Friday, October 22, 2010

Etching: REVEALED!

When I talk to people in general conversation, I often get blank stares. This is my fault and I apologize to all who have been victimized by my lack of clarity. I get even more blank stares when I tell people that I am a "printmaker". And more yet when I tell them I am an "etcher". So let me take this moment to clear this matter up.

Printmaking is a general term used to describe all the technical possibilities for creating a print. A print is any image, text, etc that is produced on one surface or matrix and then TRANSFERRED to another. Some examples of printmaking techniques include etching, linocut, woodcut, lithography, screenprint, photography and a few others. With etching, which is what I do, the drawing of my bird is scratched (or etched) into copper. To print it, I rub ink into the etched lines and run the copper plate through a large press and the image is transferred to paper.

Etching is also called "intaglio" printmaking which is an Italian word meaning "to cut into". When you hear the word "etching" used correctly it means that the copper (or whatever metal is being used) was dipped into some sort of corrosive liquid to achieve the lines. Usually this liquid is nitric acid, hydrochloric acid or in my case, ferric chloride. Ferric chloride has the advantage of being non-toxic. There are lots of different ways of making marks when you are intaglio printmaking, some of which I will go into in future posts. But for now, this should give you a pretty decent idea of what I do....right?


  1. I'm enjoying reading about your etching etc. I was a printmaking major in the distant past, but moved on to other things. Though from wood block prints to wood carving isn't so very far removed.

  2. I would love to etch on copper! these are beautiful!