Etching is an intaglio process in which a metal plate (zinc, copper or steel) is coated with an acid resistant wax ground.
The design is drawn through the ground with a “needle”, and the plate is then immersed in acid, which will “bite” or eat into the exposed lines, forming minute furrows in the metal.
Flaming the ground to harden and darken it
Drawing into the ground with a steel needle
Immersing the plate (partly protected with varnish) in the acid bath
The inked plate is then laid on the bed of the press, covered with damp paper, and wound through the press. The extreme pressure exerted by the rollers forces the paper into the inked areas and the image is transferred to the paper.
Aquatint is a method of producing areas of tone. A fine resin powder is dusted onto the plate, heated, and thus fused onto the metal. When immersed in acid the resin will protect the plate from attack and a tone will be etched into the metal around the resin particles. The longer the plate is left in the acid bath the darker will be the tone bitten and subsequently printed.
Fusing the resin by heat before putting it into the acid bath so that a tone, or aquatint, will be bitten
Shaking on powdered resin
An etching is an original work of art and not to be confused with a mass-produced photographic reproduction, sometimes also described as an original print.
Inking the plate
Wiping with scrim (stiff, sized muslin)
Ink is pushed into the etched lines or areas and the unbitten surface is wiped clean.
Rolling the wax “hard ground” onto the clean copper plate
Since each print is individually inked and printed there will be small variations in colour and intensity.