Thursday, March 7, 2013

Aquatint Printing Part 1

Some of you know that I have been following a printmaking class here at the municipal art school of Nice.   We have been introduced to several of the many techniques including "intaglio": printing with an etched metal plate or stone.    In the class, I have tried aquatint and sugar lift aquatint which both require an acid bath to bite into a metal plate. 

This egg drawing is an example of an aquatint intaglio engraving that I am working on at present.   

  Here are the main steps to prepare a plate:

Step 1:  Prepare the image
 The first step is to make a drawing showing , more or less, what values you want to use in your final copy.   I used  washes of black water color to draw a series of values from black to the lightest grey or off white I wanted to use.   I am using a photo I have taken (above) and then sketched out. 

Step 2: Prepare the plate for printing
    A) Bevel the edges
 My next step after the drawing,  was to prepare the plate or "plaque" to be used.  With both copper or zinc plates, one must bevel the edges with a metal file so that the plate will not cut the felt "swaddling clothes" (langes) on the press when printing.  Felt and leathers are a big expense for any studio.  ( Of course, the printing press is the biggest investment for an engraver.)

    B) Polish the plate

Part of preparing the plate involves polishing the metal with metal sandpaper so that it is smooth and free of streaks and grease.  A copper plate, which I am using, takes 3 different grades of sandpaper to relieve it of any streaking.

   C.) Degrease the plate

The plate is then degreased with a combination of Blanc de Meudone ( a powdered chalk) and white vinegar until water won't bead on the surface.  With some treatments not involving resin, it is enough to polish the plate with metal polish and alcohol.

    D.)  Protect the back of the plate
We use an adhesive backing as protection from the acid bath to come.  This is the stuff you can line your drawers with.  It works a charm in this capacity. By covering the "wrong" side of the plate the acid doesn't get dirty faster and you can always use the other side of the plate later, if you wish.

 E.) Apply varnish

Next  apply an Ultra flex engraver varnish ( I use one made by Charbonnel.)   We brush it on with a wide brush to cover the plate.  Ultra flex drys in an hour and one is then ready to transfer the design onto the plate .

F) Transfer the design

 This can be done freeform drawing with a stylus or with the use of tracing paper.   With engraving you need to realize that everything will be the mirror image when drawing on the plate with a drypoint needle through a waxy varnish.  So we place the design backwards on the plate.

In the next post we will talk about the resin, the and the "stopping out" process.   Stay tuned.  

1 comment:

  1. This was interesting. It brought back memories of my printmaking class at my local univ. I loved it, and spent many extra hours in the lab. I liked aquatint maybe best, but enjoyed it all.
    Love, Iris