Saturday Studio: In “The Etcher’s Studio”

Galeena Gephart, FWMoA High School Intern

Printmaking can seem very hard and confusing at first glance, so, to make it less overwhelming, we’ve put together a video and curated some examples to shine a light on this process. Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, FWMoA Curator of Prints & Drawings, found this excellent picture book, The Etcher’s Studio, that tells a story while breaking down the etching process. Watch the video, below, to listen to the book being read and learn how to make your own etching! Written instructions and examples can also be found below.

Examples of Drypoint & Etching

 Looking at these art pieces, we can see that they all fall under the family term “intaglio.” Intaglio simply refers to a printmaking technique in which the image is incised into a surface and the area, or sunken line, holds the ink. This term is an umbrella term for general print and printmaking procedures. 

Since the book we read is an etching, it also falls under the term intaglio! While the author used etching as his focus and medium, there is another term, drypoint, that is commonly used in our world today! Drypoint and etching are a little different in terms of line quality: in etchings, the lines are more controlled and generally look a little cleaner, while in drypoint, the lines look “fuzzier” and have more texture to them. In the book we read, you can see how the lines are more controlled and neat. This is a result of the etching process, where the plate is submerged in acid that eats away at the lines. In drypoint, the lines are scratched into the surface of the plate. The material within the lines isn’t actually removed–it’s pushed to the sides, creating a blurr along the line (resulting in the fuzziness.) This is visible in the softness of the prints by Chahine and Blampied (above). 

Materials

  1. Plexiglass (Press Method: plexi must be small enough to put through the press)
  2. Sheets of paper
  3. Drawing or thick printing paper (the size of the paper should match the size of the plexiglass)
  4. Spoon
  5. Water-based etching ink
  6. Etching needle
  7. Wedge of paper
  8. Spray bottle
  9. File
  10. Tarlatan
  11. Gloves (optional)
  12. Paper towel (optional)
  13. Newspaper (optional)

Process (Spoon Method)

  1. File down all four sides of the plexiglass with your file to ensure that the paper will not be torn. (It doesn’t take a lot of filing; just so it’s not sharp!)
  2. Using any kind of paper, draw your desired image. This piece of paper should be the same size or almost the same size as your piece of plexiglass. 
  3. Using the etching needle, start “scratching” your design into the plexiglass. The filed-down side should be facing up. 
  4. Get a new piece of paper that is also the same size as the plexiglass. With this paper, you want to dampen it very lightly using your spray bottle on both sides. 
  5. Next, use your water-based etching ink to cover your plexiglass and the entire design. (Cover the side that the design is etched into.)
  6. Using the tarlatan, dab off the extra ink in circular motions. When done, the plate should just be your design in black. (You can use a piece of paper towel to clean up the sides, backsides, and edges if needed. You can also experiment with the amount of ink used)
  7. Place your plexiglass on a sheet of regular sized paper. Next, put your transfer paper on top. Make sure to push down hard when putting the paper on to avoid smudging!
  8. Place a couple more sheets of regular sized paper on top, still pressing down firmly. Using your spoon, you want to go over your design, pushing down on the paper firmly. 
  9. When you think the design is ready, pick the paper off carefully and check on your design!

Process (Printing Press) 

https://openpressproject.com/ for 3D printing plans and how to make it!

  1. Follow steps 1-6 from the spoon method.
  2. Adjust the height of the printing press plate to tighten the grip on the plexiglass. 
  3. Lift up the cloth piece and place your plexiglass on the printing press plate. 
  4. Put the transfer paper on top of the plexiglass, pressing firmly. 
  5. Put the cloth over both pieces. 
  6. Crank the arm, making sure that the plexiglass is in the press tightly enough. 
  7. Lift up the cloth and take the plate out, and you have your design!

Share your etchings with us here on the blog or on our social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

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