Etching is one of the oldest and most satisfying forms of printmaking and in the hands of a expert can deliver intricacies of line and tone unrivalled by any other printing process.
Etchings are the prints produced by etching an image on a copper or zinc plate, using acid, filling the textures of the image with ink and then printing it on to paper by running it through a heavy press.
The techniques of etching and engraving are believed to have originated in Medieval times as a means of decorating armour and metal. The incised lines would have often been filled to darken them and from this it would have been a short step to transferring the image to cloth or paper. One suggestion is knights falling on soft ground would have left an impression of the patterns on their armour.
Etching differs from engraving mainly in that acid does the work of removing the metal. This allows a fluidity of mark and in the hands of an expert a almost infinite degree of control; The depth of each line can be controlled by the acid and so can hold as much or as little ink as is required to achieve the desired tone. Most metals can be used for the etching plate although the most common are Zinc and copper. Zinc is often used as a starter metal for students as it is relatively cheap and easy to work. Copper is much denser and less brittle and will yield more prints. It can also be steel-faced to last almost indefinitely.
The two etching techniques I employ are Hard Ground (the most basic form of etching) and Soft Ground. I rarely use aquatint. The techniques I describe here are traditional methods adapted and modified to a modern domestic environment. Virtually everything apart from the printing can be done at home with suitable care and little space. The modern table top press is now capable of printing etchings that match those done on heavy studio press (at least for small plates) and so there is now no reason why even the printing cannot be done at home!
Etching is a form of printing that along with engraving comes under the category of Intaglio. Images produced by this process are the result of ink being forced out of the incised lines in a zinc or copper plate using a heavy press. This results in slightly raised ink on the paper and a characteristic plate mark showing the edges of the plate.
Limited edition etchings (Original prints)
Limited edition etchings signed and numbered by the artist. Etchings available in editions of between 25 and 100. Printed by hand on 250 GSM Rives paper off hand-drawn copper plates etched in “Dutch Mordant” Some editions are hand coloured by the artist using professional quality Schmincke watercolour paints. Prices: from £75 - £195.
With etching having been around for such a ling time it is not surprising that a good many books have been written on the subject - the best by practicising printmakers.
The Art of Etching by E S Lumsden is the book I used when first learning etching and I still have that original battered and acid stained copy! This is the best technical guide to etching I have found and contains sate by state examples of the author’s own etching as well as a good selection of the best known Etchers