I love how soft ground etching?produces a print that looks like a drawing.

"Etching" refers to creating a design on a metal plate. First, the artist coats a metal plate with wax, then removes some of the wax to make a design. The next step is to?immerse the plate in chemicals that "bite" (or"etch") into the exposed metal. The artist then cleans the remaining wax off the etched plate and applies?ink.?Because the?ink goes into the bitten grooves, the artist's design will?be transferred to paper when both paper and plate are run through a press.

Soft ground etching involves coating the metal plate with?a very soft?wax (or "ground") that can be removed with just a bit of pressure.

To make a?design on?soft ground, the artist places paper over the wax-coated plate, and then draws on the paper with a pen or pencil.

Where the paper presses into the wax, the wax sticks to the underside of the paper.?When the artist lifts the paper,?the lines of soft wax also come up, stuck to the back of the paper. The image appears as lines of exposed metal on the plate, which can then be etched in chemicals.

For example, I placed this little sketch over?a copper plate waxed with soft ground. Then, I went over all the lines of the drawing?with a pencil, pressing the paper into the wax.

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When I lifted my drawing off the plate, the paper had picked up the image in wax. ?The photo below shows the underside of my paper, with the wax sticking to it.


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By pulling up my paper, I?also transferred my design to the plate, where my drawing appeared as lines of exposed copper. ?I put the plate ?into the chemical?bath, to etch the design into the exposed?copper. Then I removed the rest of the wax, and inked the plate.

It took only a few more moments to print it on the press.?Below?is the first "proof", or?impression of the print.

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Now I can?print many more from my etched plate, including prints in different colors.?Here it is in blue (available for sale.) It might also be fun to?print it in?sepia, then hand color?it?with watercolor.
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?Kenai River, soft ground etching 5"w x 3"h
I have written more about soft ground etching in another?post. Click here?for?more photos and discussion about this technique.


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