The Etching Process

A copper plate is coated with an acid-resistant wax material called 'ground'. The plate is then scratched using an etching needle, and then etched using muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide. This mixture cuts into the unprotected parts of the metal surface to form the incised design. When the plate is immersed in acid, the exposed metal (the lines from the drawing) is eroded.

When it's ready to print, the plate is coated with an intaglio ink. The ink is laboriously wiped clean, which pushes the ink into the etched areas. Using a manual press, the paper is forced into the lines and ridges in the plate, thus picking up the ink. The result is a mirror-image of the etched drawing. This inking procedure is repeated for each print.

Etching is one of the original forms of printmaking dating back to the fourteenth century. This technique results in an edition of multiple but unique originals created personally by the artist, with each original containing subtle differences from one to the next. Etchings are best appreciated in person, where one can see the the fine line work and ink-application.

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© Paulina Cassidy