What is an Etching?


Etching is the process of printing an image from a metal plate onto paper. This allows the artist to produce a number of the same image each of which is an original print. Therefore creating an edition of original artworks.

For some of my etchings I use two to three plates for each image. This allows me to layer colours and mark making in the image. This suits my style and allows for vibrant images.

I begin by cutting the required number of pieces of copper to the same size. They need to be exact for accurate registration. I then file the edges and corners of each plate before cleaning the plates with brasso and degreasing them. I then coat one of the plates in a liquid acrylic resist which then hardens on the plate. This allows for a line to be scratched into the plate. I then place this plate in acid for 30 minutes before removing the acrylic coating in a special solution.



Copper Plate

Etching printing press


I then need to transfer the line drawing onto the second plate. To do this I ink up the first plate and run it through the printing press with a piece of damp paper. I then stop the press so that the edge of the paper is still caught under the roller of the press. I then lift the paper off the plate and mark the position of the plate with two blocks before removing it. I then place the second plate where the first plate was and remove the blocks before laying the paper over it. I then run it through the press again right the way through. The image on the paper has now transfered to the second plate.

I can now spray an aquatint on to both plates. This is a solution which when sprayed onto the plate forms dots and means the acid etches the plate evenly. Once this is dry I then begin work on the plates. I do this by deciding on the lightest to darkest areas and the areas where I do or do not want colours to print.

I begin by painting out the lightest areas and etching the plate for 20 minutes. I continue these steps painting out more and more areas of the plate until the areas that are to be darkest are left. The coating on the plate is then removed in a special solution.

The line drawing on each plate allows you to register them and work on the different layers of each print. Once both plates are finished I am ready to print.

To do this I decide how many colours are to be printed on each plate. Sometimes I will use one colour on the plate or sometimes I will mix several colours on one plate, depending on the effect I am looking for.

Once I have inked up the plates I place the first one on the printing press and lay a damp piece of paper over it. I then run it through the press making sure I catch the edge of the paper under the roller. I then mark the position of the plate as before and place the scond plate in the correct position before passing it through the press again. The print is then placed between two boards for several days to dry out and remain flat. It is then finished.








Sketches transfered onto acetate

Photo Etching


Photo etching allows me to transfer sketches onto etching plates without having to redraw them. The sketches are scanned onto the computer and worked on in photoshop before being printed onto acetate ready to go onto the copper plate.

Once the plate is cut to size and the edges are filed, the surface of the plate is lightly scrubbed with sandpaper to give it a very slight texture and the plate is thoroughly cleaned to decrease it.

In the darkroom a special coating called photec is applied to the plate and the plate is run through a small press to make sure it has properly adhered to the plate with no air bubbles.


The plate is then placed on top of the acetate and exposed using a UV light box. Once this has been done the plate is developed for several minutes in a solution of soda crystals and water. An aquatint is then sprayed onto the plate before it is etched in acid for approx 30 minutes. It is then transferred to a stripping solution which removes the photec coating. At this stage I print a proof from the plate to see how the image is working and whether it needs worked into further.

Another aquatint coating can be applied and areas of the plate painted out in stages if there are areas that need to be etched further in the acid to darken them or provide detail. The plate is then ready to be printed.

Photec coating on plates



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