Intaglio Prints: Engraving, Etching, Aquatint, Drypoint

Print Techniques

    A metal plate, typically polished copper, or zinc is either engraved, acid etched, or scratched so that those grooves or pits can capture ink.  The smooth surface of the plate is wiped clean of ink and damp paper is pressed into the inked grooves of the plate by running both through an etching press.

    An engraving is achieved by directly cutting lines into the plate with a sharp tool called a burin.  This method yields a line of precision and clarity, while tonality is created by cross- hatched lines.

    An etching (eg.”Overpass”) begins with the plate being covered with an acid resistant material called a ground.  This is then drawn into using a needle or sharp object.  The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which bites these exposed lines into the plate.

    An aquatint (eg. “NX2 Laurel”) is a process of etching that introduces a full range of tonality.  It begins with a dusting of the plate with a finely powdered rosin, which is then heated to melt into a layer of fine dots which act as an acid resist.  Tonal effects are achieved by etching and blocking areas of this rosin to stop the etching process in predetermined areas.

    A drypoint (eg. “Caution, High Trailer”) is created by taking a pointed steel tool and scratching a design directly into the plate.  This action throws up a furrow on the side of the groove called a burr which also holds some ink, creating a rich velvety line.


    Color etchings are made by producing one plate for each color. A piece, such as

“Landscape I” is produced with two plates, while a more demanding work, such as “Industrial Complex” required four plates to create the full range of colors.  While the etching process is labor intensive, the addition of multiple plate etching have taken months to create.  The printing process is also more complicated by the requirement to have the plates print in precise registration.

    Hand colored etchings, such as “Overpass” are simply an extra, smaller edition printed, and colored with watercolors.


Editions

    I produce limited editions of my etchings, ranging from a few proofs to editions of 100.  These impressions are signed and include the title, date, and edition number expressed as a fraction (1/50, 2/50, etc.).  These are not copies but individually hand printed impressions “pulled” from my etching press, from repeatedly inked plates.  At the end of the printing process, the plates are destroyed or defaced, truly defining the term limited.


Monotype

These are prints that are unique, an edition of one.  These are painted with modified ink onto a smooth surface, such as plexiglas or metal.  Damp paper is placed on the surface and one impression is made by running both through the press.