What is an Etching
An etching is an image drawn on a copper or zinc plate and
then printed by hand on an etching press, one at a time. The reverse
image will be printed from the plate. If an etching has writing on it, it
was drawn on the plate in reverse.
How Is An Etched Image Made
It is drawn through an acid-proof coating or “ground” on the
surface of the plate. The exposed metal areas, unprotected by the
acid-proof coating, are then “etched” or “bitten” by immersing the
plate in acid. The etched area creates a crevice in the metal which
will hold the ink for printing.
The plate is then inked by hand, forcing stiff etching ink down
into the etched lines. The excess is wiped off with stiff cheeseclothlike
material called “tarleton”.
A final wipe is then made to clear unwanted ink off the smooth,
unetched areas. The amount of wiping at this stage will determine
how much “tone” will be on the overall image.
How Is An Etching Printed
The inked plate is then placed face-up on the bed of the press,
with dampened 100% rag print paper cut or torn to size laid on top.
Three thick wool felt pads or “blankets” are laid on top of the bed.
The bed is then moved passing between two rollers at 2000 pounds
of pressure per square inch, forcing the dampened fibers of the
paper down into the etched lines. The new print will have the plate
mark embossed in the paper with the image printed in reverse. The
lines will appear slightly raised.
What Is An Edition
You will see a difference between prints from the same
“edition” or group of prints from the same plate. This is because
etchings are done individually by hand on an etching press (little
has changed since Rembrandt’s time!). Each print is individually
identified as a member of its titled edition as a fraction, individual
number on top, over total number of prints in the edition below.