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Printmaking: The Etching Process

This is a bit long over-due really but its been quite a hectic time recently – I haven’t posted for like 2 weeks! I don’t really even know what I’ve been doing instead… but back to business!

The Etching Process!

Step one: CLEANING

Clean your plate with cream cleaner and a clean rag. Make sure you do not touch the surface of the plate again because you will get grease on it and the wax won’t stick as well as it should, so grip the edges with your nails/fingertips.

Step two: WAXING

Not like you think, I mean applying the wax really! After warming the hot plate, place your copper plate into the middle and wait for it to heat a bit. Then using either hard or softground wax, rub a small amount onto the surface of the plate. You will know if it is warm enough because if it is then the wax will kind of melt onto it

Step three: ROLLING

Using a roller, spread the wax out evenly onto the surface of the plate. You have to press quite hard, but then do a final skim of the plate using a tiny amount of pressure and very quickly to remove any excess.

Remove your copper plate from the hot plate using 2 pieces of cardboard, being careful not to touch it because it will be hot of course! It should look nice and even like this ^

Step four: SMOKING

No, not the dirty, filthy habit you are thinking of! Once your plate has had time to cool a bit, light a candle and attach your plate to a clamp. Use the flame along the surface of your plate to evenly smoke it. We got Neil to do this for us because of the flame etc

You CAN now touch the surface of your plate because the wax will protect it!

Step five: ETCHING

I forgot to take pictures of this in progress, but basically I used the end of a compass to draw my design onto the plate.
Here is my final design, a typographic face:

Step six: MASKING

Mask the back of your plate with some tape, to stop the acid from affecting it.

Step seven: ACID-ING

Place your plate face up in the acid bath using gloves and goggles

Step eight: STROKING

Use a feather to stroke any bubbles away from the surface. This allows the acid to bite the plate evenly!

Step nine: WAITING

Wait about 20 – 30 mins for the acid to bite into the plate and etch your design onto it.

Step ten: INSPECT

Using a magnifying thingy, check that the acid has bitten into your plate far enough. You can also test this by brushing your fingernail across the surface and feeling an indent.

Sophie, Tom, Bobbins and I didn’t have time to print our plates because the rest of the class was being slow so hopefully we will be doing that tomorrow – the first lesson back after half term!

Thanks to Kirsty for being my lovely assistant and helping me take the step by step pictures!

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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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