Etching. Hmm. Lovely stuff, but it’s no good having an etching press if conventional zinc plates and acetate plates are too expensive. School’s limited budget threatened to put etching out of reach for our students. However, this term we have decided to trial a roll of acetate (around 1mm thick) which is much cheaper and allegedly still offers a good result. That’s my queue for a little tentative exploration with drypoint etching. I’m a complete novice at drypoint, so it’s been a steep learning curve.
Here is an early experiment, which is far from perfection, but which taught me a whole heap of things, including:
- The transparent nature of the etching film means you can easily trace over a previous drawing (my sketch for last year’s Christmas card, in this case).
- Obviously the image is reversed when printed, so there’s a caveat to watch out for any lettering.
- The scratches I used for drawing were inconsistently deep, which gave a faded feel to some parts of the print. But, this could be useful in some circumstances.
- I used a diamond point to make the marks, but couldn’t easily see where the tip was due to the setting. This meant the drawing was really not accurate. Next time I will try a needle instead.
- I did not have any scrim/gimp for wiping off the plate once I’d rubbed it into the marks, so I used a scrap of linen. I don’t think it was ideal, and it took a bit much ink off in places. Also, it became clear that cleaning off in a direction perpendicular to the marks seems to help leave more ink where you want it.
- It’s good to dampen several sheets of paper at once, but I discovered that you should only blot them as you use them, otherwise they become too dry and don’t pick up the ink well.
- Caligo Safewash etching ink bleeds away from the scratched lines if the paper is a bit too wet. (But on the plus side, cleaning up is a doddle!)
- Remember to clean the edges of the plate, as well as the surface.
- I have no idea whether the pressure on the press was right or not. Perhaps when I’ve ironed out the other bugs this will become clear.
- I need a lot more practice, but this really has the potential to produce a nice result.
The good news is that I think this technique will work for our students, and offer them another (affordable) printing option to complement both their lino work and drawings. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they produce.