.

The ferric is safer then the traditional Nitric Acid. The etching reaction in nitric creates a corrosive gas, requiring extensive ventilation equipment.  The ferric reaction produces a solid that drops to the bottom of the tank.  Ferric Chloride also affects organic matter (e.g. my skin) differently from Nitric Acid, so less danger from acid burns.  Nonetheless, it is not good to drink, and retrieving a dropped plate out of the tank requires protective gloves.

The plate sat in the etchant for a total of 40 minutes.  However, 25 minutes in, I pulled out the plate, rinsed off the ferric chloride, and drew some more lines, mostly on the house.  These lines will not etch as long, so they will be shallower and print up lighter.  The plate then went in for 15 more minutes.


Once the 40 minutes is up, the plate comes out again and the ferric is rinsed off.  I then use a sodium carbonate (“soda ash”) solution to remove the acrylic hard ground from the plate.  Sodium Carbonate is also known as washing soda.  You can buy it at the grocery store to enhance the cleaning power of your laundry soap.  Far more wholesome then cleaning off a traditional etching hard ground, which required solvents like lithotine or kerosene.


Now the plate is clean–back to the main studio for printing!





This is the printing set up: a palette with a serving of water-based Carbon Black intaglio ink, card for ink application, tarletan for ink wiping, and newsprint for polishing, plus rubbing alcohol for clean-up. 

The first step is using a plastic or matboard card to apply the ink to the plate.

Once the entire plate is covered, a tarletan (a piece of heavily starched, cheesecloth-like fabric) is used to wipe of the ink.  The ink will mostly wipe off smooth areas, and stay in the etched areas.  The etching creates texture on the plate–the more texture, the more ink will stay, and the darker that area will be on the resulting print.

I then give the plate a final polish with a piece of newsprint (usually from a phone book), to remove any remaining ink residue or streaks from the tarletan.  The plate then goes off to the press, while I retrieve a piece of paper. 

The cotton-rag etching paper needs to be damp for effective printing, so it has been soaking in a water tray while I inked the plate. 

I retrieve it, blot off the excess moisture, and lay the damp paper on top of the plate.  Felt blankets go on top of this, and the whole sandwich is ready to roll through the press.

Then the moment of truth arrives as I pull the paper off the plate to see the result.

This is the image at this point:

Coming in part three:  Soft Ground! (in which the tree receives foilage)


Making of an Etching, Pt. 2 | 2011 | Techniques | Tags: , | Comments (0)