Process to Create a Copperplate Etching

The Etching Process

To prepare the copperplate, the edges are beveled, and the plate is coated with an acid resistant liquid.  The image is then drawn onto the plate with a sharp metal tool.  This penetrates the coating exposing the copper beneath it.  When the drawing is finished, the plate is submerged in a bath of acid, which “eats” the lines into the plate.  The longer the plate is submerged, the deeper the “bite” into the plate and the more ink it will hold when the plate is printed.  Tonal qualities, thick and thin lines require many submersions in the acid bath with some areas protected while others are left to deepen.  It can take up to 20 baths, with work done in between to create the desired effects of shadow, light and dark areas.  Once I am satisfied with the plate, it is cleaned and prepared for printing.

The Printing Process 

The image to be printed is below the surface of the plate, so when the ink is applied, I have to force the ink into all the lines and areas that will print, then carefully wipe the uncut, top surface free of ink. (It is very messy, and gloves must be worn). 

Meanwhile, the paper has been soaking in water. Before it can be used, I blot out the excess water.  I then lay the plate on my custom built etching press, carefully positioning the paper on top (with clean hands), and then lay three thick felt blankets on top of the paper.  The plate is then hand cranked through the press.  The pressure forces the paper into the plate, and the paper absorbs the ink.  When rolled through to the other end of the press,  I remove the blankets, and peel the paper off the plate.  The paper has embossed over the plate, picked up the inked image, and I have an etching. 

The etching is then put between blotters and weighted, so that it dries flat.  For the next print, I have to clean the plate and re-ink it all over again.  I can print 20-30 prints a day depending upon their size. I restrict my limited editions to no more than one hundred prints even though more could be produced.

The Etching 

When the print is dry, it’s numbered, titled and signed with a pencil. The colored etchings are hand water-colored after the ink and paper have dried.  

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