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Fine Art Western Gearmakers Fine Art Craftmanship Printing Process

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.