Material Project: Etching Workshop


Preparing the plate:

We were using aluminium pates. First bevel the edges with a file; this prevents the plate from cutting to the paper under the pressure of the printing press.

Using a fine grade sander, and water, remove any surface texture from the metal. You should be able to se an even spread of light scratches over the plate. Then rinse.

Now buff the metal using polish and a role of soft padded fabric. Work the polish into the plate for a few minutes. then use a small pice of soft fabric to buff off the remaining polish. Then wash. The metal should be beginning to look fairly shiny.

Over the skink, put some whiting powder onto your clean plate, also add a small amount of liquid (?), and rub into the surface of the plate. This process removes any old from the metal surface. To check that all the oil has gone, once the residue it washed off the water should flow uninterrupted on the surface of the plate. Once rinsed make sure not to south the surface of the plate. Gently blot the plate in some newsprint, and put on the hot plate.

Once the plate is completely dry, smear some ‘hard’ ground onto the plate. Using the corresponding roller, evenly spread a layer of the ground or ‘wax’ over the intros surface. Mentally remove the plate from the hot plate, without touching the surface. leave for a few minuets for the wax to harden.

Using almost anything, gently scratch your design into the wax surface. The ink will print where you make these marks. Make sure to fully remove the wax from your chosen area. Any amount of wax will stop the acid for bitting into the metal.

Once you’ve finished your design, tape the back of your plate to protect it from the acid.

Using gloves place your place into the acid for a few minutes. The amount of time the plate should be left in the acid varies, depending on the metal, how fresh the acid is, temperature, etc. Its best to check the plate after a few minuets. Rinse then gently use your fingernail to feel if  your design is indented. If its not cute done, put it back in for a few more minuets. If you leave it in too long the make will become too deep, meaning the ink will not fully penetrate your mark, or the paper wont be able to reach the ink and therefore wont print. Once ready since of the residue from the acid.

Remove the tape from the back of the plate, and using white spirit wipe of the wax. Now you are ready to print.


The printing process:

Using a small piece of cardboard wipe/scrape some printing ink across your plate.

Using some scrim to twist and push the ink into the grooves of the plate. Then use some slightly cleaner scrim to gigs to work off the surface ink, leaving the ink just in the grooves.

Remove any remaining surface in using a small piece of tissue paper.

Prepare your paper by leaving it to soak for a few minuets, submerged in water. Leave to drip for a little while. The place the paper between layers of absorbent paper, then use the roller to press the excess moisture out of the paper.

Place your plate face up onto the bed of the printing press. Mentally place you damp paper on top. Put a pice of news print no next, then lay down the three press blankets.

Turn the wheel of the press, making sure not to stop, to the pate has consistent pressure.

Gently lift the blankets and news print. Peel off you paper, to reveal your print.

Wipe off any excess in off the press.

Let your print dry flat, between two layers of news print and under some weight.

You can print you place again straight away to get a fainter print. Or incite up again. Or clean your plate with white spirit.


My Reflection:

I am immensely pleased to be learning about a process which is new to me. I have previously learnt how do drypoint, which has a very similar printing process. Its the preparation of the plate which is far more complicated.

With etching and dry point it is the plate itself I find really beautiful. The textural quality I love. You basically engrave your design into a solid lump of material. Your marks have been made visible because of the lack of light entering that small groove in the surface of the material.

Etching is more temperamental than drypoint. More specifically the acid is temperamental. The bitten metal has a sort of speckled appearance, which is a very specific texture. At first I was not happy with the inconsistency of the marks, but as I wiped off the wax, the delicacy of the indentations became apparent.

By the end of this first section of the material projects I have made two plates and two prints.


Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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